WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — 2012 was a tough year for Walgreens. The Chicagoland retailer took a stand against a major PBM and took it on the chin. But that entire time, while the company did what it thought was right to protect the value of the services it provides today, Walgreens continued to focus on developing a better retail pharmacy experience with many new product offerings and services that is setting the stage for tomorrow. Well Experience and flagship stores. Pharmacists practicing at the top of their license. Health ambassadors in the aisle. Fresh. Take Care Health clinics. Specialty pharmacy. Multichannel retailing. And most recently, the Balance Rewards loyalty card. CEO Greg Wasson said 2013 will be a better year for the company. DSN believes he’s right.
(THE NEWS: Walgreens all systems go for 2013; reports 4Q, annual sales. For the full story, click here.)
There aren't many facets of the business where Walgreens is not fielding a best-in-class proposition. While having proactive, pro-patient pharmacists in the store is not exclusive to Walgreens, positioning those pharmacists in front of the bench is (at least for now). Walgreens isn't the only pharmacy retailer with health ambassadors actually in the aisles, but how many chains not based in Boulder, Colo. add to that a beauty adviser? And how many retailers — never mind retail pharmacy operators,but of overall retailers—have been as engaging with multichannel retailing as Walgreens? Customer access to in-store inventory. Multi-platform shopping app. Web pickup. Pharmacist consultation online. A photo finishing functionality that has been opened to app developers — because those $70 digital frames haven't caught on entirely, people still need snapshots and frames to bring that little bit of personality to their desktops, you know?
And it doesn't stop there.
Perhaps the only facet of Walgreens' business that is not yet best-in-class is its loyalty card program, which as of Oct. 1 is only two weeks old. But since Walgreens started accepting loyalty card applications at the top of September, the company has processed 12 million new memberships. CVS' ExtraCare Card currently stands at the peak of the loyalty mountain with some 70 million active members and 15 years of customer data, while Rite Aid has approximately 25 million active cardholders and two years of data. If you check out either of those programs, they're both well-established and, frankly, good. So Walgreens has its work cut out for itself as it throws its heft into the loyalty card ring.
If you're thinking we've drunk the Kool Aid, then we're thinking you need to dump your cup into that punch bowl, too. There are a good number of ways Walgreens is helping transform what it will mean to be a retail pharmacy operator in 2014, the year healthcare reform as it stands today will generate a whole host of new patients.
In fact, if you want to thumb through a comprehensive report that covers each facet of Walgreens' business (including their loyalty card), you should check out our Sept. 24 issue with exclusive Walgreens coverage.
Have you had a sip of the Kool Aid yet?