CVS/pharmacy takes personalization to next level with new site

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Leveraging the deep understanding of its customer base via insights gained through its ExtraCare loyalty program, CVS/pharmacy officially unveiled on Thursday a new personalized digital experience on, which features extensive health information and resources in addition to customized deals and savings information.

“It is one step of many that is focused on creating the most personalized and accessible shopping experience. … After 14 years of ExtraCare’s track record, we are uniquely positioned to make sure that the logic and the thinking and the insights that we have really pay off for the customer, both in terms of their health objectives and their savings objectives,” Rob Price, SVP and chief marketing officer for CVS/pharmacy, told Drug Store News.

It is that deep understanding that CVS has of its shoppers that helped pave the way for the launch of the revamped site, which undoubtedly modernizes the shopping experience and helps customers on their path to better health.

One of the key highlights of the revamped site is the pharmacy page, which is designed for easy management of health information so shoppers can not only remember to refill and pick up prescriptions but also gather the information they need about what’s in their medicine cabinet. Visitors also have access to a Drug Information Center to check for drug interactions and identify pills by shape, color and imprint. Through the enhanced Prescription Center, customers can:

  • View their prescriptions available for refill or pickup;

  • Schedule future refills;

  • Discover suggestions for saving time and money on prescriptions;

  • View and manage a first-in-the industry online Prescription Calendar; and

  • Enroll for text message notifications for prescription pick-up.

Those who are caring for loved ones also can easily manage the health information of those they are caring for.

“A great feature [of the site] is caregiving management and family management so you can link to other family members and then manage all of that information in one dashboard,” Price said. “Our customers who really require the most help are the ones caring for themselves and caring for others so to have a dashboard that helps them navigate all of their responsibilities is a great breakthrough. … The nice thing is that all of this integrates neatly with the emerging mobile capabilities.”

Price added, “One of the things we are also excited about is that we have put a big investment in the health information and the medication information that underpins and is hot linked to their specific prescriptions … What we are doing is putting a major effort on streamlining how that information is presented, whether it is full color images of the pills, side effects, any contraindications, how the drug works, etc. But we also have a huge searchable database on health conditions.”

The new site also features a hub for ExtraCare members to help them manage their savings and deals. ExtraCare members can view their ExtraSavings and ExtraBucks Rewards and send ExtraBucks Rewards and select coupons directly to their card via the "Send to Card" digital savings option. In addition, shoppers can turn toward the new deals hub for even more exclusive offers including "Deal of the Day" flash sales. The ExtraCare page also features:

  • How the program works;

  • Access to the Weekly Ad; and

  • Countdown to quarterly ExtraBucks Rewards payout.

“It is efficient, it is compelling, is fun and it is really celebration for the customers. First and foremost, what we’ve done is made it easy for her to see one of the most compelling rewards and what are those rewards that are available to her,” Price said.

As part of its digital commerce initiative, CVS has also developed the Endless Aisle, which features those items available only online or offers a deeper product assortment than what might be available in the store.

“We are going to be looking at a number of categories where we have the credibility and the trust from our customers to add to our assortment online, and there will be more to come on that in the coming months,” Price said.

It is also important to note that CVS is further reaching out to the Hispanic community by making the site available in Spanish, as well as English, which Drug Store News initially reported on in May.

“It is very uncommon to have a full site in Spanish language. … Obviously, this is a critical community that needs as much resource and accessibility to health information and medication management, so we are really proud about the combination of both the language access and also the physical design of the site that will make it easier for our customers who prefer to navigate in Spanish to use the site,” Price said.

While the revamped site clearly has many innovative features to help shoppers personalize their shopping experience, save money and live a healthier life, Price stressed that this is just the beginning of CVS’ digital efforts.

“The beauty of digital is that the technology is now catching up with what it is that we want to create for our customers. The technology can support giving them the level of service, even when they are not at the store, to make them healthier, to enhance their ability to save money; and for us, that is what is so exciting is that now the technology is becoming so adaptable that we can really unleash our imagination to solve customers’ problems in ways that previously we’ve only dreamed about,” Price said.


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New flavors brew up interest in beer

BY Barbara White-Sax

The beer category wants its mojo back. After losing share to wine, spirits and small breweries for several years, major brewers are out to win consumers back to the category with new products that are a big departure from their classic offerings.

The success of Bud Light Platinum, with its higher alcohol content and sweeter taste, has sparked a flurry of flavored malt beverages into the beer market. This year alone, Anheuser-Busch InBev is launching nearly 20 new products to the U.S. market.

“The spirits people learned that younger consumers are looking for newer tastes, and big brewers have come up short on new flavors and innovation in a category that depends on a churn of new flavors and packaging,” said Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketers Insights.

Big brewers now aim to close the gap. A-B recently launched Michelob Ultra Light Cider, a gluten-free cider made from apples featuring one-third fewer calories and a sweeter taste than traditional ciders. Rather than positioning the beverage as a seasonal drink, A-B is pitching it as a year-round beverage that can be poured over ice. Beer over ice also is the approach A-B is taking with its Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, a malt beverage containing 8% alcohol, that’s billed as a margarita alternative. Under its Michelob Ultra label, the company also is rolling out a tea-and-lemonade drink called 19th Hole.

Molson Coors Brewing Co. is launching its own Coors Light Iced T in Canada, and is likely to extend the launch to the United States.

The low alcohol content FMBs also can be sold in many outlets where spirits cannot, offering retailers more opportunities to appeal to consumers looking for an alcoholic beverage with an interesting taste profile.

While traditional brands try on new flavors, craft beers and imports continue to power the category. Craft beer dollars were up 15% in 2011, according to the Brewers Association, and accounted for 6% of total beer category sales. That share is expected to continue to rise.

Boston Beer Co. and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. held the top craft brewery spots last year, but big brewers are nudging into the category. A-B’s Shock Top brand had double-digit sales increases last year with such new flavors as pumpkin ale. Both A-B and MillerCoors have introduced summer shandy flavors this year. India Pale Ales and seasonals remain the hottest segments of the category, according to Shepard.

Imports also have seen a nice spike in sales, with A-B’s Stella Artois and Grupo Modelo’s Modelo Especial and Victoria showing
solid increases.


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Fresh piques stores’, consumers’ appetites

BY Barbara White-Sax

Drug store chains have an enormous appetite for consumables. Fresh food sales — defined as dairy, deli, fresh meat and fresh produce — grew nearly 13% year over year through April, according to ACNielsen data.

The desire to add more fresh foods to their stores is even driving new store formats, according to Jonathan Stack, president of Panache Cuisine, a supplier of fresh and prepared foods. “Open-air coolers are the predominant vehicle for merchandising, and we are seeing retailers adding sections that run anywhere from 4 ft. to 9 ft.,” he said. Some retailers even are experimenting with island cases positioned in the middle of the store.

Merchandising is crucial to the category’s success. “Consumers are open to purchasing fresh product from more than just traditional grocery stores. The key is for the product to be merchandised in a clean, neat manner that conveys a level of attention that proves comforting to the consumer,” said Tom Sicola, VP marketing at McLane.

Stack said that new offerings from Panache are driven by the college campus segment of his business. “Those consumers want fresh products with no preservatives and ingredients that are locally grown,” he said. “Consumers also want eco-friendly packaging.” Those products also now can be delivered on a just-in-time basis to retailers.

“Short shelf life and spoilage is always a barrier to overcome when entering the fresh arena,” Sicola said. “Our strict ordering system allows for short shelf life product, such as fruit or fresh sandwiches, to deliver with the retailer’s regular delivery, but lose minimal shelf life moving through the supply chain. We are able to leverage pricing on fresh products to offer retailers a better cost than they would be able to negotiate on their own, ensuring a larger gross margin and larger net margin as well.”

As consumers look for healthier choices, healthy fresh options continue to grow at the drug channel. “Distribution of fresher, better-for-you products has been growing,” Sicola said. “We are seeing larger demand for products like yogurt and cheese sticks.”

Hot, fresh foods are another growth area on the horizon. “There’s a lot of opportunity in the ‘hot-and-go’ arena,” Stack said. “Packaging innovations are allowing us to put sandwiches in a panini grill in the packaging so consumers can get a hot entrée in a convenient setting. With very little floor space, drug stores can set up small bistro areas that can become a traffic generator.”


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