HEALTH

Loyalty program adds the ‘plus’ to consumers’ wellness

BY Michael Johnsen

Rite Aid’s wellness+, one of the few loyalty cards that proffers an actual healthcare component as one of the benefits of use, continues to be one of Rite Aid’s key marketing initiatives moving forward. The retailer boasted 16 million wellness+ members as of July 26, only 12 weeks into the program, which suggests the company is well on its way to realizing projections of 20 million members by year’s end, according to several analyst reports.

No other loyalty card program provides actual healthcare screenings as one of the benefits of using the card. “[Rite Aid’s] wellness+ is really a key support mechanism for our wellness empowerment brand-positioning,” said John Learish, Rite Aid SVP marketing. “We’ve got some pretty interesting and appealing service benefits that are attached to the program.”

For example, a wellness+ member has around-the-clock access to a pharmacist either through an 800 number or through real-time chat by logging on to the wellness+ dashboard online. And when a customer reaches 500 points, Rite Aid offers a free healthcare screening, measuring blood glucose and total cholesterol. “It’s really a combination of the health benefits…with the savings benefits, that really differentiates this program,” Learish said.

The healthcare component associated with the program is one of those intangibles that helps distinguish Rite Aid’s loyalty card from others on the market, especially as consumers today can rattle their keychains with a host of retailers’ loyalty cards. But none of those programs tie pharmacy into the front-end, and vice versa, quite like Rite Aid does. Only three months into the program, more than one-third of front-end sales (37%) and prescriptions filled (36%) are being made by wellness+ cardholders, according to Rite Aid’s June 23 analyst call.

Rite Aid also is generating quite a bit of marketing data through the card, enabling the retailer to better target market-specific customer groups. “We’re getting some very interesting views into the data,” Learish noted. “We’ve got a lot of transactions coming through now, enough to make the data really meaningful. Across every single metric—average basket size, average units/basket, scripts/basket, margin—the wellness+ customer on all of those metrics dramatically exceeds the non-wellness+ customer.”

Going forward, as that data stream continues to become more robust, Rite Aid will be better able to target front-end-only customers and convert them into crossover customers—customers who both fill their prescriptions at Rite Aid and shop the front-end. For example, a cardholder identified as a front-end-only shopper now can be target-marketed around the benefits of transferring his or her prescriptions to Rite Aid—a $25 gift card and a much faster way to accumulate wellness+ points.

And the potential to capture and grow the number of prescription patients is significant. According to the chain’s annual meeting presentation, 71% of Rite Aid’s total shopper base currently shop the front-end only; and 24% shop both the front-end and fill prescriptions at the Rite Aid pharmacy. However, looking only at the prescription patients serviced by Rite Aid, 85% of those customers also shop the front-end.

So, enticing more patients to transfer their prescriptions to Rite Aid not only should boost pharmacy sales, but front-end sales as well. Pilot stores that tested the wellness+ offering before its national launch in April boasted a $37.09 average basket size, compared with an average basket size of $35.01 in those stores that did not yet offer wellness+ during the program’s pilot phase.

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The Apothecary Shops earns spot on Inc.’s fastest-growing private companies list

BY Alaric DeArment

PHOENIX Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy isn’t the only one to earn a spot on Inc. magazine’s list of the fastest-growing private companies.

The Inc. 5000 also listed specialty pharmacy The Apothecary Shops, ranking 2,394. That marked a jump of 322 spots from last year and 1,682 spots from 2008 in its fourth annual appearance on the list.

Drug Store News reported Thursday on Diplomat’s inclusion on the list.

“It’s no secret that we have undertaken a very aggressive growth strategy for The Apothecary Shops, but our approach, particularly in a down economy, has been targeted and strategic to be in a solid position to leverage that growth when the economy turns,” The Apothecary Shops president Keith Cook said. “Our movement on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies reflects the success of our strategic direction.”

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CMPI survey: Alcohol, marijuana biggest substance problems among teens

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest on Thursday released the results of a national Teen Substance Abuse survey, indicating that police officers and high school teachers nationwide believe alcohol and marijuana are the most serious problem substances facing teenagers.

The results were released one week prior to a Sept. 14 Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee meeting called to discuss whether or not additional sales restrictions need to be placed on dextromethorphan, a popular cold remedy ingredient that has been associated with teenage drug abuse. According to the survey, police and teachers polled do not believe it is a good idea to force Americans to visit a doctor to get a prescription to purchase commonly-sold cough-cold medicines.

When asked which substances do pose the greatest negative impact on teens, teachers and police identified marijuana and alcohol, followed by methamphetamine and cocaine. More than 1-in-4 police officers (27%) identified prescription drugs acquired by teens as having the greatest negative impact on teens, as compared with 15% of teachers. Nonprescription medicines were named by 1% of police officers as having the greatest negative impact; 2% of teachers identified over-the-counter medicines as such.

The survey also revealed that by a margin of 2-to-1, police officers and high school teachers support education efforts as a means to address abuse of OTC cough-and-cold medicines, versus restricted accessibility to consumers.

“Americans expect to be able to buy cough medicines conveniently at the supermarket or their neighborhood corner store,” stated CMPI VP Robert Goldberg. “Overly restricting access to cough-and-cold products containing dextromethorphan will create more health problems than it will solve, especially during cold-and-flu seasons. We need to find common sense solutions and invest more resources in education.”

The entire Teen Substance Abuse survey is available at Cmpi.org.

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