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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Pittsburgh Business Group on Health’s LivingMyLife program to expand

BY Alaric DeArment

PITTSBURGH The Pittsburgh Business Group on Health’s LivingMyLife program, which helps diabetes patients with disease management through the use of “coach pharmacists,” will soon do the same for those with other diseases, according to published reports.

 

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday that LivingMyLife also would help patients with asthma and heart disease. The program, which began in 2006, allows patients to manage their disease with visits to pharmacies, mostly Giant Eagle, Kmart and some independents.

 

 

The announcement was made at the annual healthcare symposium of the group and involved more than 100 attendees, the newspaper reported.

 

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DSC debunks industry misconceptions at briefing

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, in cooperation with two trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry — the Natural Products Association and the Council for Responsible Nutrition — held a briefing on Capitol Hill Thursday in an effort to debunk some of the untruths and misconceptions about the dietary supplement industry and its role in Americans’ wellness regimens.

“It’s all about prevention. Prevention is the new mantra among consumers,” suggested guest speaker Patrick Rea, publisher and editorial director of Nutrition Business Journal.

Speaking to an audience of staff members from the House of Representatives and Senate, Rea said that even during tough economic times, consumers turn to dietary supplements as an important part of their immunity and prevention plan.

“Consumers looked at supplements as one way through the recession to help take care of themselves. Health is recession resilient, and the sales over time support this fact,” Rea said.

Rea addressed several “industry myths” –– including the notions that dietary supplements are unnecessary because people get what they need from food, that people really do not want to take supplements, that the pharmaceutical industry will destroy the dietary supplement industry and that the industry is unregulated.

“Our numbers show that somewhere between 60% to 80% of Americans take supplements, and 48% of them consider themselves regular users,” Rea said.

Rea also mentioned the growing acceptance of dietary supplements among conventional health practitioners, and the growing trend among pharmaceutical companies to develop their own versions of products usually sold as supplements.

“In a study of healthcare professionals, 72% of physicians and 89% of nurses are dietary supplement consumers, and 79% of physicians and 82% of nurses recommend dietary supplements to their patients,” Rea noted.

Regarding industry regulation, Rea countered that the supplement industry is one of the more highly regulated industries and that the industry welcomes those regulations. “[For example], a lot of the [dietary supplement] companies are rallying behind the [good manufacturing practices] regulations,” he said. “They want it to be known that they are a GMP-compliant company. And, the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act made claims rules clear and has really helped the industry focus and develop.”

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