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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Type 2 diabetes linked with cognitive impairments, study shows

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON A small study conducted by Canadian researchers found factors that may link Type 2 diabetes with such cognitive impairments as dementia.

Older adults with diabetes who also have high blood pressure, walk slowly or lose their balance, or believe they’re in bad health, are more likely to have poorer cognitive functions than those without these problems, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada and published in the September issue of Neuropsychology

The study of older Canadians — 41 adults with Type 2 diabetes, ages 55 to 81 years, and 458 matched healthy controls (ages 53 to 90 years) — found that systolic blood pressure, a low combination score for gait and balance, and a patient’s own reports of poor health all played a statistically significant role in the relationship between diabetes and cognitive impairment.

“Awareness of the link between diabetes and cognition could help people realize how important it is to manage this disease, and to motivate them to do so,” said co-author Roger Dixon, PhD, of the University of Alberta.

Type 2 diabetes has been found by other researchers to nearly double the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, said Dixon, who studies how health affects cognition in aging. As diabetes becomes more common, this heightened risk could dramatically hike the number of older people with dementia.

The prevalence of diabetes in the United States for people older than age 60 — according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases — is more than 23%, while Canadian prevalence is nearly 19%, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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