Retail

Target’s Rebooted Approach To Health As A Customer Acquisition Tool

Target and CVS made the headlines in a big way last year with the announcement that Target was officially getting out of the pharmacy operations business and selling all of its in-store locations to the specialists at CVS.

The $1.9 billion deal saw all of Target’s more than 1,660 pharmacies in 47 states rebranding as CVS and its 80 clinics rebranded as Minute Clinic. The deal also calls for the addition of 20 new CVS pharmacies to Target locations.

When the deal was announced, Target’s CEO Brian Cornell noted that the move allowed the retailer to a portion its attentions more strategically.

“At Target, we’ve talked a lot about the evolving preferences of our guests and this partnership demonstrates that we’re committed to putting them at the forefront of everything we do. By partnering with CVS Health, we will offer our guests industry leading health care services, and at the same time, sharpen our focus on elevating the way we deliver wellness products and experiences to our guests.”

Target may be getting out of pharmacy services directly, but health and wellness remain very much on the  agenda. The focus, however, was shifted and more retail-oriented, stocking differentiated goods in categories like beauty, baby care, personal care, food and cleaning products, with a focus on safety, environmental soundness and importance to an overall healthy lifestyle.

The stated goal of this is to help consumers lead better, healthier lives — which we are sure is sincere, but no less sincere than the implied goal of leveraging better merchandise toward getting customers in the door, on the website and spending away to make the world a better place.

Now, it’s a little under a year after the CVS split was announced (ten months to be exact) and the more specific contours of Target’s reinvented approach to health and wellness are coming into focus this week with two announcements. As has been Target’s pattern throughout the year, the dual releases in the same area of the business line are complementary but different — with one focused on a public, flashy front end addition and the other indicative of a dogged back end technical effort.

So what hit this week?

What Would Gwyneth Do?

Target has made the aforementioned modifications to its offerings across various — and it has also upped its commitment to its “Made to Matter” sectioning of sustainable merchandise. Inclusion on that list is predicated on adhering to a set of strict requirements that ensure the goods are healthy for both the environment and the end user.

Joining Target’s enhanced collection of health centric products will be dance-cardio instructor Tracy Anderson’s line of protein shake mixes and protein bars. While Anderson’s name might not be ringing any immediate bells for readers, her most famous acolyte’s certainly will: Gwyneth Paltrow.

Paltrow has spilled several gallons of digital ink on her lifestyle site GOOP extolling the virtues of Anderson’s products and her miraculous training methods.

The move is not without some risk, given that Paltrow does enjoy a unique status as America’s favorite celebrity to hate. And Anderson herself has been the subject of criticism among other trainers, who claim her methods may be unsound and questionably healthy.

But Anderson’s products, which are known to retail for rather high prices, are also an opportunity to tap into the high-end fitness trend and reach a growing cohort of consumers with the offer of a better than expected bargain. Target’s move with SoulCycle earlier this year could be viewed as a move in the same vein.

As for Anderson herself, she is unsurprisingly enthused to get a crack at a larger group of potential customers.

“I am thrilled to finally have bar and shake meal replacements on the big box retail shelf. “We all lead busy lives and we need support to be all that we can be. While I completely believe in living a life full of whole foods, I also believe that we need healthier, easily accessible and controlled options to lose and maintain weight.”

And speaking of the support for healthier lives, Target apparently is supporting that too — and not only with high-profile things that can be seen on the shelves.

Interesting Back End Action 

While consumers are stocking up on the products they need to properly dance-cardio (cardio-dance?), they may notice that their store’s pharmacy department (as opposed to the in-store pharmacies operated within some Targets by CVS) has gotten a pretty sharp tech upgrade that makes it possible for consumers to wire their smart devices directly to wireless enabled health equipment in-store.

The connected care program first went into testing mode in 2015 and is on track to roll out in 550 pharmacy departments starting in May. The stations will feature a roughly six-foot wide area with equipment like blood pressure monitors and various pain management tools, all of which are capable of securely communicating data and health updates back to a consumer’s smartphone.

“We’re constantly looking for opportunities to evolve our assortment and shopping experience to meet the changing needs of our guests,” a Target spokeswoman noted in an email. “We know our guests are increasingly interested in these types of [connected care] products, and will evaluate future growth plans based on their feedback and sales results.”

Target may have gotten out of pharmacy, but it is still quite obviously interested in health — though in a different and evolving way than it has in the past.

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