How Pharmacies Are Rejiggering With On-Demand Delivery, CBD Products


Brick-and-mortar pharmacy retailers are taking new approaches to delivery in the omnichannel age: CVS Pharmacy, for instance, is doubling down its on-demand offerings with a faster and expanded option.

Instead of having its customers wait a day or two for their prescriptions, the retailer is delivering prescriptions within a matter of hours in some cases. Same-day delivery marketplace Shipt is powering the offering, which is available at 6,000 of the pharmacy’s brick-and-mortar locations. The service comes after the chain had rolled out one- to two- day prescription delivery service nationwide.

CVS Pharmacy President Kevin Hourican said in an announcement, “A year ago CVS Pharmacy redefined convenience for customers by introducing prescription delivery nationwide in order to extend the connection that our trusted, local pharmacists provide to their customers at our nearly 10,000 locations around the country.” Hourican continued, “Today we've taken another step forward by expanding same-day delivery nationwide and enhancing the experience with our On-Demand delivery service.” When it comes to requesting delivery, consumers have a few options.

To order from the pharmacy, consumers can choose the on-demand prescription delivery service through the company’s app, by calling a pharmacy or sending an SMS text. They then pay a delivery charge of $7.99 for the service, while the fee for the one- to two-day offering is a bit less at $4.99. Even though the delivery could come in handy for prescription medications, the pharmacy is taking a broader approach with the offering: It is allowing consumers to order all sorts of items from the company. Consumers, for instance, can order vitamins or first aid products — in other words, not just medications.

When it comes to mobile apps, nearly two in 10 consumers — or 17 percent — say that a large health and beauty retailer has a mobile app and they use it regularly per the PYMNTS Omni Usage Index. And about the same share of consumers — 19 percent — say that a large health and beauty retailer has a mobile app and they use it occasionally. The report also noted that “health and beauty sector customers were more likely to use their retailers’ mobile apps than those in other sectors.” Even so, nearly a third — or 32 percent — of consumers were unaware of a mobile app by that kind of retailer.

Beyond mobile apps, CVS is no stranger to delivery: Late last year, the company experimented with a program in Boston that allowed shoppers to get free delivery on prescriptions and online purchases among other perks. Beyond delivery, customers could get a 20 percent discount on CVS branded products, a $10 coupon each month and pharmacy helpline access. The program came with a monthly fee of $5 or $48 yearly for a membership.

For its in-store experience, CVS was also looking to open concept stores at the beginning of this year. CVS CEO Larry Merlo said, according to CNBC in November, “We’re making the consumer experience, which will be an increasingly important competitive differentiator, and we are hard at work creating a plan to differentiate CVS Health in these patient journeys with the goal of making them simpler and more personalized while making care more accessible.” 

New Products

CVS is not the only pharmacy that is innovating its product mix: Earlier this year, Walgreens announced it will sell CBD products at nearly 1,500 of its brick-and-mortar stores in states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon. Walgreens spokesman Brian Faith told CNBC, “This product offering is in line with our efforts to provide a wider range of accessible health and well-being products and services to best meet the needs and preferences of our customers.” CVS, too, revealed a similar move: It was reported that the retailer would start selling items from Curaleaf (CURLF) at 800 locations.

The interest in CBD products by pharmacy retailers comes as almost one in 10 Americans — or 7 percent — say they use CBD products. At the same time, a Cowen & Co analysis released last month claims the market could reach $16 billion by the year 2025. At the same time, the analysis found the 6.9 percent of people who said they used CBD exceeds the 4.2 percent who used e-cigarettes. And almost two in 10 people — or 19.6 percent — considered themselves to be current tobacco users.

The Food and Drug Administration’s outgoing Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, however, noted earlier this year that he’s not sure about the move on the part of CVS and Walgreens to sell CBD products in their stores. According to a report in CNBC earlier this month, Gottlieb said during a House appropriations committee hearing that the FDA expressed “concern” about Walgreens and CVS entering the market. “So you now see big-box stores seeking to market CBD products for some uses where the claims seem to be potentially over the line, for the treatment of pain, for example,” Gottlieb said.

From expanding their product mix through CBD or their omnichannel approaches through delivery, retail pharmacies are providing consumers with new selections and ways to interact with their brands in the digital age.



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