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Building an armada of manageable clusters

BY Rob Eder

Another key area, in which the learnings of ExtraCare are helping to inform the overall CVS Caremark retail strategy and personalize the shopping experience is in the way CVS Caremark designs and merchandises its stores.

Further leveraging the insights from ExtraCare, CVS Caremark continues to evolve its myCVS store clustering initiatives, which began in 2011 with the rollout of a special store format designed for its urban cluster stores. The urban cluster stores are designed to serve as “general stores” in dense trade areas with limited supermarket competition and feature vastly expanded consumables offerings, among other key features.

By the end of 2012, the company operated 450 urban cluster stores, with plans to have more than 500 by the end of 2013. Currently, the company also is piloting a suburban cluster format that features an “amplified health and beauty presence,” SVP/chief marketing officer Rob Price told DSN.

These PATH stores, as the company has identified them — short for “Personalized Access to Health” — offer “a more complete assortment and a more elevated experience, with a more shop-able and better integrated healthcare quadrant, … both in terms of physical access and navigation, and also how it integrates into pharmacy,” he said.

CVS Caremark also is applying the insights from its store-clustering initiatives to refreshes and remodels of its existing stores, as well into its regular planogram reviews, resets and new product introductions on an ongoing basis.

And along the way, it also is learning that some of the insights that come out of one cluster or another are not necessarily exclusive to those stores. “Many of these insights are generalizable — or ‘cluster-agnostic,’ as we call it,” Price added. “We see a lot of promise with some of these insights being weaved into our day-to-day business.”

One key example of how CVS Caremark has been able to take learnings from its store clustering initiatives and apply them more broadly to larger swath of stores is the healthcare resets it began about a year ago. Studies from its suburban cluster pilot program indicated that vitamins needed to have a bigger presence in the healthcare quadrant of the store. The reset repositioned the vitamin and nutrition categories opposite the pharmacy counter, replacing magazines and As Seen on TV, with wider-set aisles and the addition of aisle breaks to allow customers easier navigation of the vitamin assortment. According to CVS executives, the move has resulted in double-digit increases in vitamin category sales and a 3% to 5% increase in the entire healthcare quadrant in the reset stores. The plan was to roll the reset into 600 stores in 2013.

“You’re going to see these insights come to life in a number of ways. So, as we understand our clusters, we can modify our planograms — that’s a very standard process, … [but] now we can do it in a richer way,” Price said. “When we open a new store, we have the analytical sophistication to [know] which cluster that store is, so we design the store around those particular requirements. But then … we [also] know what customers are in which stores. So then, [we also] highlight those elements in targeted communications and promotions to [those customers] that best amplify the things we know they are going to be interested in. [That] is where all of our customer insights and all of our clustering insights come together — where we have these customer touchpoints.”

While the overarching strategy of store clustering might be personalization, the real goal is not to create 7,600 different variations on the store prototype. “If we had our druthers, we would individualize the stores based on visit,” Price said. “But what you can do is leverage the information, not to individualized stores, but to personalized stores, and tailor those stores into manageable groups that create an affirmative answer to the question: ‘Is this store for me?’”

The goal, Price explained, is a perfect balance of “trying to create customer delight at the broadest customer level, [while also] achieving scalable results,” he said. “The objective is not a handful of flagships — it’s a whole armada across 7,600 stores to make sure that we can harvest the insights from our cluster work … and weave those insights into [more] of our stores. The objective is to have the most clusters that we can that are substantially different enough from one another, but the fewest that we can have to make it actionable and scalable [because] our partnership with our vendors is about results.”

No doubt, 15 years worth of ExtraCare data acquisition and the degree of engagement it has had with customers, “gives us an incredibly rich pool of insights to build stores that customers are going to love,” Price added, “but it’s a journey.”

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Leveraging ExtraCare: Conversion and My Weekly Ad

BY Rob Eder

Fifteen years worth of ExtraCare learnings also have dramatically influenced the way CVS Caremark markets and merchandises to its best customers. These learnings have informed a critical part of its overall retail strategy, SVP merchandising Judy Sansone told DSN — conversion.

“What we found was we had a lot of upside with existing customers,” Sansone explained. “Conversion is the way we bring personalization to existing customers; by giving them offers that are highly relevant to them, we can really engage them across the store.”

Prior research had shown the company that customers tend to shop a limited number of categories. For example, the data revealed that pain relief customers bought hair care products 42% of the time, and oral care customers bought vitamins 36% of the time.

The early results have been “a tremendous success,” Sansone noted in a late-September interview. “Just in the last month, we’ve converted [more than] 2 million people to buy in categories they’ve never bought in.” According to Sansone, who was reticent to point to any single vendor success story, the big wins have been in the “health, beauty and personal care categories.”

Conversion will continue to be a major component of the company’s retail growth strategy going forward, she said. At the heart of conversion is CVS Caremark’s broader retail mission to personalize its relationship and its communications with its best customers. “We have worked to innovate in a number of different ways to engage with the customer,” Sansone said. “In the past, it’s been really traditional methods — most people are familiar with coupons at the register or [printing] coupons from the kiosk; those are fairly traditional. But we have [made] huge innovations in our digital strategy around email and around social media — … the number of tools and channels we have today to reach customers, pre-shop, during shop and post-shop is tremendous. It’s sophistication in the kind of offers they’re get ting, but also in the delivery mechanisms to engage the customer.”

Enter the most recent example of how CVS Caremark is personalizing the conversation with its best customers through ExtraCare: My Weekly Ad. The new digitized circular initiative, which launched in September, enables CVS to personalize its weekly promotions down to the user based on past purchasing behavior.

“Last week, we had one circular,” Sansone said, during the Sept. 20 interview. “This week we have a different versions for each of our customers.”

My Weekly Ad is enabling CVS Caremark to engage in more meaningful and relevant communication with customers, SVP/ chief marketing officer Rob Price explained. “Newspaper and television, and all of the mass media vehicles have had a very good run, and they will continue to be a very big part of what we do,” Price said. “But we’re mindful of the challenges of mass media — declining newspaper circulations, etc. And also we’re mindful of big changes in consumer behavior; whether it’s digital commerce or personalizing your sneakers, playlist or teddy bear, there is a sea of change occurring out there, and we want to participate in that. … I think from a media and marketing and promotional standpoint, My Weekly Ad is about moving toward that convergence.

Registered ExtraCare members get their own personalized front page customized with offers “based on the items they buy at CVS,” Sansone said. The offers are specific to the SKU and store level, and the ads can even instruct the customer on where to find the items on the shelves of their local store. The app also allows users to create a customized shopping list from items featured in My Weekly Ad.

The ability to create this kind of personally curated, geo-mapped shopping list is unprecedented in loyalty programs, Price added.

Notably, none of this important work or the insights that drives it all could exist without the commitment of CVS Caremark’s vendors, Sansone said. “Our vendors have been great partners in both the development of ExtraCare and our growth in terms of how we have delivered personalization through ExtraCare.”

Again, while she is reluctant to single out any one of its vendors or a single program it has partnered on, Sansone told DSN why so many of its suppliers have invested in the program over the years. “They get a great ROI from working on personalization by the very nature of personalization — it’s very relevant to the individual customer,” she said. “ExtraCare allows the ability for brands to develop loyalty and long-term value to the brands, and … for suppliers it is so much more efficient to build long-term value with a customer than it is to constantly have to acquire [new customers]. Constantly acquiring new customers is expensive. So… they continue to work with us very aggressively to grow the program.”

Of course, all of this is pretty sophisticated work, Sansone told DSN. “Our suppliers really need the kind of tools and resources to first understand the information and then understand how to use it,” she said. To help foster closer collaboration with its vendors, CVS Caremark this fall unveiled a new information gateway, which it developed in conjunction with IRI. The information gateway enables its vendors to use and plan from the same data used by CVS’ own category manager and buying teams.

These kinds of customer insights create an added incentive beyond just selling more merchandise, for suppliers to invest in ExtraCare, Price added. “It’s not just an engine for efficient promotion; it’s also an engine for insight, whether its new product launches or new product design, or communications, etc.”

And just as CVS Caremark can personalize its communication to the customer level, it also has the ability to target efforts at the store level. That means a vendor doesn’t have to be in all 7,700 stores to have meaningful participation in ExtraCare — an important consideration for smaller companies who may not think they have the bandwidth to commit to the program.

“By it’s nature, ExtraCare is about personalization,” Sansone said. “We can personalize it to customers, and we can personalize it to stores,” she said. “So, for limited distribution products, we can deliver offers in stores that carry those products specifically. There are large and small suppliers that see tremendous benefit — in fact, many small suppliers have actually shifted most of what they do with us into the personalization vehicles because mass [media] isn’t necessarily the best way for them to deliver their messages. By doing it in this personalized way, they are actually building loyalty for their small brands in our stores.”

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Recent news magnifies ‘Power’

BY Rob Eder

It’s been a busy month for news about CVS Caremark, as DSN raced to compile the special report on the company that appears in this issue. Each of the announcements only serves to amplify our “Power of One” theme.

Take its new joint venture with Cardinal Health, which will negotiate prices and source generic drugs for both companies.

Prior to the deal, CVS Caremark had already counted purchasing power among its key advantages. Now CVS Caremark picks up even more scale in the thick of the generic wave — $30 billion worth of brand-name drugs are expected to go generic in the next two years.

Then, there was CVS Caremark’s $2.1 billion acquisition of the Coram specialty infusion business. Specialty pharmacy already is a huge business for the company — estimated to reach more than $20 billion in 2013. With Coram, CVS Caremark is a major player in one of the fastest-growing segments of specialty pharmacy. The $11 billion home infusion services market is growing at about 10% a year.

And then you had the news about Helena Foulkes, who as of Jan. 1, officially takes the helm of the company’s retail business. While it may be slightly more difficult to quantify Foulkes’ value to the business, consider this: ExtraCare, Pharmacy Advisor and Maintenance Choice are three of the most innovative and game-changing programs the company has introduced in the past two decades; Foulkes has played a critical role in the development of each. She has made a career out of designing programs around the needs of the consumer, and DSN expects a lot of excitement to come out of the stores under her leadership.


Rob Eder is the editor in chief of The Drug Store News Group, publishers of Drug Store News and DSN Collaborative Care magazines. You can contact him at reder@lf.com.

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