How to Win at CVS Pharmacy

Seven tips for building effective strategic partnerships with the nation’s second-largest drugstore retailer.

“Let’s make healthier happen together” is the trademarked invitation that CVS Health is sending out to U.S. consumers.

Now just one portion of the company’s massive and still-growing healthcare operation, retail pharmacy represented almost exactly one-third of total company revenue in the most recent fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2022). And sales of “Front Store” packaged goods now comprise 21% of retail pharmacy sales and less than 10% of total revenue.

Yet the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain attracts 120 million monthly shoppers to its 8,000-plus physical stores (4.5 million daily visits) and 139 million monthly trips to its website and mobile app. And its newly streamlined ExtraCare loyalty program has insights into the buying habits of 74 million shoppers.

All of those data points make CVS an important retail partner for many CPGs, especially those with brands in health & wellness or beauty categories. And the company’s focus on health & wellness gives CVS Media Exchange (CMX) a unique point of differentiation from most other retail media networks (apart from its drugstore rivals, of course).

Brands looking to establish a more strategic partnership with the retailer need to develop engagement plans that will drive better health outcomes and lower costs for its shoppers, with an eye toward bringing CVS Health’s powerful assets together to create greater value. Here are 7 recommendations:

Make the Message Relevant: Keep the CVS shopper’s need states top of mind when developing media and creative strategies.

Provide Wellness-Centric Solutions: The retailer is taking a “healthier vs. healthy” approach, so find ways to support emotional and mental health, too.

Stay in Season: Shoppers commonly use CVS as a convenient stop for their last-minute Easter basket, Halloween bag or Holiday stocking stuffers. Tap into these seasonal trips with related themes and offers.

Go Omnichannel: Work with CMX as well as third-party delivery/fulfillment and media vendors to engage shoppers at multiple touchpoints during key moments in their journey.

Leverage Loyalty Opportunities: The retailer’s Consumer Category Growth (formerly Loyalty & Personalization) programming can help brands align their shopper and national marketing and reach the right customers at the right times.

Build Cross-Category Traffic: Bring basket-building shopper solutions or offers through brand partnerships that can increase foot traffic and/or dwell time.

Drive Impulse Purchase: Catch the attention of in-store shoppers with impactful signage and disruptive displays as they head back to the pharmacy for prescriptions or seek out essentials in front-store aisles.

The Mars Agency’s Customer Development practice is an unrivaled team of in-market commerce experts who simplify the complexity of retail. Located in Bentonville, Minneapolis, Cincinnati and the “backyards” of other key retailers, they provide deep knowledge of the retailer, expertise in key business areas (like strategy, media and creative), and door-opening personal relationships with key executives to deliver an unmatched level of business success for clients across accounts, channels and shopper engagement platforms. For more information, contact SVP-GM Kandi Arrington. 

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