Retailers Bet on Consumers’ Love of Convenience

Everywhere you look it seems neighborhood retailers are expanding their health offerings to fill a market need. Consumers certainly like the idea of accessing on-demand, convenient care options, so the new surge of expansion makes a lot of sense.

For example, CVS recently doubled down on clinic services by introducing its HealthHUB concept in Texas. The retail centers will offer expanded care capabilities — beyond the longstanding Minute Clinic menu for minor acute issues. New services include everything from sleep apnea assessments to weight management and chronic diabetes care.

Walgreens also announced big investments in primary care with its VillageMD clinics in Texas. With 2,500 square feet allocated for the exam space, it’s clear the retailer is shifting more of its footprint from breakfast bars and cough drops to hands-on care delivery.

In recent weeks, we’ve also noticed how CVS and Walgreens have upgraded their respective home-delivery services for prescription medications. Consumers in a growing number of markets can request same-day delivery of their medications for $8, and in some locations, Medicaid beneficiaries get their meds delivered for free.

No doubt these moves are strategic plays to compete with the likes of Apple and Amazon’s Alexa, as everyone tries to get in on healthcare’s opportunity era. Ubiquitous brands are going head-to-head with other ubiquitous brands. Pull up a chair!

The market has the final say

But the bigger question for retailers is whether consumers are ready to view the neighborhood drugstore as a go-to health provider. At the moment, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen.

Retailers who offer greater convenience will have an advantage but remember, costs for the consumer will vary based on insurance coverage. Some of the one-stop-shopping aspects will be attractive, but retailers certainly can’t be all things to everyone. Finally, integration and data-sharing might be the biggest drawback as CVS, Walgreens, and friends try to mesh with the existing healthcare ecosystem.

We’re keeping an eye on the brick-and-mortar retailers as an interesting test case. Certainly, the uptake on the new offerings will vary but, either way, we’ll have some market insight based on the relative response.

What we can say is that retailers are hoping to get out in front of the consumer revolution in health. Care once exclusively in the hands of hospitals and physician practices is now moving to Main Street. With 9,800 locations under the CVS banner and 9,500 under Walgreens, they seem to have the scale and the existing customer base to rejigger the consumer experience.

Our Take: In a Smart Health Market, the consumer calls the shots, and the market responds. Retailers are one to watch.