Upcoming Webinar | Insights from the 2021 dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index for U.S. Grocery
The Great Recession programmed lasting value-consciousness into the minds of consumers. How might COVID-19 rewire us again?
The fourth annual dunnhumby Retailer Preference Index for U.S. Grocery (RPI) sheds light on what makes a retail winner, and how the pandemic has impacted consumer shopping behaviors. Known as retail's equivalent of the Gartner Magic Quadrant, the RPI surveyed about 10,000 consumers to understand what's driving customer preference and rank the top 57 grocery retailers in the United States.
Join dunnhumby CEO Guillaume Bacuvier as he dives into the latest study, revealing the levers for success, and which retailers are winning the hearts, and wallets, of shoppers today.
Why North America’s health and wellbeing could be the next big retail pharmacy battleground
The retail sector has experienced both of these extremes, with some seeing strong sales while others have been forced into bankruptcy and liquidation.
What we have seen is an acceleration of trends that were in motion prior to the pandemic but are now even more essential for success. One such trend is, understandably, the enhanced focus in retail on health and wellness. This is not a new phenomenon especially within Retail Pharmacy as "buy and build" expansion pushed the market towards saturation. More savvy competition, both within the sector, as well as grocery, mass merchant, and ecommerce began to expand into Health & Beauty (H&B) and prescriptions.
Prescription benefit managers (PBMs) grew increasingly powerful and began demanding lower reimbursement terms and restricted access to customers. Some even set up their own mail order prescription businesses and became direct competitors. This direct attack on the pharmacy business model, combined with the erosion of the convenience advantage forced chains to find other ways to extend their reach. For many, the answer lay in diversification and, specifically, the integration of products and services that had previously sat with dedicated medical providers.
Faced with limited development prospects, retail pharmacies once again needed to re-examine their offering and carve out a distinctive customer proposition.
In the US, prescription medicines account for around two-thirds of retail pharmacy revenues¹. As a result, repeat business is vital. Clinical services – a longer-term, more consultative offering than pure dispensary – can help to encourage ongoing business by building a stronger relationship between pharmacist and patient.
With that in mind, it's little wonder that for many retail pharmacies in the mid-2000s, the decision to expand into clinical services seemed like a natural evolution.
CVS, Walgreens and others went through a flurry of acquisitions, purchasing small health service companies up and down the US. In-store facilities were rolled out to capture new clinical business and commence the shift into a wider "health services" offering.
Certain activities, such as immunizations, had successful starts. But the growth of these clinics and their services rapidly dropped off and it soon became apparent that success would not be as readily won as those retailers may have hoped.
One major problem lay deep in the complex inner workings of US healthcare. Limited by their insurance plan benefit structures, customers would often find themselves unable to access the full range of services offered in-store. Clinical service costs, while usually lower than those available at a hospital or doctor's office, would likely be higher than the insured co-pay price paid by the consumer at the latter.
Retailers quickly learned that in order to integrate into the healthcare industry, they would need to learn how to influence and control it as well.
Playing a long game
CVS, which made the strongest initial investment into in-store clinics, has spent more than a decade in pursuit of that goal. Major product decisions, such as the removal of tobacco from stores (itself a $1bn annual business) were executed in the name of a slow repositioning towards healthcare.
Strategic acquisitions have only helped to further that ambition. With its first major vertical healthcare purchase – that of PBM Caremark in 2006 – CVS gained control of the levers of customer access and prescription reimbursement for millions of lives. 13 years later, with the acquisition of Aetna, the company added the ability to provide health, dental, vision and other insurance plans to customers.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this trajectory could lead to the eventual formation of an integrated healthcare system supported by some 10,000 points of service.
There is growing evidence that an empire of that kind is firmly in the retailer's plans. CVS has already announced its intention to evolve clinics into more expansive "Health Hubs", bringing enhanced services to 1,500 locations by 2021. Health Hubs include more space devoted to clinical services and a broader focus on proactive wellness and nutrition alongside extensive health services.
That wider remit is immediately evident in an enhanced product assortment, one that includes numerous specialized items and categories for maintaining health and preventative wellness products –. And, perhaps influenced by insights delivered by Aetna, CVS has also chosen to put significant emphasis on chronic condition management, an area that can provide a pharmacy with some of its most valuable customers.
While CVS is playing a highly strategic game, though, it is by no means the only player to watch.
Save money, live better
As the world's largest retailer, just about anything Walmart does is reason for the competition to pay attention. It may have taken more than a quarter of a century for Walmart to start selling groceries after all, but the retail behemoth now holds top position in that segment in North America by an overwhelming margin.
With that precedent in mind, and in light of Walmart now holding the position as the nation's third largest retail pharmacy provider, it seems likely that another fierce battle for the future of retail pharma is about to begin.
Launched in fall 2019, the Walmart Health Care Clinic serves as a good indicator as to the strength of the company's ambitions.
Staffed to deliver an expansive set of services that range from primary care and disease management through to dental, hearing, nutrition and fitness, these sleek, modern facilities offer the same one-stop-shop approach as Walmart's core store.
Moreover, Health Care Clinics also employ the company's "everyday low pricing" model, something that makes for a compelling proposition regardless of insurance coverage. Medicare and Medicaid are both accepted too, encompassing what is likely a significant number of customers.
The battle within
Similar at their core yet, subtly different, these offerings from CVS and Walmart represent a dramatic shift in healthcare delivery in the US.
While the scale of each remains too small at this point to draw many conclusions, those small differences could carve out room enough for both to flourish. CVS' focus on providing specialist-level health and chronic condition care is different enough from Walmart's "low price, one-stop shop" approach to appeal to a distinct group of customers.
Rather than between each other, the biggest challenges ahead for CVS and Walmart may actually be found within. As both companies make fundamental changes in order to facilitate a future in which healthcare is a significant part of their offering, they will need to focus on evolving their relationships with their long-term customers too.
CVS, for instance, will need to ask customers to reconcile the idea that a company that continues to dominate in snacks and candy is now an active participant in their healthcare. And Walmart, famed for its leadership in building highly efficient operations, will need to scale and sustain a healthcare business rooted in flat, affordable pricing, as well as build the credibility as a viable provider of quality healthcare.
Neither challenge is easy. But if history has taught us anything, it's that when companies of this size decide to redefine an industry from the ground-up, they tend to succeed.
The arrival of Covid-19 also introduces a new reality unthinkable less than a year ago. Health and wellness permeates all aspects of our lives and vigilance is essential to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
- PPE has become a category in its own right with massive and sustained demand across such items as masks and sanitizers.
- Hospital capacity is being tested repeatedly with infection surges and unable to address lower level and elective procedures
- Vaccination is now a global necessity requiring a distribution network capable of rapidly reaching billions of people
Webinar On-demand | Customer First Category Management and COVID-19: Life After the Curve
The "new normal" isn't really normal at all. Life amid COVID-19 has forced U.S. consumers to adopt new behaviors, dramatically impacting how they shop, work and go about their daily lives. Trips to the grocery store are now once weekly trips to buy essentials and stock the pantry for home cooking. And, vulnerable consumers now rely on online ordering and delivery services they were once reluctant to try.
On average, it takes 66 days for new behaviors to become automatic. The majority of U.S. consumers will cross that milestone under pandemic restrictions very soon. Retailers should prepare now to successfully serve their customers after the "COVID curve."
Join dunnhumby's Daryl Wehmeyer, Head of Category Management for North America, and John O'Reilly, Head of Customer Development for North America, as they discuss:
- dunnhumby's model of the current and future phases of the Coronavirus pandemic and implications for category management
- Customers' attitudes about shopping during COVID-19
- How Retailers should manage their assortments during and after the Covid recovery to prepare themselves for the new normal
In our latest look at the Coronavirus' lasting impact on global Grocery Retail, we examine eight emerging trends that are set to redefine the industry's future.
1.Value becomes a decision maker
As global economies tighten, financial strain will prompt certain behaviours from shoppers; not only will they become more frugal in their spending, they will also make greater use of existing food stores and become less wasteful in their quest to reduce outgoings. As a result, value will become an increasingly vital factor in store and product choice.
This has major implications for Retailers and CPG brands:
- Private labels and discount brands will experience strong growth amongst value-centric shoppers.
- Non-grocery spend will fall as budgets tighten and non-essential purchases fall away.
- Discount stores that can deliver a "one-stop shop" experience could make significant gains.
2.Localized shopping means new challenges ahead
Even as lockdown measures ease in some countries, many shoppers are likely to try and stay as close to home as possible. Hypermarket-sized stores may have provided shoppers with bulk-buying opportunities during the initial outbreak, but sales volumes in those formats have now tapered off significantly. Instead, smaller and convenience format stores are now the de facto choice for consumers who would prefer (or are still mandated) to stay local.
As a result:
- Spending patterns are changing, with Customers choosing to carry out full shops closer to home.
- Cross-shopping has fallen by the wayside as shoppers limit the number of stores they frequent.
- Strong action will be required to retain new shoppers and regain lost custom as the situation evolves.
3.Food adventures will continue to happen at home for the foreseeable future
One in five British shoppers are now cooking every meal from scratch, up from just one in eight before the pandemic began. While restaurants, cafés, and bars will slowly begin to open up as social distancing restrictions ease, many Customers – particularly higher-risk individuals – are likely to continue their food adventures in the comfort of their own home rather than risk potential exposure.
For Retailers, this means:
- Meeting greater demand for fresh and frozen products in favour of pre-prepared lines.
- Educating and inspiring shoppers to try new recipes via online platforms.
4.Health, wellbeing, and humane behaviour become new benchmarks
Not only has the virus prompted Customers to raise their spending on personal and home hygiene products, we've seen it drive a similar rise in healthy eating as shoppers seek to build their natural immunity as best they can. Concerns aren't just limited to their own wellbeing, either; recent weeks have seen debates ranging from the safety and protection of Retail staff, to the need for a wholesale re-evaluation of global meat consumption.
Addressing this heightened awareness around health means:
- Supporting Customers with their renewed focus on health, nutrition, and mental wellbeing.
- Focusing hard on hygiene and humanitarianism – not only with regard to employee and Customer wellbeing, but in terms of animal welfare in the supply chain, too.
5.Online Retail reaches the tipping point
Soaring demand for home delivery and click and collect services prompted many Retailers to ramp up their online operations, and early indications suggest that this change will be anything but short-lived. Online sales now sit somewhere between two and four times those seen pre-outbreak, limited more by Retailer capacity than by Customer demand. The digital tipping point is here, Customers convinced by recent experience that online represents a viable way to shop going forwards.
Retailers looking to optimise their online operations now should consider:
- Expanding capacity via 'last mile' innovations, from offering click and collect in smaller stores to partnering with fulfilment companies in order to expand delivery networks.
- Ensuring that new shoppers become repeat Customers, making first shops easy, reliable and value-laden.
6.Expectations for digital grow in tandem with the online boom
As frugality and wellbeing come to dominate the Customer mindset, their expectations around technology won't be limited to online channels alone. Digital innovations that make shopping easier, faster, safer and lower-contact will all be sought after, with shoppers looking to Retailers to deliver useful and helpful new applications.
Areas of focus should include:
- Pre-trip planning applications that enable crowd avoidance based on levels of in-store custom.
- Touch-free replacements for vouchers, receipts, lists and payment.
- Additional investment in technologies that reduce one-on-one contact such as self-scan and self-service checkouts.
7.Public goodwill must not be misspent
In 2020, stores have become something more. Customers have come to see supermarkets, stores, and employees not merely as a means to an end, but as pillars of their local community – essential services and key workers helping them navigate a period of unprecedented disruption. This social capital will prove to be hugely valuable, but only for Retailers who demonstrate an unwavering willingness to operate for the public good.
Harnessing the power of this deeper connection with Customers will mean:
- Increasing or maintaining activities that benefit local communities such as food banks and charity initiatives.
- Supporting local and national food producers and minimising their overall supply chain.
8.Market consolidation will define the years ahead
As the economy contracts, competition will only get fiercer. As weaker operators begin to struggle, larger Retailers are likely to benefit from their scale, forming global alliances and buying groups that enable them to operate more efficiently and purchase key lines in larger volumes. A period of consolidation is likely to follow, these larger chains scaling up as smaller competitors fall away.
To prepare for this period, Retailers should:
- Focus on resetting and simplifying their assortments, as discussed in our previous post.
- Lay the groundwork for new partnerships that can enable more efficient and productive operations.
For more information on retail strategies beyond the virus, please watch our webinar on demand | Future Outlook: Consumer and Retail shifts for Grocery & Pharmacy post-Coronavirus