Walgreens made two announcements over the past few weeks that have industry observers scratching their heads:
- On July 9 they revealed that they had suffered losses worldwide in part due to decreased foot traffic because of the pandemic.
- On July 8 they announced that they are doubling-down on their in-store pick up model by striking a deal with VillageMD to open doctors’ offices in hundreds of their drugstores.
That’s right: In the middle of a dangerous pandemic that has driven adoption of both telehealth and medication delivery services, Walgreens is counting on consumers wanting to spend more time in retail stores for in-person doctors’ visits. Is this the equivalent of Blockbuster seeking to beat Netflix by opening in-store screening rooms?
Customer Needs in Pharmacy
Unfortunately, Walgreens is so desperate for foot traffic, it has made them blind to consumer needs and wants. They have invested heavily in expensive real estate in popular commercial corridors hoping consumers will be drawn to their stores and underinvested in any technology or services that might actually improve the customer experience. Their pharmacy strategy is especially flawed. To Walgreens, CVS, and other retail chains, pharmacy has evolved into nothing more than a lure to attract customers to the store. Why invest in modern technologies that might increase efficiency and speed or enable free same-day delivery if they can make money through impulse purchases while customers wait (and wait!) to have their prescriptions filled? The business model is broken and there is actually a strong disincentive to investing in overhauling the software and systems that contribute to poor customer services. Blockbuster could have launched a service like Netflix. Pizza Hut could have shifted its business model to deliver only, like Domino’s did. (Domino’s is now the largest pizza chain worldwide!) Like Walgreens, both companies clung to outdated business models that were out of touch with customer needs.
An Opportunity for Entrepreneurs
The truth is, customers have never enjoyed waiting to have their prescriptions filled in a retail pharmacy. It has always been an unwelcome hassle. And we now know that hanging out in poorly-ventilated retail stores and doctors’ offices is an unnecessary risk during a global pandemic. Fortunately, the flawed strategies of behemoths often present opportunities for entrepreneurs. At NowRx Pharmacy we spent the last four years developing new pharmacy technology and systems from the ground up that were specifically designed to improve the customer experience and better meet the needs of today’s pharmacy customer. This means free medication delivery in mere hours as well as enhanced assistance and communication with the customer throughout the fill process. So, while traditional chains like Walgreens have seen decreased traffic and sales during the pandemic, we have grown rapidly in order to meet the surge in demand and feel especially well poised to disrupt a $400B retail pharmacy industry that refuses to adapt. They say that history has a tendency to repeat itself. That’s true in business, too.