The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone and all businesses in the past two-plus years. One segment that has become more relevant to consumers during this time has been pharmacies.
Consumers have reshaped their relationships with pharmacies, from buying more online and picking up in-store, to using its delivery services, and scheduling COVID testing and other vaccinations via technology.
Rite Aid recently launched a new, simpler loyalty program called Rite Aid Rewards, which Keptner believes will be more engaging and make members’ lives easier.
We caught up with Erik Keptner, Chief Marketing and Merchandising Officer for Rite Aid, and talked to him about the following topics:
- Consumers’ changing relationships with pharmacies
- The launch of Rite Aid Rewards and goals for the program
- Growing its loyal customer base
Jim Tierney: Can you talk about how Rite Aid approaches customer loyalty as a business strategy and what role the new Rite Aid Rewards loyalty program will play?
Erik Keptner: Growing our loyal customer base is crucial to Rite Aid. And that means holding on to our core customer base, as well as expanding our reach to new customers who will become our core customers.
We know that our most loyal and valuable customers tend to use our pharmacy and buy front-end merchandise. And we know that customers today are increasingly seeking self-care solutions to complement traditional medicine such as prescriptions.
And that is why we’ve revamped our assortment to bring in more items that are clean, holistic, earth-friendly, and have functional health benefits.
And this is also why we’ve introduced Rite Aid Rewards, which enables customers to earn rewards for both their pharmacy and front-end activities.
We’ve introduced a program that makes rewards more attainable to a broader portion of our customer base – core customers AND potential shoppers. Now customers can earn rewards with their first purchase at Rite Aid.
And they can manage and track their rewards digitally through our website or app. As we evolve the program, our goal is to enable customers to be rewarded for healthy purchases and actions – both in the pharmacy and on the front end.
Jim: When your customers expressed a desire for a simpler loyalty program, what did Rite Aid’s senior leadership aim to achieve for its customers?
Erik: We listened to our customers’ desire for a simpler and user-friendly program. By moving from a tiered discount program to a points-based program, more customers can earn rewards.
In addition, we made this a digital-first rewards program, leveraging the role that technology plays in our customers’ everyday lives. In their digital accounts, customers will track and convert points into Rite Aid Rewards BonusCash, always having this info easily available to them via their phones.
Customer preferences also guide personalized offers and purchase challenges that are delivered both digitally and through direct mail and receipt.
Jim: How have customer behaviors and expectations changed since the pandemic started in the U.S. two years ago?
Erik: The COVID-19 pandemic has renewed and reshaped the relationship customers have with their pharmacies – especially as it relates to how people shop and use technology.
People have become much more adept and eager to shop online and pick up in-store, use delivery services to have their prescriptions or essentials delivered to their homes, and use technology to schedule vaccinations.
These platforms have allowed us to reach and develop relationships with new customers and become more relevant, especially during the pandemic. With pharmacies playing a key role in COVID testing and vaccination, we have become even more relevant to customers today.
Jim: How has Rite Aid adapted to these new behaviors and expectations during that period?
Erik: Over the last two years, Rite Aid has expanded its delivery footprint to provide a two-hour retail delivery service to customers nationwide through partnerships with Instacart, DoorDash, UberEats, Shipt and Postmates.
In November of 2020, we began partnering with ScriptDrop to deliver prescription medications to our customers. And last fall, we launched Buy Online Pick Up In Store nationally.
We are fully committed to an omnichannel approach that complements the busy lives of our customers and meets them where they are. Ensuring convenient access to medications and essentials enables us to live our purpose of helping people achieve whole health.
Jim: Listening to your customers is always a top priority. How has that changed, if at all, since the pandemic began?
Erik: Our customers are at the forefront of everything we do, and the pandemic has underscored the important role our pharmacies and pharmacists play in our customers’ lives as a whole health destination – from getting vaccines and prescriptions to hearing advice from pharmacists on alternative remedies.
We want to continue to build on the strong connection our pharmacies and pharmacists have in their communities.
Jim: As brands emerge from the pandemic, what are your customer loyalty goals?
Erik: We want to continue to be that everyday trusted care connector, providing our customers with more personalization savings and engagement in their journey toward whole health.
Jim: What do you think are the key attributes that must be present to have a successful loyalty program?
Erik: A customer-centric approach that provides easy ways to get rewarded, with every increasing personalization and relevance, and enabling greater convenience for the customer.
Jim: What’s the most important thing brands can focus on for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
Erik: I can’t point out just one, so let me share two:
Health brands play a key role in expanding access to underserved communities, ensuring all have the availability of health products and services.
This also includes over-the-counter medications and other front-end merchandise, which now can be delivered right to our customers’ doors through Rite Aid and its many delivery partners.
During these times of high inflation, brands need to help customers find ways to make their household budgets go further. That is why Rite Aid has launched a new loyalty program that reaches a greater number of customers and is reducing prices on key items.
Additionally, Rite Aid is doubling down on Own Brands – expanding assortment, elevating our quality standards, and transforming branding and packaging. Own brands typically have a lower retail cost than their national brand equivalent, enabling customers to save.
Rite Aid Strengthens Customer Relationships and Brand Relevance
As Erik said, Rite Aid has become much more relevant to its customers in the past two years and those relationships have been strengthened through technology and an omnichannel approach.
Making Rite Aid Rewards a points-based, digital-first loyalty program came after company officials listened to their customers. The simplicity of the program is appealing and it will help increase membership levels.
The pandemic instilled the “buy online, pick-up in-store” mentality for many consumers, including Rite Aid’s as well.
Personalized savings and increased engagement through Rite Aid Rewards will play a big role in Rite Aid’s customer loyalty future.
If enhancing your loyalty program is on your list of priorities, reach out to chat with our customer engagement and loyalty experts any time.