Big-Tech Impact on the Future of Healthcare Commerce

Headshot of Brian Owens

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital healthcare technology in the U.S. A recent U.S. Monitor report shows that 83% of U.S. adults believe that, by 2025, telemedicine will become a
common way people see their doctors for routine healthcare.

As the $3.6 billion U.S. healthcare industry transforms into a digital-first care experience, the country’s largest technology firms have focused on removing the friction from the consumer
health experience. Recent examples include:

  • Amazon: The company launched Amazon Pharmacy in November 2020. The Prime prescription savings benefit gives members access to free two-day delivery of orders at no extra cost and savings of up to 80% on generic medications and 40% on branded medications when not paying using insurance. It is rumored that Amazon will expand its primary-care pilot—Amazon Care—to companies looking to decrease the cost of employee healthcare.
  • Google: About 7% of Google’s daily searches are health related, according to Google Health, with over 70,000 search queries every minute, which comes to 1 billion health-related searches every day. According to CNBC, Google is focused on leveraging its “core expertise in search” with input from healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health-related search results for consumers across Google and YouTube.
  • Apple: According to CB Insights, Apple launched an internal pilot project in 2019 called AC Wellness, which is a brick-and-mortar health clinic for its employees. The clinic includesnutritionists, care navigators, sleep and exercise specialists, nurse practitioners, and more. It has been reported that this project is being tested before being rolled out nationally as a new holistic primary-care experience.

These advancements in technology are creating new commerce opportunities for U.S. retailers to reach and market to patients as shoppers.  Repositioning retail as a healthcare channel, if embraced it offers those retailers with pharmacies or e-pharmacy offers an opportunity to become the new front door to consumer health. 

According to MarketWatch, the global e-pharmacy market stood at $29 billion pre-COVID and was projected to grow to $117 billion by 2025, a 25.7% CAGR. This growing importance of technology in health and wellness decision-making has created new brand-marketing touchpoints, routes to the consumer, competition, and access to care across retailers, including:

  • NEW Touchpoints: In January 2020, Walgreens teamed up with Microsoft to launch Health Corners at 12 pharmacies in Tennessee. Microsoft manages data storage for Walgreens, which also leverages Microsoft’s AI platform and retail solutions. According to Jared Josleyn, Vice President of Innovation at Walgreens, after the Health Corners launch, Microsoft will help analyze visits to develop a model that works best for Walgreens customers.
  • NEW Routes to the Consumer: According to Street Fight, the impact of COVID on vaccine management has opened the door to new marketing opportunities. Using vaccine foot-traffic dashboards from players such as Quotient, the Albertsons Performance Media platform, brand partners are now gaining insight into consumers’ movements in and around vaccination locations. This information is being used to fuel targeted OOH and DOOH campaigns, designed to engage consumers on an intimate level.
  • NEW Competition: Dollar General has recently partnered with Higi, a medical-technology company that creates health-station kiosks, to offer affordable medications from a certified U.S.-based pharmacy, delivered straight to a shopper’s home for free. With the Higi GeniusRx Savings Club, Dollar General shoppers can save up to 80% on many common prescriptions and even receive $5 off online orders. This new e-pharmacy platform now provides CPG brands with access to HIPAA-compliant data in order to target patients as shoppers.
  • NEW Access to Care: Walmart recently acquired a technology platform called CareZone, which offers a worry-free way for consumers to organize health information and access vital health services, in an effort to enhance its digital health and wellness capabilities. Some industry experts predict that, with Walmart’s access to vast amounts of healthcare consumer data, its expansive network of brick-and-mortar stores coupled with the addition of CareZone, may put it one step ahead of Amazon in terms of targeting chronic-condition shoppers with low-cost health solutions. 

With the increased demands for personalized consumer-health solutions, we predict a digital future that redefines the patients journey across a unified commerce experience. The way forward for all retail partners is applying the right content and customer experience to every meaningful health and wellness commercial interaction. This requires new capabilities and reimagining of commerce across retail and brand ecosystems.

  1. Reimagine Your Commerce Strategy: Accelerate the development and implementation of strong category and brand positioning, which differentiate a brand and drives sustainable growth.
  2. Reimagine Your Route to the Consumer: Drive brand availability, visibility, and recommendation wherever and whenever your consumer considers a healthcare omni-channel shoppable purchase.
  3. Reimagine Your Commerce Ecosystem: Optimize the consumer experience by connecting with them across the entire purchase journey, maximizing the impact of your activation campaigns.
  4. Reimagine Your Capabilities: Develop the optimal structure and capabilities to unlock the healthcare commerce category or retailer-growth

- Brian Owens is SVP strategy at VMLY&R COMMERCE.

Originally published in Mass Market Retailers.