Focus on items that shoppers will want post lockdown

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The coronavirus crisis has changed how shoppers conduct their typical routines and engage with retailers, with many of them switching to new brands or shifting to online only.

Dean DeBiase

As we start to emerge from lockdowns and prepare for the next recovery phase, retail pharmacies will be tasked with identifying ways to get consumers to return to their stores and shift them away from the utilitarian shopping habits they picked up during lockdown.

To begin, retail pharmacies should look to reboot their health, beauty and wellness product mix. With consumers in lockdown, mass market makeup sales dropped 46% on a rolling four-week basis by mid-April and 26% by mid-May. Comparatively, online engagement on Revieve’s Health and Beauty Index was up 63% in April and 6% in May.

Given this shift, retail pharmacies will have to look at their product offerings and focus on products that consumers will be looking for following the pandemic. With face masks part of the “next normal,” consumers will continue to avoid lipsticks and other lip treatments. Rather, consumers will turn to products like eyeliner or mascara as a way to wear makeup while still remaining safe.

Additionally, shoppers will be looking for products that are more tailored to health and wellness as they look to de-stress and take care of their skin from wearing masks. Searches in Revieve’s Health and Beauty Index were already up 9% for “rosacea” and 6% for “crow’s feet” in May, so with mask wearing continuing for the time being, we expect consumers to keep looking for products to help with these skin concerns in 2020.

For retail pharmacies, this means investing further in health, beauty and wellness products that will be part of the “next normal” skin care routine.

Beyond a shift in product mix, retail pharmacies should deploy UYOD (Use Your Own Device) technology to their stores — customers will appreciate it now more than ever. The coronavirus crisis has caused consumers to be hyper-aware of their health and safety, so it is important that retailers take all necessary precautions when it comes to making consumers comfortable when returning to stores. To help ease consumer concerns, retailers will look to minimize potentially unsanitary in-store screens and eliminate product sampling, which can be replaced with consumers providing their own devices. With UYOD, consumers can digitally try on cosmetics products with no safety concerns and can help create a more seamless omnichannel experience for retail pharmacies.

Lastly, retail pharmacies can switch up their store formats with order-ahead, drive-thru or curbside pickup services. Pre-pandemic, Amazon had started offering its Counter service, where consumers can pick up their packages, at Rite Aid locations across the United States. Following the pandemic, where consumers shifted to a one-stop style of shopping, these types of partnerships will become even more commonplace. As such, it will be essential for retail pharmacies to offer these types of services to tailor to those customers that are looking for a one-stop location, especially among those that are still hesitant to return to their normal shopping behaviors.

In these services, consumers can log into their store app and order products that are ready and waiting for them as they pick up their other packages, which would also allow for easier integration with the UYOD trend, as it keeps the shopping experience within one device across all steps of the shopping experience.

For those retailers that might not be as technologically savvy, they can consider offering product pickup through drive-thru windows or have employees deliver products directly to customers at the curb.

By offering these services, it will help ease the transition among consumers as they adjust to life after lockdown and start to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives.

Compared to others in the retail industry, retail pharmacies are better positioned to come out stronger from the coronavirus. Given their traditional utilitarian purpose, consumers would still seek them out during the pandemic. However, to get more customers to return and regain more of those casual shopping behaviors, it is essential that they further invest in a new health, beauty and wellness product mix, integrate UYOD technology where possible, and offer a wide range of shopping options, such as curbside pickup or call-ahead services.

Dean DeBiase is the chairman of Revieve and a faculty member at Kellogg School of Management. He can be reached at [email protected]


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