As a health care chain, CVS has been a destination during COVID-19, as consumers use its stores to test for the virus and also fulfill their shopping list of household essentials. The chain has pivoted to meet new consumer behavior, such as focusing on digital methods of communication and introducing new offerings for Halloween. Norman de Greve, chief marketing officer of the Woonsocket, R.I.-based chain, discusses how CVS is handling the changes and what lies in store—and out.
The pandemic has forced a lot of shifts in consumer behavior, from bread-baking to online shopping by older consumers. What are some of the changes you’ve seen from your customers?
There have been a lot of changes. At their core, people are just really interested in protecting themselves. You see things like vitamins and immunity doing really well because people are worried. Related to that, you see people trying to use e-commerce a lot more than they are going into stores. Right now, we’re in the middle of flu shots and the demand for flu vaccinations is higher than it’s ever been. People are really taking their health more seriously.
Are people doing more one-stop shopping by buying more from CVS in order to limit the number of stores they visit?
We’ve had it for a while with pharmacy deliveries, and what we’re seeing is a real growth in the number of people adding other products onto that because delivery is free. So they say while I get the prescription delivered, please add in all these other products.
How are you integrating new trends, like a focus on vitamins, into your marketing?
In August, we started with our back-to-school advertising. Of course, we had to make it a lot earlier in the year and, man, it was hard to make back-to-school advertising when you didn’t even know if people were going to be in school. We called it back-to-the-new-school. The things you need when you go back to school are different than the things you needed in the past—hand sanitizers, wipes, that sort of stuff. After that, we did a whole piece on immunity, and that’s just about getting your flu shot. It’s all protection-related. From a marketing standpoint, it’s really pivoted how we think about what we communicate and how we communicate. Before COVID, we wouldn’t have been as focused on communicating protecting yourself from the things that are out there. We would have been more focused on being your best, healthiest self. Now, we’re more about how to keep yourself safe.