Magazine article Drug Topics

Chains Find Internet Builds Synergy with the Customers

Magazine article Drug Topics

Chains Find Internet Builds Synergy with the Customers

Article excerpt

More than a year after on-line pharmacies burst onto the scene, traditional drug chains regard the Internet as both a powerful business tool and a competitive force still to be reckoned with. A group of chain store leaders shared their views on the impact of the Web during a roundtable held last month in Palm Beach, Fla.

"The No. 1 use of the Internet is to provide health information," commented panelist Charles Conaway, presidentCOO of CVS Corp. "Then the customer comes in and talks to our pharmacist and says, "Tell me more about that information.' " This type of synergy between the Internet and bricks-andmortar pharmacies offers "a fabulous opportunity" to develop "a highlevel of personalization" with the customer, said Conaway At the same time, since it's "a new business model coming down on us," the Net is evolving into "a tremendous threat, ' he added.

Stephen Roath, president-CEO of Longs Drug Stores, said that the amount of pharmacy purchasing on the Web is "at a very low ebb," and he seriously questions how far it's going to go. Roath sees the Internet more as "a technology tool to help us advance our use and relationship with our customers." In particular, he thinks the Net would provide an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with today's teenagers, for whom "the drugstore has become more and more irrelevant."

Mary Sammons, president-COO of Rite Aid Corp., told the chains that the Internet "adds credibility to your reputation," even though it may not lead to an immediate sale. It reinforces the idea that "you are a provider they [the customers] can trust. The more they go to you for that [Internet health-care information], the more they will come to you for one-on-one information and advice."

It's "one more medium that a custourer can connect with your business and develop a relationship with you," said Kevin Tripp, presidentDrug Region, Albertson's, of the Internet. …

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