Back to the future

March 29, 2014By Future of Retail, Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

October/November 2013

While at a recent industry event, I found myself becoming rather sentimental and quite reflective. As a result, I decided to sift back through the editorials I have written over the years for E.L.F. Publications. I can’t believe my editorial relationship with HealthCare Distributor and their previously- published Community Pharmacist magazines goes back more than a dozen years and includes more than 120 topics!

During my walk down memory lane I came across several prophetical columns that offered predictions of what may be forthcoming in the retail healthcare industry. I also consulted my crystal ball about the future state of the consumer experience. I’m using my column this month to revisit a few of those ideas from the past and share where some of my premonitions eventually proved true.

January 2002 – The Concierge Effect
In this article I commented on the need to “guide” customers by putting feet in the aisles, just as a help desk at a library or concierge at a hotel directs visitors to the answers they seek. Hasn’t this prediction proven true at retailers such as RiteAid, Walgreens, and Target?

April 2002 – A Fistful of Dollars
Looking across the landscape, I imagined increased intensity within the value chain and emerging dollar formats. I could not have predicted that eventually the two largest dollar chain organizations would be run by former chain drug executives and that another would be testing pharmacies.

December 2002 – eCommerce: Myth or Reality?
This column examined the quick rise of dot-coms just prior to the dot-bombs, and suggested that the future would still be bright for online merchants. It described omni-channel retailing as the future preference of shoppers. Sound familiar?

November 2003 – Behind the Counter
The value of the pharmacist was highlighted in this column, where I encouraged them to move their skills from behind the counter to the front of the store. Although independent pharmacists may have been the forerunners to this notion, chains are quickly emulating this strategy of availing themselves to consumers.

June 2004 – Turning Data into Intelligence
Long before it was called “big data,” I suggested that disparate seas of information held incredible insight for those who chose to dive in and explore. Now referred to as business intelligence, the concept of linking data from multiple sources is rapidly evolving.

August 2007 – To Know You is to Love You
Focused on personalization, this article underscored the importance of market segmentation and a move away from homogenization. There is little debate that one-size-retail no longer fits all.

January 2008 – Would You Like Compliance With That?
The importance of communicating with patients was introduced in this column – anywhere and anyway they wanted it. Technology was predicted to be the enabler to better outcomes …and here we are today.

April 2008 – Experience Counts
A quick commentary on why creating a shopping environment that “wows” customers would become a huge differentiator and a retail game changer. Need I say more?

October 2008 – One Big Happy (Connected) Family
Recognizing the importance of word-of-mouth advertising and the increased use of social media, this article foretold of creating virtual touch points for customers and the vast power in mining loyalty data.

July 2012 – Is the Supply Chain Narrowing?
On the heels of the announcement that Boots and Walgreens were launching a global partnership, this column hypothesized about a large national drug chain that also was involved in distribution and manufacturing. Time will tell on this one.

Making predictions is the easy part. Finding out if and when they come true is the fun! Stay tuned as I continue to observe, reflect, and offer my own forecast on where our industry may be headed.

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