retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Chicago Tribune reports that drug store chain Walgreens “has unveiled a new digital platform to connect customers to medical services,” allowing “patients to schedule appointments at its in-store Advocate clinics, talk with doctors and therapists through telehealth company MDLIVE, and schedule online dermatology appointments through online dermatology service DermatologistOnCall.”

Walgreens says that it is partnering with a number of regional health care providers around the country, which will make the platform national in scope.

The story suggests that it is not a coincidence that the offering comes in the wake of Amazon making a $1 billion investment in the pharmacy business through its acquisition of PillPack.

The story quotes Giovanni Monti, Walgreens Boots Alliance vice president and director of health care innovation, as saying, “ “We’re very, very focused on our product development and strategy and we’re, of course, very aware of what’s happening in the market, but we do what we believe is right for our customers and augments or accelerates our strategy … “It only makes sense for us to make it even easier for consumers to access different health care services that we or our partners provide, and to do that based on where they are, based on their health conditions.”
KC's View:
I think that would be a yes, we’re worried about Amazon.

Though in all fairness, Walgreens was working on this before Amazon wrote its $1 billion check for PillPack. So it cannot be called a pure response to what Amazon did.

However … the fact is that retailers in all categories are going to be making moves that are reactions to what Amazon is doing. Sometimes they go in the same general direction as Amazon, and sometimes in the opposite direction. But only a fool doesn’t at least think about what Amazon has done and is likely to do; the smart ones, it seems to me, think harder and hardest about their customers, and how they can differentiate themselves in the shoppers’ eyes and make them resonant and relevant to their lives.