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Former Microsoft exec brings tech expertise to NRF

BY Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. — Former Microsoft executive, Tom Litchford, has been named The National Retail Federation’s new VP retail technologies.

Effective July 2, Litchford will lead and manage NRF’s Association for Retail Technology Standards and the exclusive, invite-only CIO Council. He will be responsible for developing and enhancing strategic programs, activities and relationships with retail and technology communities both domestically and internationally.

While at Microsoft, Litchford directed the planning, development and execution of strategic partnerships in the retail and hospitality industries. In addition to serving in various roles at Microsoft, Litchford also was director of business impact modeling for NCR’s retail solutions group, where his team worked with retailers to help them understand the business impact of implementing various technologies.

Litchford — who will step into his new role as ARTS longstanding executive director Richard Mader will retire — will report to Vicki Cantrell, SVP of NRF’s communities and executive director of Shop.org.

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CVS.com offers increased personalization

BY CSA STAFF

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Leveraging the deep understanding of its customer base via insights gained through its ExtraCare loyalty program, CVS/pharmacy officially unveiled on Thursday a new personalized digital experience on CVS.com, which features extensive health information and resources in addition to customized deals and savings information.

“It is one step of many that is focused on creating the most personalized and accessible shopping experience. … After 14 years of ExtraCare’s track record, we are uniquely positioned to make sure that the logic and the thinking and the insights that we have really pay off for the customer, both in terms of their health objectives and their savings objectives,” Rob Price, SVP and chief marketing officer for CVS/pharmacy, told Drug Store News.

It is that deep understanding that CVS has of its shoppers that helped pave the way for the launch of the revamped site, which undoubtedly modernizes the shopping experience and helps customers on their path to better health.

One of the key highlights of the revamped site is the pharmacy page, which is designed for easy management of health information so shoppers can not only remember to refill and pick up prescriptions but also gather the information they need about what’s in their medicine cabinet. Visitors also have access to a Drug Information Center to check for drug interactions and identify pills by shape, color and imprint. Through the enhanced Prescription Center, customers can:

  • View their prescriptions available for refill or pickup;

  • Schedule future refills;

  • Discover suggestions for saving time and money on prescriptions;

  • View and manage a first-in-the industry online Prescription Calendar; and

  • Enroll for text message notifications for prescription pick-up.

Those who are caring for loved ones also can easily manage the health information of those they are caring for.

“A great feature [of the site] is caregiving management and family management so you can link to other family members and then manage all of that information in one dashboard,” Price said. “Our customers who really require the most help are the ones caring for themselves and caring for others so to have a dashboard that helps them navigate all of their responsibilities is a great breakthrough. … The nice thing is that all of this integrates neatly with the emerging mobile capabilities.”

Price added, “One of the things we are also excited about is that we have put a big investment in the health information and the medication information that underpins and is hot linked to their specific prescriptions … What we are doing is putting a major effort on streamlining how that information is presented, whether it is full color images of the pills, side effects, any contraindications, how the drug works, etc. But we also have a huge searchable database on health conditions.”

The new site also features a hub for ExtraCare members to help them manage their savings and deals. ExtraCare members can view their ExtraSavings and ExtraBucks Rewards and send ExtraBucks Rewards and select coupons directly to their card via the "Send to Card" digital savings option. In addition, shoppers can turn toward the new deals hub for even more exclusive offers including "Deal of the Day" flash sales. The ExtraCare page also features:

  • How the program works;

  • Access to the Weekly Ad; and

  • Countdown to quarterly ExtraBucks Rewards payout.

“It is efficient, it is compelling, is fun and it is really celebration for the customers. First and foremost, what we’ve done is made it easy for her to see one of the most compelling rewards and what are those rewards that are available to her,” Price said.

As part of its digital commerce initiative, CVS has also developed the Endless Aisle, which features those items available only online or offers a deeper product assortment than what might be available in the store.

“We are going to be looking at a number of categories where we have the credibility and the trust from our customers to add to our assortment online, and there will be more to come on that in the coming months,” Price said.

It is also important to note that CVS is further reaching out to the Hispanic community by making the site available in Spanish, as well as English, which Drug Store News initially reported on in May.

“It is very uncommon to have a full site in Spanish language. … Obviously, this is a critical community that needs as much resource and accessibility to health information and medication management, so we are really proud about the combination of both the language access and also the physical design of the site that will make it easier for our customers who prefer to navigate in Spanish to use the site,” Price said.

While the revamped site clearly has many innovative features to help shoppers personalize their shopping experience, save money and live a healthier life, Price stressed that this is just the beginning of CVS’ digital efforts.

“The beauty of digital is that the technology is now catching up with what it is that we want to create for our customers. The technology can support giving them the level of service, even when they are not at the store, to make them healthier, to enhance their ability to save money; and for us, that is what is so exciting is that now the technology is becoming so adaptable that we can really unleash our imagination to solve customers’ problems in ways that previously we’ve only dreamed about,” Price said.

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Walmart’s Mexican expansion delay has international implications

BY CSA STAFF

The timing of store openings in Mexico and Central America will be delayed by as much as 90 days due to what the company described as “process changes” that will increase the time required to open a store.

Wal-Mart de Mexico, S.A.B. de C.V. in an update to its expansion program disclosed to the Mexican Stock Exchange that it contemplated completing its 2012 expansion program 60 to 90 days later than originally planned. As a result new store openings for the current year will now range between 325 and 335 units.

The update did not indicate the number of units previously planned, but in a separate filing earlier this year the company said it planned to open between 410 and 436 stores. The company also didn’t elaborate on the motivation for the process change which is occurring against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into allegations that Wal-Mart de Mexico executive bribed Mexican officials to accelerate growth.

“The revision to the expansion program is primarily due to additional steps the company is adding to its real estate process that extend the average time required to open a store,” the company said. “These steps include reinforcing documentation that supports real estate projects and enhancing processes with our business partners. Another factor that explains the change is that stores rescheduled for the latter part of December are now being moved into January of 2013 due to operational considerations of the Christmas season.”

No further details were disclosed on the nature of process enhancement with business partners, but Wal-Mart de Mexico did say the changes would strengthen is overall growth development process and that it will continue to invest in the region.

The company operates a total of 2,785 units in Mexico and Central America consisting of a wide range of formats with 2,157 stores in Mexico and 626 stores in Central America.

The format that has experienced the most dramatic growth in recent years is Bodega Aurrera. The no-frills, low-price concept focused on lower income shoppers now numbers 1,268 units through out Mexico. That’s more than double from five years earlier the explosive growth resulted from the introduction several years ago of smaller format Mi Bodega and Bodega Express stores. There are now 643 of the Express stores, 237 Mi Bodega stores and 388 of the original Bodega Aurerra stores. Wal-Mart de Mexico has opened a total of 82 stores so far this year and of that total 75 units are in the Bodega Aurrera format, including 56 Express stores.

The delay to expansion in Mexico is noteworthy because if Walmart is enhancing real estate procedures there then the potential exists for those enhancements to be applied to other international markets with a similar effect on 2012 growth targets. Guidance Walmart provided to investors last year calls for international square footage to occur at nearly twice the rate of the U.S. However, when Walmart discloses capital expenditure plans to investors it doesn’t provide details on the number of units it expects to open internationally or where those units will be located. Instead, it offers a square footage figure, which in the case of the current year, is estimated to range between 26 million and 28 million square feet of new selling space compared to a domestic expansion of 14 to 15 million square feet for Walmart U.S. and one million square feet for Sam’s Club.

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