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The Role of Mobile Apps in the U.S. Pharmacy Space

Team InMobi
Team InMobi
7 min read
Posted on December 09, 2019
The Role of Mobile Apps in the U.S. Pharmacy Space

The pharmacy space is a $312.6 billion market in the U.S. Between 2014 and 2019, pharmacies will have grown by almost 3% overall. These stores are critical not just for dispensing necessary drugs and pharmaceuticals but also for supplying a wide variety of basic household goods. The pharmacy is now, by and large, the ultimate convenience store.

While the space is growing, it’s not without its challenges. Why bother going to a physical drug store location when you can get both basic necessities and life-altering pharmaceuticals delivered right to your front door?

To stay competitive, many pharmacies are increasingly leveraging automation and mobile app technology to provide a more engaging and personal experience for their customers. What kind of a difference do these apps make? And who specifically is using them?

To find out, we gathered insights from InMobi Pulse, which builds a holistic understanding of consumers across data sources ranging from the InMobi ad exchange, which reaches 1.6 billion users globally, to opt-in sourced deterministic first-party carrier telco data to stated feedback directly from the customers.

And if you wanted to go deeper on the data we use:

  1. Through our first-party carrier data (via InMobi Pulse insights platform), we passively observed over 117,000 physical locations and 9.5 million consumer visits among leading pharmacy, convenience store and grocery brands in the U.S.
  2. We reviewed our first-party carrier data to look into who has these pharmacy, convenience store and grocery apps and is visiting the mobile websites of major brands.
  3. We surveyed 1,400 Americans across the country to get their direct feedback on how they felt about certain brands and their mobile apps. InMobi received responses from more than 1,400 consumers over 30 days during August - September 2019.

We focused on the biggest names in the pharmacy space in the U.S. today (Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid), along with major grocery store chains that offer pharmacy services (Walmart, Costco, Kroger and Albertson’s). We also looked at Amazon Go, which has disrupted the convenience store space with its app-first approach and looks to enter the drug store market in the near future.

So what does our data reveal? Here are three important things to know:

  1. People with a pharmacy brand’s app on their mobile device are over 9% more likely to engage with that brand versus mobile website visitors.
  2. People with a pharmacy brand’s app on their mobile device are close to 21% more likely to visit that brand’s physical locations versus non-app owners. The pharmacy app owner footfall rate is higher than it is across the entire retail and quick-service restaurant categories.
  3. For the most part, people with a brand’s app on their phone are around twice as likely to shop with that brand more than once a week compared to non-app owners.

Who are these app owners? How they differ from the brands’ mobile web visitors? Here’s what our data reveals:

  • In the pharmacy category, a much higher percentage of women have apps versus men.
  • Around half of all pharmacy app owners make between $35,000 and $100,000 annually.
  • Between 55% and 65% of all app owners in this category are between the ages of 45 and 74.

What makes someone become an app owner? Why do people bother getting a pharmacy brand’s app on their phone in the first place? Here’s what our survey data reveals:

  • Across the category, most app owners say they have the app because it makes their life more convenient.
  • The second most common reason cited for having an app on their mobile device is because it gives them special offers and discounts.

The entrance of Amazon into this market likely represents a major sea change. The app-first approach of Amazon Go may cause others in the pharmacy space to increase investments in their own app strategies.

What about those without the apps? The top reason for not owning any of the apps is due to a preference for buying things physically. This reason is followed by “I don’t trust having that information on my phone.”

It is critical to note that observed behaviors differ dramatically between standalone pharmacies and those connected to a larger grocery/brand. Standalone pharmacy brands have higher levels of awareness, engagement and app ownership compared to grocery-first brands.

What Marketers Should Know About Pharmacy Consumers

There is a similar frequency of purchase for most of the brands in the category, with the majority of the purchases from these brands happening monthly - potentially due to prescription refills. And, across the category, more often than not someone goes to a particular location because it’s close to where they live. As a result, it can be difficult for one brand to differentiate itself from the others.

Let’s say you’re a marketer or advertiser at a major pharmacy, convenience store or grocery brand. How can these insights be made actionable? What can they do to boost business and app usage? Here are our top tips to consider.

For one, awareness varies dramatically among the different brands. For some of the brands included in the survey, awareness nationwide is 30% or below — potentially as a result of the regional nature of some of the brands included. For these companies, it may be crucial to focus on the top of the marketing funnel and help build awareness of their app and of their pharmacy offerings more broadly. Outside of Amazon Go (where an app is required to use the store), the brands with the highest levels of awareness are also the ones with the highest levels of app ownership.

Since consumers say they visit a particular brand because it’s close to where they live, ads that feature custom maps which highlight where the nearest brand location is to the target consumer/ad viewer are likely to be especially powerful. These kinds of features can be ideal for driving footfall.

Rewards, special offers and discounts can be especially good to highlight in advertising, especially performance-focused campaigns. For more brands, around a quarter or more of customers say they go to a particular brand’s locations because of their rewards programs, and it’s a top reason why app owners say they have a particular pharmacy app on their mobile devices.

Users who’ve downloaded a brand’s app on their device are more loyal than those without. User’s with a brands app on their device spend more time engaging with the brand on their phone, visit the brand’s locations more frequently and state that they visit more often than those without.

This makes sense; after all, if someone is willing to take the time to download an app, then they’re likely predisposed to being a loyal customer. They’re also more likely to then use that app and make repeat visits. What this data shows is that brands should invest time and effort into their mobile apps, including in app user acquisition.

But, these performance-centric ads should be sure to address potential app ownership concerns. It can be good to highlight how the app can improve the in-store shopping experience, and how the app values privacy and ensures trust.

App performance marketing should be a greater concern across this space though. App ownership in the category is low, with only around 10% of respondents owning these apps on their mobile devices.

Clearly this study starts to open up important questions on how apps service your most valuable customers and what role they have in creating or increasing brand loyalty and driving lift in sales. It also starts to indicate benchmarks on what you should expect from your app investments.

From an attitudinal perspective, app owners are more trusting of the brand and willing to engage in mobile ordering, whereas those without the app are less trusting and seem to prefer more anonymous engagements with the brand. If a brand is more important to you, it seems that you are more likely to use their mobile app rather than just their website.

No matter the type of convenience store or pharmacy brand, having an app is critical for developing and encouraging a more loyal audience.

Interested in learning even more about the modern pharmacy consumer? Reach out today to get additional insights from InMobi Pulse.

Our Commitment to Data Privacy: What You Need to Know About This Data

InMobi takes user privacy extremely seriously. We meet the most rigorous governance, compliance, and security standards. We have collaborated with consumer advocacy groups and incorporate guidelines from multiple federal government agencies to define industry-leading practices for data governance in the U.S.

Users retain complete control over the data they provide, have a choice in whether they participate and have transparency as to how their data is utilized. Subscribers have constant access to their privacy elections through multiple telco touchpoints. The patented anonymization platform ensures data sets are 100% secure, and are refreshed to ensure all data are anonymized.

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