November 30, 2020

5 min read

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Today the healthcare experience takes place across a variety of touchpoints, with the patient bearing the responsibility of connecting the dots. The opportunity to unify that experience, under a single brand, exists in the grocery channel. The retailer that delivers on this will achieve a new level of customer intimacy and loyalty, maximizing wallet-share potential.

For the last decade, tech players have been making inroads into the healthcare space. Through wearables and meal-tracking programs, these companies have a better understanding of people’s fitness and dietary habits, and are building new and deeper relationships with them. Initiatives like Amazon Care and Google Health are indicators of Big Tech’s presence in health.

Amazon Care
Google Health

But tech companies lack the physical elements that serve as the crucial points of care in the patient’s journey. An app can summarize your physical activity and food choices, but leaves you to figure out what to do with the information. An e-commerce provider can ship you medicine and wellness products, but can’t guide you on the nutritional choices that will serve you best.   

Now consider the grocery store, a setting that already supports your routine and has many of those points of care in place—along with a growing number of tech offerings that provide a window into your medical realities.

Think about partnerships like Sobeys and Rexall: Together they’ve created Value Health, a platform that offers health counselling, pharmacy, and drug delivery. Loblaw, meanwhile, has launched its PC Health app and announced a minority stake in telehealth provider Maple.

Grocery retailers could successfully serve two distinct needs—those of consumer and patient—in one seamless experience. Doing so would benefit the business and the customer. 

Customer needs
Business objectives

The foundation is there. Considering we’ve allowed grocers to look after our nutritional and pharmaceutical needs, and now even let them manage our money, is a healthcare model like this really such a big leap? 


The grocery store is already a home away from home for millions of consumers. There’s now an opportunity to evolve this environment to improve our healthcare experience using design, traditional communication, and personalization. Imagine a grocery store experience that provides:

Evolved grocery store floor plan

(1) Telehealth

With grocery’s recent entry into this category, there is a chance to integrate customers’ current medical status and drive more personalized interaction with existing store-based services: pharmaceutical, wellness, nutritional, physical, and the plethora of supporting product needs—the jumping-off point for a more informed shopping experience.

(2) Wellness Concierge

A necessary launchpad for an integrated health experience—the hub where you can review your current health status and determine next steps. Or share wellness goals and begin to build your plan to achieve them, taking into consideration medicinal needs, supporting vitamins and supplements, physical exercise, and nutrition. The concierge connects you with other services available in-store and can book appointments on your behalf. Everything from gym classes and rehabilitation sessions to nutrition consults, cooking classes, and wellness overviews.

(3) Meet Your Health Specialists

A critical addition to the current grocery environment. This is where consumers and experts meet to put health plans into action. Where specialists conduct simple tests such as blood pressure, hearing, vision, and bloodwork. Then based on those results, they work with patients to set goals, check in and review progress, and refine as needed. And patients benefit from being able to put advice immediately into action, with the products and services they need all at the same location.

(4) Product Callouts & Meal Kits 

From antioxidants to omega-3s, our nutritional choices are critical to our health management, and there is an opportunity for grocery communications to highlight that across their various categories. Retailers also are equipped to combine the nutritional attributes of food into health-focused offerings like meal kits. Kits can be highly specialized for prescribed diet plans, or simply offer the time-starved consumer a chance to make simple nutritional improvements. And all supported by engaging in-store callouts that connect back to how these foods promote health.

(5) In-store gyms

Key to completing the in-store journey is the gym. But here it’s more than strength training and cardio: It also includes rehabilitation sessions, and mindfulness activities like yoga—services that go beyond the physical to support more holistic wellness. 

To integrate this entire experience, grocery retailers need to literally and figuratively break down the walls. Physically, the fresh, pharmacy, and wellness departments are typically separated. Consumers need to see these areas connected and interact with them as one.

Integrated Fresh & Wellness department view

Digitally, the experience needs to be supported by a highly personalized app—one that connects a customer’s personal information to relevant products and services, and guides appropriate store staff (nutritionist, pharmacist, personal trainer) in making informed recommendations based on that individual’s needs and goals.

Experience supporting app

Further, the entire experience must seamlessly transition between the physical and digital. A prescription filled through the app must be available via home delivery. A specialist’s product recommendation must be accessible through the online store and curbside pickup—so that even when a pandemic strikes and human contact is limited, people can receive the care they need.

Satisfied consumer needs
Realized business objectives

The first step in making this a reality is getting consumers comfortable with it. The customer and patient are one person, but the two personas have distinctly different needs. The consumer is willing to be persuaded and pitched to; the patient, not so much.  Consumers need to know that grocery retailers can respect this dotted line—and the sensitive information that straddles it. They also want to know that their grocery store is still a store, not a hospital. It’s a brave new business model to be sure, but one that offers the opportunity for next-level healthcare convenience.