How Can We Help?
Podcast|January 20, 2021

The New Language of Retail | Future Shop Podcast EP12

In this episode:

Our own Wendy Liebmann and Norman De Greve, Chief Marketing Officer at CVS Health, discuss how retail, and companies that sell through retail, need to communicate differently with shoppers today; what’s the same, what’s different and what the future will demand.

Wendy and Norm discuss:

  • How digital has changed and how companies must communicate with shoppers
  • The impact of COVID19
  • The importance for retailers to build their own brand and messages
  • How to build trust
  • How retailers and manufacturers need to work together to deliver cohesive communication
  • How CVS is building new communication across its multi-platforms and enterprise

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Don’t miss upcoming episodes, stay up-to-date by visiting the WSL Shopper Insights Library, or our Podcast page.
 


Podcast Transcript

Wendy 

Hello, my name is Wendy Liebmann. And I'm the CEO and Chief shopper of WSL Strategic Retail, and this is Future Shop. This is where I have a fast and furious chat with guests about the future of retail and what companies need to do to envision that future. My guest today is Norm De Greve, he is the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of CVS health. He's responsible for developing and implementing the marketing strategy to grow all aspects of CVS, the retail CVS Pharmacy, MinuteClinic businesses, and their own brand businesses. Prior to CVS, he was the president of Digitas, in the Boston and Detroit offices, where for 14 years, he helped grow the company into a world leader in marketing and digital.

Wendy 

Perfect as I said, but the topic at hand, which is creating the new retail vernacular, what is this new world of retail, and how do we communicate how to retailers need to communicate with shoppers today, not just as we move through the pandemic, but way before in this new digital age? So welcome, Norm, how are you? Hello, where are you?

Norm  

I am just south of Boston, Massachusetts, and relatively well. You know, a lot of stuff going on in our country, but I'm feeling okay. Well, then you're right in that spot, right. If I think about CVS, and all the things you are doing as it relates to keeping us safe and healthy and vaccinating populations, and all of those things, who knew you would be engaged in all of that? So, thanks. Just incredible. It's just incredible. Yeah. And actually, you know, feels kind of nice to be participating in this fight against this thing that's disrupted everybody's life. And I think in some ways, we all want to feel like we have something, some, some influence on it. And so, you know, we're in a good spot, or I'm in a good spot, to feel that way.

Wendy  

Yeah, you know, it made me think about a year ago, a little over a year ago, when we met, when you cannot when we met but when you joined us at our symposium that we hosted in downtown Manhattan, on the big business of well, and we talked about well-being and with an illustrious group of attendees, and speakers, and you talked about this purpose driven company that you were part of, and how you were beginning to communicate or evolving that communication around what CVS health and CVS as an enterprise is, and was to become. And that seems even more meaningful today. So that's where I wanted to begin the conversation because it feels to me not just because of the pandemic, but because of the way we now engage in shopping at large.

Wendy 

Sometimes I feel like we're still talking in the old language, you know, we're talking about Old English as opposed to, you know, modern French or something, whatever that analogy might be. So, can you talk a little bit about what this sort of notion of a purpose driven company is and how you've been changing the dialogue?

Norm  

Yeah. And I, you know, I think that we have all heard about the importance of purpose and how people want to draw buy from purpose driven brands. And that's certainly fueled a bunch of what we've done, but really, I think even more important than that is having a purpose has really helped us recruit and engage and inspire the right employees. Because I think everybody's searching for a way to have more impact in their life to feel like their job is more than just earning a paycheck and just going to work, they want to feel like they're doing something for society. And so, I think purpose becomes really important. And, you know, when CVS got out of tobacco, that was, you know, an incredible idea, it cost the company $2 billion. And I think everybody was a bit, just shocked that a big company would give up $2 billion, but it didn't, wasn't being forced to give up. And so that gained a lot of recognition. But what it really did was galvanize all the employees to think of more ideas. And, and since then, there's just been a lot of actions we've taken, some are known, and some are not known. But they all kind of contribute to our purpose, which, you know, we say, is helping people on their path to better health, and I can talk about those words, but, but the importance of purpose is, is partially for consumers to see that you're in line with the values they have. And I think it's just as importantly, for your employees, to see your commitment to doing the right thing, because that generates more ideas, which then delivers more for the consumers and what you think is important and you care about.

Wendy 

That's really interesting, because so as you know, in this in this journey that I have in my head about how do we communicate? And how do we tell the story in a relevant way, in this new world, you just, you know, broaden that it isn't just in that sort of tangible way that we ask people to spend money with us, it is in that broader universe of the people who work with us, and for us, and the people we sell to. So, it's a much more holistic view of a conversation, right?

Norm  

Yeah. And I think it's, it's a much bigger driver of success. When you think about that, I mean, just think about the military, which worked and operate for so many years in command and control, right, top-down general command or control. And that that's actually the way most companies worked when you had a pretty stable environment. And that was the key to success. But the military, you know, they lead the way on this thing, because, you know, it's so important for how they are organized and operate, but they focus a lot more on inspiration. Of course, there's rules, there's things you have to know, but actually, how do you engage people and inspire them. And what we see today is that the companies that are leading the way, actually are doing it because they have a workforce that is inspired. So, it just leads to many, many more solutions than any senior executive team could think of on their own. And so that that creates more utility for consumers, ultimately, through the products and services you develop.

Wendy  

Yeah. So how tell us a little bit about this, this positioning this brand that is CVS and this path to better health. That is a platform and message,

Norm  

let's just start with the overall idea of what CVS health is, and what we're trying to do with CVS health, and some people may not know, but now it's the largest health care company in America fortune five. So, it's a big company that has multiple facets, our stores are less than half our revenue. So, it's the thing everybody knows, but it's actually less than half our revenue we own we own Caremark, which is for your Pharmacy Benefits, a lot of other stuff. But the whole idea of it is, is to make healthcare easier for people. Because at its core, the current system has delivered many incredible innovations for health, and had people live longer than they have before. But it was never designed around how consumers actually live their lives. It was designed around academia, hospitals, innovation, that sort of idea. And yet today, the top conditions in the country are like chronic conditions, you've got diabetes, or high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and these things don't need the expensive all that other stuff. You know, they just need a simple eye level, easy to access, convenient ways to manage those things, which is so the idea of CVS health is how do you make it easier for people.

Norm  

And then when you get into the pharmacy, it's the core principles of kind of convenience and value that are driven and understanding how to change consumer behavior. And then so our purpose helping people on their path to better health you can see fits very nicely in there because that's how we make it easier for them because we help them the thing, I just wanted to mention about that purpose is I think part of the reason it's been so powerful is that it's relatable to by everybody in the company, anyone you accompany can think well what can I do today to help somebody on their path to better health? It's, you know, sometimes I think you get the statements that are Want to be the best or the most or the in the world's greatest, and you know, the kind of maybe interesting goals, but they're really not inspiring to most employees’ populations, because they feel so unattainable. They feel like they were just kind of written down, and I'll go back to work. But you can think every day about how I help someone really noble cause and helping others. And you can think about small things and big things to help everyone on their path to better health. And so, I just say, as people think about language, and their company, think about something that everyone can activate no matter what their job is.

Wendy 

So that notion of when, in so many ways, when retail, was that, almost like a wholesale proposition, right. The brand messaging came from the brands, you know, right, the Coca Cola is of the world, L’Oréal’s of the world, the Tylenols of the world, the whatever thinking and the health brand. And the retailer was that distribution center on course, it was a real estate, you know, it was, as we said, real estate real estate real estate. Right. That was the proposition. That shift and that branding. I mean, can you pinpoint when that changed? And now, how do you then bring that together with the national brand as well?

Norm  

Yeah, it's a really good question. And it's something I think about a lot, I think it changed as a result of commerce online. Obviously, Amazon's a big player, but there are other big players online as well, because that fundamentally changed the nature of convenience, which is what a lot of retailers do, whether your CVS and on the corner, or the grocery store, where you can sell a bunch of stuff into one trip. I mean, the convenience plays a huge role in that. And I think that the digital options just opened up so many more vendors who could help you that it took away a lot of the fundamental value proposition for retailers. Now what is happening, though, as a consequence, is you kind of have suppliers and CPGs, in our case, going into what retailers traditionally did, and you got retailers going into what CPG is traditionally did, because I come from a retailer standpoint, it's no longer sufficient to be just another place that distributes the same product available everywhere else, you have to brand yourself as a place consumers want to come to find answers to the questions that they have. And it can be come online, or it can be come into the store. But you have to provide something unique. The CPGs want more direct relationships with consumers, which is what retailers had. And so, they're collecting the data to do that. And so, you know, we're kind of both are both crossing paths here. And, you know, maybe we'll, maybe we'll all end up as the same.

Wendy  

But it is interesting, because I was on a call today with a global group. And we were talking about all the direct-to-consumer propositions for brands and marketplaces and all of those things. And you do say to yourself, who owns the consumer, who owns the shopper, and who owns the brand. So, as you think about that, then the urgency now to be able to, for me to say my CVS to distinguish CVS from excuse the expression Walgreens or Rite Aid, or Walmart, or Target or wherever else I might get, you know, my prescriptions or anything else like that. So, you're really saying that that urgency came more from or immediately came more from the growth of digital? As opposed to any other. Yeah, well

Norm 

I think digital fundamentally challenged the model. And then as a result of that, you had some people, some retailers that went heavily into experience because they realized that well, I could provide an experience, but that up the bar on expectations of experience. And then you had others that said, Well, I'm going to sell a lot online. And so that created even more competition for the same products online. So, I think digital was really the catalyst of a lot of the changes that are happening.

Wendy 

And I mean, you come from a strong digital background. So, when I think about communication, how I talk about my brand and my retail brand, in a physical space versus a digital space. Is that different? How do I always say about execution?

Norm  

How you talk about as a retailer, or as a CPG?

Wendy  

I'm going to say as a retailer,

Norm  

as a retailer, I think, you know, not all digital is the same you get that but like, let's just say video or non-video because I think video could be the same as what you see on TV or telling a bit of a story. I think when you get outside of video, you have to realize that for the most apart and search, you're just not consumers aren't looking for you. They're not they're not and they don't need to stay where they are, and they're not paying attention. And so, you really need to get much more direct in what you have to offer that's a value to them, and why they should engage in that. And that's just fundamentally different in some ways. While the format of what was in the circular wouldn't work, the directness of that approach, here's something you want that's on sale. Okay, I got it, I want it. It's on say, I look this Sunday, that that's great. But you have to get very direct to think in the digital space. And, and deliver value in a way that people want to engage?

Wendy  

Yeah. So, when I think about walking down the street, and I think about, you know, again, my CVS. How are you track? How are you talking to me? To bring me into that space. What's that conversation you want to have with me as a shopper?

Norm 

Yeah, well, that's really the evolution of CBS and what we're doing and that I think best epitomized by the health hubs that we're building, which is to say, the reason that you come into this store? Sure, it might be for convenience, or to get some stuff that you think we have, but actually, the reason that's building in your head is they have solutions for things I might need help with. So, for example, I just have not been sleeping well, for a while now. And now I start to think CBS doesn't just have you know, NyQuil PM, it actually has a whole center for helping me with sleep. And I'm going to go in there and not just see the products and ideas, but also have somebody guide me through to the right answer for me. And I think there's something just interesting about health that is really hard in many eecom spaces, which is that the validation currency in many e commerce spaces has been the consumer review. And consumer reviews are just really hard to figure out how to use it when it comes to a product for your health. Because you're just like, well, I don't know is that person who liked it, like me, is the person who didn't like it like me, Are they crazy? I mean, I don't know. And, and so the role of expertise, plays is much bigger in health. And so that's what CVS has. And that's why we're pivoting more into solutions for health. And plus, you know, the consumers looking for more interesting, more solutions in health, as you know, because of your symposium last year.

Wendy  

So, as I walked down the street, and I think about by CVS beyond extra bucks or whatever, when I walked by the windows, not to be provocative. It doesn't always tell me that story.

Norm  

That's right, it's an evolution, it is starting to in more places. But that is fair to say. It is also fair to say that the change in consumer behavior is happening gradually, too. So, we do have, you know, we have to move fast at it. But it hasn't happened overnight. But it's a real transition for who we are in a consumer’s life. To say we're now a place you come to find solutions for your health needs. Versus, oh, I want to buy tide, or head and shoulders and I could get it anywhere. But I happen to be driving past the CVS, I'll just pick it up there. And this is my point. We now have to move from being the distributor of brands, other people build to being a brand and never ourselves.

Wendy 

So, within that, then how do how do manufacturers and I know this isn't always your, you know, your, the relationship you have every day. But how do manufacturers have to think about doing business? With CVS? Not from a merchandising standpoint, but from this communication standpoint? Yeah, this sort of almost commoditized Right. I mean, you know, if you're a big national brand, you're probably everywhere. So how do they have to reframe their message to make sure that it fits with or do they the path to better health?

Norm  

Well, you know, you're looking at a store there's lots most things in a CVS can get framed within health. I mean, think about tide, you'd say Well, that seems like not healthy things like laundry detergent, but clean sheets and clean bed do help you with health and so you could do it think about cards from homework there could be about emotional health and relationships. So, you can start to think about this without being too you know, cutesy about everything being related to health. And then then as we build that brand, our brand brings additional validation to their products which have been selected and curated to be in and the other thing I'd say is, it's a real evolution of the data that we have about our customers. So, you know, you've known about extra care for so long. And we have used that data more and more to help CPGs tell their story to the right people in a much more targeted way. And I think that helps them lean in a little bit more to their actual value proposition versus, you know, when you're trying to be relevant to everyone, part of what you're trying to do is not upset anyone. And so, you end up kind of, you know, soothing, I wouldn't say, you know, whereas I think when you can talk to the audience that really is interested in what you have to say, you can be a little bit more provocative in what you're saying. And so, we're helping CPGs do that as well. Yeah, I

Wendy  

think that's really interesting, because I think a lot about these conversations around personalization. And is this again, my CVS? And does CVS know me, if I'm giving them all this influence? I'm giving you all this information, at least about my buying habits, and maybe my prescriptions and all of this? How are you responding to me? And what is that conversation that we are having? And I think a lot about the ability of brands, big or small, that work with you or work with any retailer to understand who I am at that moment, when I'm walking into a CVS, as opposed to at that moment when I'm walking into a, you know, a Walgreens or, you know, stop and shop or Aldi or Walmart for that matter?

Norm 

Yeah, I think that that does matter. And you know, if you think about the evolution of personalization, and where it needs to go, today, personalization is, you know, you basically get offers on the products that are relevant to you at the right moment, it's not easy, we use a lot of artificial intelligence, and you know, all that sort of stuff. But if you just kind of boil it down, that that that's what you get, where it's going to evolve into is a proactive utility in your life. So, it now knows something's about to happen in the future and helps you get it before you've even thought that you need it. And so, it becomes a utility in your life over time, you can think about that on the pharmacy side, too, by the way, and health side, about how we can understand you a little bit better and then start to help you with solutions that could work.

Wendy  

Yeah, that that seems to me a lot. I mean, I think of the one example in my life where I actually Fortunately, I don't take not for you. But fortunately for me, I didn't take many prescriptions. But I was, you know, I was prescribed something that the pharmacist looked at the prescription. I dropped off the prescription, they called me later they said, Sorry, you can’t have, and I thought that meant it was all about were out of stock. What they read was I filled in a form at some point that said I was allergic to something and they said, that is in that prescription. That's why it's good. I was like, Oh, my heavens, those people knew me well enough to save me from that situation. And all of a sudden, I had developed this trust that had a huge umbrella effect in terms of a trade otherwise transactional relationship

Norm  

It’s interesting you said that, because I do think that, you know, knowing somebody, and being relevant does build trust. And that's the question how to do it. But I think that that that's right, and you know, you were talking about the stores and my CVS, which I think how a lot of people talk about their stores. And those stores are tweaked at every local area, to have the products that are relevant in that area. I you know, we also do some localization and signage and things I you know, we could probably go a little further still. But your point about relevance builds trust is 100%. Right? Yeah, I say builds trust actually, is, and what you just pointed out is human connections. And, you know, there was a great study done about diabetes and how to drive. We call it adherence, getting people to pick up their diabetes medication and take it. And they found that the number one, the mother, the biggest driver of adherence, for paid people to pick up their medication, eye to eye contact from a pharmacist. It was a human being that says, I care about you, that you don't want to disappoint. And so, I do think that when you get into health, it's the combination of ease from digital and human connections, that that makes people feel the best. They want the reassurance they want the connectivity. I can tell you another great story. There I met a pharmacist in New Jersey, and there was an 80-year-old woman who lived in the apartment complex next door, she said that woman came to see her every day. And when it's snowed out, she called her. And it was it was just like human connection that people have. And it's just so important. So, I do think it'll be the combination of those things. And so sometimes my CVS is products and assortment size. And sometimes it's just a person that I know that knows me.

Wendy  

And I think that's I do remember, there was a woman in one of the CVS as a when she retired, you know, people were devastated. She worked in the front store, she wasn't a pharmacist, she was so nice to everybody. And she retired and people were like, devastated. She was the face of that CVS. And I think the power of it, because you said hello to everybody, every day, you know, your walk, whatever it was, it was this human touch this caring. And that always strikes me at you. And I've talked about this a little before. But you know, we have these measures that we call a caring score. Because we realize that trust that we use a lot in retail, and brand, you know, all of those things. You know, who do we trust today, you know, we, we always say we trust friends and strangers, you know, and maybe not even then anymore, right? Because you never know what you get up to. So that notion of caring, and so our new KPI is caring, and there are a lot of attributes to it. But that sense that somebody cares, for me, is a very powerful language, as you're talking about.

Norm 

It is, and you know, there's been a lot of studies on this, but social media, and then made us feel less connected, which is a gap for a lot of people in their lives, they want to feel connected, and like someone cares about them.

Wendy  

So, I think about as we talk about this, and talking about the way we now talk to the consumer shopper patient, in ways that a different you identified the digital had really a big impact on retail and taking away some of those traditional levers of here I am on this corner, open these hours, you know, good selection of merchandise, those kinds of things. How do you think how is how is the pandemic changed the way we talk to people now and talk to them in quotes, you know, in the broader sense of relate and care?

Norm  

Everyone's buying stuff online. We all are, and sometimes to access as we sit in front of our computers, you know, 1215 hours a day. And so, the acceleration of digital Commerce has certainly driven a lot of focus on how we connect with people in the digital space to highlight that we have something that they need that can be useful for them, we can deliver to their home in a day or free delivery, etc. And so, there's no question that, that that has changed behaviors a lot as a result of this. There's also no question that people are feeling the need for human connection. And so, while it may not be happening as much right now, I think there's a lot of pent-up demand for it, that will come back over time. And so, the way we connect with consumers now as much more online than ever before, there are, of course, the COVID stuff you do at a store about you know, social distancing, and sanitizer, and making people feel safe and trusted, that the relationships are changing that they are and that's opened up a lot of opportunities. You think about health like telehealth really took off. And so now there's a whole other connection that people can have and tele pharmacy. And, you know, it's just, it's, it's changing how it goes. And one of the things you could eventually say is, well, how important is it that my pharmacist, my CVS pharmacist is on my street corner? Or could my CVS pharmacies be handy that I connect with wherever I am? They don't use a doctor that's on their street corner.

Wendy  

Right? Yeah, in my hand. You know, it is interesting when you were when you were just saying that because I was thinking about that notion as we've been so isolated, and our circles have become smaller on the one hand, and yet more abroad or in the other because we can see the world, right, as I say, I was on a call earlier today. And there were two people that I'd invited from the UK and 20 students and you know, we were having this broad global conversation. So that will seem to get much bigger, but in issues of health, that are so personal and so important to people, you know, seeing you across a screen that allows me to have that intimate connection, even when I can't get to the place, right, the store, right?

Norm  

Yeah, and it matters. You know, people get nervous around health, it's pretty human. And so, having a person that you can see that they can say we're going to do it together. It's going to be okay. Wow, that takes rings.

Wendy  

Yeah, yeah, all of a sudden that blood pressure drops.

Wendy  

We'll continue our conversation in just a moment. But I just wanted to remind you that we have many resources on this topic available on our website, we've got our How America Shops® research, our most recent around how the world is opening up at retail, as a result of COVID. Our latest report on the big business of well, and how wellness is changing, as we move through this pandemic, trend alerts, our weekly what's up at WSL with latest insights. So just remember, lots of resources for you, as you continue to do your business, all available at www.wslstrategicretail.com

Wendy  

Who is getting it right, you know, from a retail standpoint or a brand and during this last, let's say last 12 months pre and during COVID? We'll put CVS aside from the moment because we can talk about that a bit more. But you know, are there companies’ brands retailers that you've seen that you say? Yeah, getting the story, right, getting the message, right?

Norm  

Well, I think that the general idea versus a specific company, I can talk about what you what you need to focus on. And there are companies that are doing that, well, the general idea is anything a consumer doesn't really want to do. And you can think about some of the stuff that's sold on our store. That's just not exciting to shop for. You just need to make it as easy as humanly possible for them to get that done. So requires no mindshare. So, you can think about e commerce as a as an important place. For that you can think about subscription services and delivery is important for that. And so, you can just think of all those things that are not exciting, not interesting to shop for, make it as easy as possible. And then I think the stuff that requires a little more thought, or, and or is a little more interesting, you have to create something that says you're worth their time. And that can be in your store or online. In store, we tend to think about it as curation, experience discovery. And so, what are you doing in that? I think when you get to a pharmacy, of course, it includes the people and the pharmacist and how you think about that. But then you can also think about well, in a digital space, how when somebody says I'm looking for help with sleep? How is your solution, helping beyond saying, oh, sleep, we have 52 products that can help us sleep? Would you like to go through all 52 or choose one? And so, I think you can really help guide people through what's helpful for them. And so, you know, I think that you could think of companies that are doing an excellent job at e commerce and making stuff easy. I think you can think of companies that are doing an excellent job at experience. And I think there are a few that are doing an excellent job of both. And that's what I that's what I just think people have to work on. And that's what the winners will have.

Wendy 

Yeah, and I think you've defined it, you know, we saw in our how America shops research, I think, three or four years ago, that the majority of people said, I want to get out, get my shopping done fast. And so that I've got time to do other things. And that other things could have been shopping for lunch I really want to buy, but it was really how do I get it off the list? How do I get the stuff off the list that I can get off the list, and then spend my time the way I choose to spend it and I think you're right? The other point of what the pandemic has done is we tried to really, people who'd never shopped online clearly began to shop online for safety, security, all of those things. And now they're learning Hey, that's the Get it off the list place. 

Norm  

Interesting about that too, though, I was just thinking like, it's, it's also feeling a bit in control and a bit of a human connection. And, you know, this, this, you know, to these companies, what I'm about to mention I this was a couple years ago, I'm sure they're better now that we were using pea pod for a while to get groceries delivered. service work great, except for when something was out of stock, they made a substitution, and they gave it to us, but it just happened. And it got to a level where we just thought I don't I don't want to get the different cheese. I don't want to get the different yogurt and so we stopped using it. Okay, so COVID hits. We start using Instacart for shopping, grocery store, I'm going to go to the grocery store, picking up groceries delivering it to my house. It's the exact same services pea pod but the idea that when the store is out of stock with something someone texts me and says they're out of stock? Would you like this sort of this one totally changed the whole idea totally changed the game, right? And we were in. And why? Because I felt like I had a bit of control. I was involved in the decision. And there was a person who was working for me.

Wendy  

Yeah, it's really interesting. I remember the early days of using Instacart in Manhattan. And that was the thing I found so fascinating. They text you this My name is, you know, Bill door, you know, Mary, whatever. And there was this amazing personal engagement that was coming through my phone, and it was absolutely a very different tone to the conversation. Yeah, you know, so that personal touch, however it's delivered, is very much what you're what you're saying now is sort of this overarching, you know, relationship that I'm building, and I do always think about that, if there are three things, make it to make it for whatever that we need to think about now, in the way we communicate, in the language we want to use to communicate to shopper’s patience. What do we have to think about whether we're a retailer or a manufacturer or a consulting company?

Norm  

Be useful, be different, and be valuable. Useful is, you know, what is it that you have that's useful for me today to know to do to have you know, tell me the story, tell me the thing. That is, I didn't know about that. That's helpful for me and what I need. And I think if you've got, you know, you've got the most skeptical generation in history, skeptical of advertising, for sure. And so authentic usefulness can be really helpful. And be different. So, you know, this is the this is the idea of everybody's selling the same product. Why am I different? Why buy from me, right? And so, I have to be different in some way, I have to add some value that's different. Which gets me to the third piece, which is value can be value in terms of money, but actually, we were just talking about this yesterday, Wendy

Wendy  

I think we were.

Norm  

But it can be many other things too. It can be information; it can be how you know me and recommend the right product to me. So, it's why do I stick with you because you do something for me that nobody else is doing for me at the moment. And one of those dimensions. So, I think if you do all three of those, you've got a pretty good chance of winning.

Wendy

That's a very concise and very powerful, I see that sticking on my wall very soon.

Norm  

You can put that up for your employee reviews,

Wendy  

thank you,

Norm  

That's, you have to be useful, you got to be different, and I need you to be valuable.

Wendy 

Yeah, they're probably going to ask me the same thing. Right? And are you being to your point about this is a circular conversation, right? It's not about just keeping the consumer the shopper spending money with me. It's about keeping the people in the organization happy. And I think that's the other thing that was very powerful in this conversation and what you've said, in terms of the way we conduct ourselves, and the way we communicate is not just about getting people to spend money with us. It's about getting people to work and stay and collaborate and innovate with us. So, it's a much broader story than my initial very, you know, transactional one. So, I appreciate that. So now, I'm going to ask you what I always ask at the very end, which is what we call snap very fast response to things. It's got everything and nothing to do with this topic. But it's all about retail. Tell me your best or favorite retail experience, not CVS, you know, just as a consumer shopper, tell me a retail experience that you just loved.

Norm  

I do love REI, because it fits who I am. It has the stuff I like and every time I go in there, I feel like I'm going to discover some new thing new thing to use. I'm going to get a cool piece of clothing. I you know, I'm going to look at canoes and I'm never going to buy you know, I'm going to dream a little bit. I just feel like it's got an authentic brand with really interesting things I can discover in there. And it's like there's whenever I get a chance to go, I always want to go and I and many times I have nothing I need to buy. So, I think their experience in their brand is right on.

Wendy 

Yeah. Helps you scale a mountain at least mentally right.

Norm  

Yeah, that's right. That's right. Oh, you know, you look at the paddleboard Yeah. Someday that's going to be fun. No, no.

Wendy 

Well, that's right. aspiration. So other side of that worst retail experience was it the switching out of product when you don't want it to? Again, don't say the things that really aggravate the heck out of it.

Norm  

Worse retail experience is you know, excuse me for sounding a little, like a husband. But when I'm given the grocery list to go grocery shopping, because I don't know where anything is, and it just feels like I'm being sent on a scavenger hunt. And I can't find anything. I don't know where anything is. There's, it's just, it's just awful. And it's actually a little bit less about the store and a little bit more about, I think a ghostly experience is something because they have so many skews, you do have to learn where everything is. And so over time, you know, they're all like that, and you get easier. But, but that's just,

Wendy 

okay. Well, now I could give us a solution to that right? do it more often, please? My dear, lovely, lovely wife and partner, then you'll do it more often

Norm  

Oh, I will not introduce you to my wife,

Wendy  

No, I've seen that I've seen you in the aisles. You know, I you're like in the aisles calling but you know, what did you want? which sort of rice? Did you want?

Norm  

I have to find the Instacart person and have them tell me where everything is.

Wendy  

That's right, exactly. Tag along, that would be a shop along. And last on that is, what's the most surprising thing you've learned during the pandemic?

Norm 

How much our companies are capable of without... we didn't, we didn't, within the corporate offices add a ton of employees. We just, we just took this challenge on, we got to a point of doing 70% of the COVID testing in America. We're the leader in COVID vaccines at the moment. And it's just amazing to me that without adding a ton of people, we were able to take this on and get it done. And I think it brings us right back to the beginning of the conversation, which is inspiration, engagement. People are committed and inspired to help. And it creates energy that is then useful to get things done. It's that has been remarkable.

Wendy 

Yeah, that's extraordinary. And certainly, you know, those of us who have needed to access all of that. It's been very powerful the role of a company like CVS, and so certainly, hopefully taken us all on a path to better health.

Norm 

I also think that from a consumer standpoint, you know, my people standpoint, I feel like in some ways I like that we know, our employees, or are the people who work with coworkers much better, in some ways, you know them in a much more personal way, which I think is really cool. And I just think that I know, there's a lot of tension in the country. But that aside, I think we're in this together.

Wendy  

Yeah, there is an intimacy to that, that that can serve us very well. Moving forward, I think and back to the beginning, this whole way we communicate with the people that we both work with and serve. That is part of what I call this new vernacular of how our retail has the opportunity now that I don't think it necessarily had before any retail, not just CVS, but retail at large.

Norm  

That's right. I think its kind of like in some ways the chips got thrown up in the air, they're still going to come back down, but probably not in the same places.

Wendy  

Yes, for good. And for bad. We hope only for good. Yeah. So, there you go. Well, I can't thank you enough for this. I know you have many arms to vaccinate and many messages to talk to people about, we could have gone on forever and ever and this as always but thank you this is this is really helpful. And I love those three things. I'm going to stick this up on my wall useful, different and valuable. Sounds like what I want to be when I grow up.

Norm  

All right, when next time I get to interview you because you're much more interesting than

Wendy  

Well, did you get the love fest continuous? Thank you. I really appreciate it be well, and I will see you soon.

Wendy  

So, here's the thing. It's clear from what Norman said that we have to build a new vernacular, a new way of communicating in this day and age. This isn't just about the pandemic; it began with the growth of digital commerce. And that changed the value proposition of traditional retail that convenience of a store on a corner with you know, lots of products that you could buy anywhere else that changed once we could go into a website and click. It created a greater urgency for retailers to think about themselves as brands unto themselves and create a new direct conversation with shoppers. It also challenges CPG companies or manufacturers of any kind to think about who owns the consumer and how to integrate with retailers in the voice of connection. It's a very different story. The pandemic merely accelerated this as the pandemic has done in so many ways. But we have to remember this began five 10, even 15 years ago, as retails value proposition changed and its way of communicating with its shoppers changed. We need a new voice; we need a new way of communication.

Wendy 

But it's not just about communicating with our shoppers. It's also about the way we tell our story with our own people. And that's what Norm highlighted the way we tell our story and talk to our shoppers, and the way we talk to our people in our companies, galvanizes people galvanizes them to innovate galvanizes them to deliver more better creative ideas and engages them in a purpose. We need a new vernacular, Norm framed up very simply in three things. We need to communicate that we are useful. We need to communicate that we are different, and we need to communicate that we are valuable, all within the context and through the lens of a digital age. So that's the thing. Thanks for joining norm and me today.

Wendy 

And don't forget, there is much more that you can access from our website at www.wslstrategicretail.com where you can see our latest How America Shops® Shopping Next: What will stick or slip. You can sign up for our trend alerts for our What's Up reports and you can visit the world of retail virtually from your desk we'll take you in our latest Retail Safaris from Tokyo to London to Truckee, California. So, join us see you in the future.

Wendy  

Just to reminder, the content of this podcast is the product of WSL Strategic Retail you can't reproduce it or repurpose it without asking us without written consent. Copyright, WSL Marketing, so don't forget that.

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