Six in 10 shoppers told us that rising Covid rates, flu and the risk of contamination will change how they shop. So, retailers with pharmacies should be prepared for the vaccine-related needs of shoppers. We surveyed how the “sick season” will influence consumers across age groups and are sharing the instructive results to benefit retailers and brands. Be prepared for some surprises, and of course there are three consumer-informed action steps.
It’s Not the Illness that’s Scary; It’s the Life Complications that Come with Being Sick
For our recent How America Shops® report to gauge consumer sentiment trends in 2024 and beyond, we dedicated a special section to “sick season” to learn how rising Covid rates, paired with the flu and RSV, will alter shopping behaviors. In particular, we expected the results would provide insights into how retail pharmacies – and the brands merchandising around them – should prepare to maximize this season.
Our surprise finding: Younger consumers are more concerned about getting sick than older generations – because of the ramifications. It’s not merely the affects to their health that have them concerned. We suspect younger consumers are worried about missing work (roughly 85% of Gen Z and Millennials are anxious about finances); figuring out how to manage family schedules; and added medical debt from the cost of medications and treatment (40% of all shoppers said they have higher medical bills).
This means vaccines – not just for Covid, but all vaccines – have substantial potential this season to drive, and guide, shopper traffic.
Our Research Remedy to ‘Sick Season’s’ Effect on Consumers
Among the key findings of our “Caution! Retail Curves Ahead” report: 59% of all consumers told us they have or will change their shopping behaviors because of rising Covid rates. Here’s how that looks across demographics, which reveal much about what retailers and brands should expect in the coming months:
- Women are considerably more likely than men to change their behaviors, by 10 percentage points vs. men.
- Expect Millennial and Gen Z shoppers to change their shopping behaviors more than Gen X and Boomers, by 7 to 13 percentage points.
- The biggest gap exists between Caucasian and African American shoppers – 78% of African American shoppers told us they plan to change their behaviors. That’s 25 percentage points more than Caucasian shoppers.
- Pharmacies and retail clinics are far-and-away the top choice for flu and Covid vaccination – 60% of shoppers will visit a retail pharmacy or clinic for their flu shots; 67% will use them for Covid shots.
The Vaccine Up Shots
The key factor behind these changes is public exposure, including in stores: 55% of all consumers told us they are stressed about getting sick in public settings.
Again, women are more anxious than men, and younger shoppers are more concerned than their older counterparts, despite the implications for older adults can be more severe.
These sentiments will change how your customers shop in stores: Nearly one in three consumers said they will shop online more often because of illness anxiety, and 17% said they will use curbside and/or in-store pickup more often, to limit the time they spend in the store.
3 Action Steps to Win WELL this Covid and Flu Season
Now here’s the good news: More than 50% of all consumers told us they plan to get their flu, RSV and/or Covid vaccines at retail clinics or pharmacies. That presents substantial added foot traffic and sales opportunities. Retailers and brands should prepare for it.
Here are three ways they can do just that, while improving the health of their customers at the same time.
1. Combine the shot in the arm with a shot of savings.
A lot of retail pharmacies send “check-in” links to patients to alert the store when the customer arrives. Those same links can lead to messaging that suggests medications and products to prevent the spread of germs (such as antibacterial wipes). They also can prompt promotional alerts for seasonal items on sale and highlight new products and emerging wellness categories. And while masks are no longer mandatory, that link can trigger a message to let the customer know the store has masks on hand to wear, if they don’t have any more themselves.
2. Limit the “exposure” time of those savings.
As our survey reveals, most shoppers are likely to limit their time in public settings this sick season. So, while it’s typical for a retailer to send a coupon or special discount after a customer receives a vaccine, during this time of year it might make more sense to send that offer beforehand. If that appointment reminder includes a code for a discount, the shopper can use it to place an order ahead of the appointment for in-store for pick.
3. Build loyalty while building immunity.
Even shoppers who want to prevent illness with vaccines may put the appointments off because of daily demands. Retailers can encourage earlier vaccine appointments, for all family members, by offering special rewards. Walgreens is giving $10 in Walgreens Cash rewards to myWalgreens members who receive Covid vaccines through Jan. 31. And CVS sent “$5 off $20” coupons to Covid vaccine recipients though Dec. 31, 2023. There are options beyond loyalty program rewards; it’s simply a matter of understanding the customer. A small toy could ease distress for a child and parent build an emotional connection to ensure future trips.
How Prepared Are You to Prevent Sick Season Loss?
Regardless of sick season, our exploration of shopper sentiments regarding health concerns, finances and new innovations will not slow down. Come visit our Shopper Research page to learn the latest in how your consumers are guiding change in the Big Business of WELL, economic shifts, social influences – and more.