Leaving the house to go and get things may seem so 20th century, but CVS Pharmacy is betting otherwise. It just partnered with Curbside, a Silicon Valley startup, to deliver its products (but not prescriptions) to customers as they pull up outside a store.
Starting later this year, shoppers will be able to purchase items on the CVS Express app, and will receive a text or email within an hour to let them know that their items are ready for pickup. The app’s “arrival detection software” will advise the store when the customer is approaching, and dispatch an employee to deliver the items to a specially designated parking zone at the front of the store.
CVS, the nation's second-largest pharmacy (after Walgreens), has already successfully tested the free service in San Francisco, Atlanta, and Charlotte, and plans to begin rolling out the service to all 7,900 stores by the end of the year.
"This partnership with Curbside allows CVS Health to offer new and more convenient ways for our customers to shop with us,” said executive vice president Helena Foulkes in a press release announcing the program.
Foulkes added that the new service is an easy way for customers to “enjoy a healthy lifestyle in a way that works best for them,” though not getting out of a car doesn’t seem the most obvious solution. However, parents with sick children in their vehicle or customers with mobility issues are the main demographic for this initiative, along with the usual harried shopper hoping to finish chores as quickly as possible.
Around 75 percent of in-store items will be available for pickup, though prescription drugs are not part of the current plan.
"We are starting CVS Express with our front-of-store products because we wanted to make curbside pickup available to our customers as soon as possible, and including prescriptions will require more regulatory procedures for each market, which of course would take more time. It is something we are exploring for the future," said Erin Pensa, a spokesperson for CVS.
"Baby care products and household items are the categories that we are seeing resonate the most with our customers right now," Pensa said.
CVS is looking for ways to regain market share after its decision to nix tobacco products, having lost around 0.5 percent of its front-store revenue, according to its first-quarter reportings.
The company is also hoping to cash in on the increasing popularity of curbside service. Retail giant Walmart announced last week that it is expanding its free pickup program, adding itself to an ever-increasing list of brick-and-mortar stores offering the service as part of a battle with e-commerce retailers such as Amazon. Target has also been testing curbside pickup at locations in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, L.A., and the New York metro area.
For those people who end up grabbing a one-pound bag of Swedish Fish, two Chia pets, a singing birthday card, a Snuggie, and a light-up doggie chew toy each time they go to a pharmacy — well, you’ll still need to go into the store.