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Three Takeaways from CVS Health’s Digital Innovation Lab


Last week, my retail technology-related travels took me closer to home than usual – to Boston, the city where I was born and still live within a reasonable drive. I visited the old homestead to attend the official opening of CVS Health’s new Digital Innovation Lab. CVS officials did a fine job explaining the mission of the lab and giving the audience a sneak peek at some of their work.

Here are three takeaways from my visit:

The future is here, and it is mobile

Brian Tilzer, chief digital officer of CVS Health, made it clear both during public remarks and in a one-on-one interview that mobile underpins the efforts of the Digital Innovation Lab.

“We have digital devices with us all the time that are more powerful than the technology that put people on the moon,” Tilzer said in his opening remarks. “We are always on and connected.”

CVS is taking full advantage of this new, mobilized customer base in a number of ways. The retailer uses the largest retail installation of beacons (which it had previously been very quiet about) to send personalized medication reminders and product offers to customers who have downloaded its app. CVS also relies on text messaging for everything from prescription refills to notifying customers of its Minute Clinic in-store health clinics when they are next in line.

Future mobile solutions under development include scanning your insurance cards and drivers licenses to automatically fill in dull manual health forms. CVS is clearly staking its innovation lab investment on serving the needs of the mobile consumer, and it seems like a smart bet. This leads to my second thought…

Customers first

Everything discussed and demonstrated during the innovation lab event was squarely focused on meeting the needs of the customer. While CVS may use its beacons for some targeted offers, most of the technology on display genuinely appears aimed at improving customer health or easing their shopping experience.

This includes a myriad of solutions designed to improve compliance with prescription medication schedules and several applications intended to allow more rapid or even self-diagnosis of health problems. CVS is also focusing on smartphone texting and scanning to more easily collect and distribute information from and to customers.

“We are trying to solve pain points and provide services and utility with mobile,” Tilzer said during a short one-on-one interview. Beyond showing heart, this is also a great long-term business strategy that will help build customer loyalty and also gather a large amount of personal data that can be used to refine assortments and the overall customer experience.

Start me up

CVS seems serious about wanting to use the lab as a space for collaborating with retail and healthcare technology start-ups. A number of the solutions on display are being developed in conjunction with start-ups, and in both public and private comments Tilzer stressed the importance of capitalizing on innovative ideas from outside sources.

The lab provides an environment for large-scale ideation, testing and perfection of solutions that most start-ups could not achieve with their own limited resources. Thus start-ups see their ideas come to fruition while CVS gets to incorporate innovation from sources that might otherwise go unutilized. Combining the scale of a major corporation with the creativity of a startup – sounds like a prescription for IT health.

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