Saturday, August 8, 2009

Redefining Multi-Channel Retailing to Get Results

Health care is top of mind for lots of folks, these days as health care reform seems hopelessly bogged down in Congress. Meanwhile, costs continue to escalate. It's well-documented that providing home care is far less costly, more comfortable and potentially more effective than caring for patients in the hospital. And effective home care for chronic conditions can even help to avoid hospitalization entirely. Home care has been a fragmented industry about which information on effectiveness, patient satisfaction and comparison pricing has been hard to get.

Enter Walgreens. I've written before about the drugstore chain's move to provide in-store clinics for walk-in patients as well as clinics that operate at company workplaces, like Disney World in Orlando and Harrah’s in Las Vegas. In a throw-back to the days when doctors made housecalls, Walgreens is now offering home health services.

Through its acquisition of OptionCare, Walgreens delivers home infusion, respiratory/oxygen and medical equipment services through more than 100 accredited home care facilities in 36 states. The extension into home care means Walgreens can meet its customers' OTC and prescription needs, as well as their needs for infusion services, respiratory therapies and durable medical equipment.

In some ways, the move parallels Best Buy's acquisition of the Geek Squad, which extended the retailer into helping customers make their consumer electronics work. This is a new type of multi-channel retailing. It's not just about store, mail, web and phone orders.

Best Buy's in-home services represent a move out of consumer electronics retailing and into home integration or simply into making stuff work. Similarly, Walgreens in-home services represent a move out of the drugstore category and into longevity or independent living.

Which retailer will be next to see the opportunity to redefine multi-channel and transcend their category?

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