The metaverse is emerging as a new frontier in the battle for supremacy among retail pharmacy operators. CVS Health staked its claim in the still inchoate realm, asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect its brand, logo and stores “online and in online virtual worlds.”
The company envisions the day when it could offer a variety of goods and services, including prescription medications, health and beauty care products, and general merchandise, in the metaverse. In addition, nonemergency health care services, advice on nutrition and wellness programs could be provided in virtual reality and augmented reality environments.
“As the leading health solutions company, we’re consistently enhancing our omnichannel health services to meet the needs of consumers when and where they want them, including at home, virtually and in the community,” a CVS spokesman says. “We’re also regularly looking at new and innovative ways to engage consumers through a digital-first, technology-forward approach.”
Opinions differ about whether the metaverse will be the revolutionary force that advocates claim or prove only an incremental advance over the internet as it exists today. But one thing is certain, the intensive focus on digital tools and emerging technologies related to the metaverse will be a focal point for mass market retailers committed to engaging and serving customers whenever, wherever and however they choose.
Competition to shape a technology-driven, omnichannel future is intensifying. Take a look at the pharmacy sector. Walgreens Boots Alliance has launched a new business segment to harness the power of technology to deliver solutions that make health care simpler, more accessible and more affordable for consumers. Walgreens Health aims to be the nerve center for the full range of services offered by WBA as well as other providers.
Rite Aid has similar goals with its omnipharmacy strategy. Technology will play a pivotal part in more closely aligning the company’s assets, which include Elixir, a PBM, as well as the eponymous drug chain, and enable it to reach consumers in markets across the country where it does not have stores.
Newcomers, many of which have little pharmacy experience but a deep background in technology, are entering the fray. Amazon and the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. are just two high-profile aspirants.
Against that backdrop, CVS Health’s exploration of the metaverse makes good business sense. The battle for supremacy in community pharmacy — and retailing generally — could well be won or lost in the digital realm.