At a glance, they may not sound like a big deal from an IT perspective. But it's the fact that CVS now realizes that its network POS systems and a centralized database can enable many more distributed capabilities. Prescription history databases plus drug interaction files can be centralized, making any CVS (even nationally) as good as any other. What's the impact for a traveling consumer? What if he or she gets sick and walks into any of that chain's stores and have employees give them a refill of their prescription from home, plus warn about conflicts with a drug they've been taking for two years?
But this goes far beyond the CVSes, Walgreens (which is already doing it), Rite-Aids and Wal-Marts of the world. We often complain about the store-centric thinking that undermines merged channel strategies, where they see online, mobile and even the call center as the enemy. What about the myopic view that goes beyond "store versus online" and gets into "my wonderful store on Elm St. versus your horrible store on Maple Ave." We discuss intra-chain rivalries, often overlooking intra-in-store rivalries.
Will this network thinking, leading to an every store is interchangeable mindset, go over well? In this climate, where individual stores are worried about being closed due to company-wide economics, will efforts to standardize and make data flow freely be resisted?
What makes the CVS pilot worthy of note is that, well, how utterly un-noteworthy it should be. The technology has been in place for more than a decade. What's noteworthy is why no one—CVS included—has been moving in this direction on a large scale. Our diagnosis: In this case, it was corporate attitudes that are sorely overdue for upgrades.