The Intersection of Beauty & Wellness: A Q&A with CVS' Andrea Harrison  6/1/2022

CVS' Andrea Harrison

Over the past couple of years, consumers have broadened their view of wellness to one that is more holistic and includes both physical and mental health. Not only are they more aware of the ingredients in the products they put on and in their bodies, but also of the social and environmental impacts of the companies that manufacture those products and the retailers that sell them.

CVS has been on the forefront of addressing these consumers evolving beauty and wellness needs through its supplier partnerships, unique and innovative retail concepts, and a finger on the pulse of trends shaping the industry.

In this recent webcast, the first of a series of ECRM Beauty Talks fireside chats, Wayne Bennett spoke with Andrea Harrison, VP of Beauty and Personal Care at CVS, about the retailer’s vision, strategy and opportunities it sees around the intersection of beauty and wellness. They also discuss best practices for suppliers looking to do business with CVS. Below is an excerpt of a few key topics covered in the webcast. To see the full webcast, including the live audience Q&A, please view the video below, or you can listen to it on The ECRM Podcast.

ECRM: CVS has always talked about the link between beauty and health. What does CVS do to activate around that connectivity?

Harrison: As America's leading healthcare solution company, but also one of the largest beauty retailers in the United States, we have a history of putting our customers and their health at the heart of the decisions that we make to help establish ourselves as the country's most trusted local health and wellness destination. Wellness is a really important part of that. 

On this end of the pandemic, I think the customer has defined wellness and wellbeing for their lifestyles really differently and in a much broader way. For example, when you ask customers today how they define wellness, they don't just talk about pain relievers and vitamins, they talk about fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, sleep, all of the things that create a holistic sense of wellbeing. For us to deliver on our aspiration to be that trusted local health and wellness destination, we have to be right across all of the ways the customer defines wellness. 

We'll activate in ways that that amplify that through our assortments that bring authority to life. For example, in beauty, we'll focus on things that are ingredient-led, have clinical backing and bring that self care element to bear. 

ECRM: Can you give us an update on the CVS Beauty Mark initiative, and how it has fit into your overall wellness initiatives?

Harrison: Back in 2018, we recognized that material retouching, particularly in the beauty industry, was really starting to have a negative impact on women, young people in particular, and we made the decision to be the first retailer to say, we're not going to materially alter images. We want people to feel good about themselves in our aisles, and therefore we have to show people as real people. And I think since that time we've gotten to a place where we're a hundred percent compliant with CVS Beauty Mark. We use only untouched images across all of our assets. We have a tremendous number of supplier partners and images in their support of this. We've enlisted a number of influencers and been able to really create a bit of a movement on our side. As we think about the role we would like to play in mental health broadly as an enterprise, it’s a component of wellness. Beauty is so image centric that to continue to build on that has been probably one of the most memorable things in my career. 

ECRM: Another activation around wellness has been your partnership with SkinSAFE. Can you give us an update on that?

Harrison: Customers have become really savvy when it comes to ingredients. They know what they want to seek out for different benefits, and they know what they want to avoid. But there's so much to choose from. Our partnership with SkinSAFE has enabled us to provide deselection for those customers who tell us they have sensitive skin. When we started with the SkinSAFE organization, we started tagging products that were sensitive-friendly, predominantly in skincare, and then it rolled out throughout facial and hand and body lotion and sun care and all of the places where people might be concerned about the safety of the ingredients that they're choosing to put on their bodies if they have sensitive skin. And we'll build on that success in the coming months to start to bring that degree of deselection, that degree of safer, sensitive clarity to other categories, including cosmetics, and then we'll work through some others in the months that follow.

What we've actually done with SkinSAFE is tried to take some pressure off the pharmacist. They're getting less questions about skincare, as it enables that customer who was seeking pharmacist input to help them better navigate the products on their own. We also have some other shelf indicators in our stores for products that are dermatologist-tested as another way to help bring the clinical efficacy and the clinical expertise that we have to the shelf to help make it a little bit easier. We found that any way we can help simplify and make those deselection steps faster helps everyone.

ECRM: Can you share a little bit with us about the different formats in beauty that you have, like Beauty IRL concept shops and Health Hubs?  

Harrison: Yeah. So Beauty IRL is our most forward beauty footprint. We have today about a little over 150 locations, we'll have about 165 by the end of the year. And those formats are our most extreme version of an in-store beauty experience. We typically have increased amounts of floor space, very unique experiences, with different floors, different lighting, different shelving, and a very different layout. They're traditionally located in markets that have a really high density of beauty shoppers. It allows us to bring in new products and, and sort of act as a bit of a sandbox to see what resonates with the beauty community.

What's most compelling to me about those formats is they are a really good reminder for myself and my team that beauty always needs to be fun. People engage in beauty for lots of reasons, but let's be clear: confidence and experimentation are big parts of that storyline. What we've seen in that model through those doors is that we've been able to generate bigger baskets, a younger average customer age, more frequent trips with that sort of more beauty-first elevated experience. We’ve taken some brands through there and begun to scale them. But what I think is most exciting about it is that how fast we're learning from it. So what we're working on now is a way to figure out how we take everything we've learned and amplify that in more doors

ECRM: What does the beauty and personal care assortment look like in your health hub stores?

Harrison: In the Health Hub stores where we don't have as deep a beauty sales base, it's our traditional assortment. But in a number of them, we actually have married them up with our Beauty IRL format, so it brings a much more elevated experience to beauty as well as health. They tend to be productive, and folks are really engaged with them, so we’re excited to see what more we can learn from that.

ECRM: What key product trends do you see emerging in today's marketplace?

Harrison: We continue to see a tremendous amount of momentum behind product that has clinical backing. Customers have so many choices and sometimes it's really hard to know what's best for you or what's going to work. So they look for clinicians, they look for influencers to support the decisions that they're making. Products that have those really clear seals of approval, if you will, products that are led with ingredients that people understand and are looking for will continue to drive sales across categories. You're also starting to see people bring the things they know are beneficial to them from a skincare perspective to other beauty categories that they shop, and I think that trend will continue and will drive innovation. People are looking for cleaner, safer, and more sustainable, younger customers in particular.

ECRM: Can you share your thoughts on the importance of Ecommerce and and what are you doing to drive your business opportunities online?

Harrison: Ecommerce is a really big focus for us. We have just started buy online/pickup in store over the course of the last couple of months, which we know is a capability customers want, and one that we have been not able to offer for several years. But it is currently up and running in thousands of locations and the majority of the chain will be online shortly. It seems like a really antiquated thing for me to say, like we should have been having this conversation 10 years ago. 

But we are finally there and we are seeing tremendous uptake from our customers. And I think that comes from a new definition of convenience that we're excited to lean into. We've always been convenient, as we're on 8,000 plus corners. But for consumers now, it it's about wanting what they want when they want it, how they want it. Today that might be going into the store and tomorrow they order online. However the customer is looking for us to fill the need for them. So we have lots of capabilities coming in the next 12 months to continue to draw that out.

ECRM: What can suppliers think about or bring forward to you beyond their products to help solve some of the challenges that you have for category growth?

Harrison: I think the biggest challenge we have these days continues to be inventory and supply chain. It is something I think we are all spending far more time than we ever anticipated. So as we think about that, one of the most important conversations we've been having is about the importance of transparency. What suppliers can bring to us to be great partners beyond the product is a level of transparent partnerships. So when you have a problem, we know about it immediately, we know when we can expect product or when we can't expect product so that we can set the right expectations together and build plans that delight our customers. Lots of stuff happens these days, but when we find out late and we can't pivot, it leaves all of us disappointing the customer. 

ECRM: What can suppliers do to make their engagement with you more simple?

Harrison: Getting in touch with the right person is key, and we'll help with that. It’s important to make sure that the conversations are focused and with the person who's actually going to make the decisions. Focus on the products and the innovation and the heroes that drive the business, and be okay with not including all of the long tail items all the time. I think this actually has a lot of benefit as it simplifies the shop for the customer, and it also helps the story for the brand. We find that heroes tend to drive the majority of product for a lot of brands. This means thinking about assortments not as throw everything against the wall and keep adding on them, but rather, edit to amplify.

ECRM: If I am a small emerging supplier and I do connect with the right person, what should I include in my presentation? 

Harrison: I think simple is great. The story is about the product is most important. What is the product? What customer need does it meet? And then I know this might sound crazy, but what’s the cost and suggested retail? I can't tell you how many times over my 17 years doing this, I've sat down with a supplier who doesn't have that information in the deck, and I'm telling you, the person you're sitting across can't do anything with what they've seen without having a clear understanding of what the cost and suggested retail is. 

In addition, we’d like to know what kind of distribution the brand has as well as what kind of social following. I think it is helpful, particularly in beauty at this point in time, to understand the size of the social following and the activations that your brand uses to develop their social following, to amplify the brand through social. And so understanding the brands that our customers might already have recognized or might see in their feed sometimes helps us have that extra layer of confidence that a customer who has a really busy life to the point we started with and is running through the store, might stop and recognize a brand.


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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