CVS Exec Michele Driscoll Peels Back Curtain on Long-Term Loyalty

Liz Dominguez
Managing Editor
Liz Dominguez profile picture
CVS pharmacy app

Loyalty today means more than simply incentivizing return purchasing via a rewards program or regular discounts. More than ever, consumers know what they want out of a brand, often looking deeper at culture, brand personality, and unique value propositions, and so retailers must align their services and programs across multiple channels in order to reap the rewards. 

We sat down with Michele Driscoll, VP of customer engagement, loyalty, personalization and promotions at CVS Health, to get a deeper look into one of the longest running loyalty programs in the drug store space, and the overall landscape of loyalty in today’s volatile environment. 

How can retailers differentiate their loyalty offerings when 86% of U.S. online adults belong to at least one loyalty program and  63% of consumers are already members of at least one paid program?

According to Driscoll, the consumer loyalty experience is driven by personalization and motivation, and brands must deliver relevant benefits in a way that makes it simple for anyone to take advantage. 

“This continues to be a huge opportunity for us to tap into the power of personalization to deepen our relationship with each customer,” says Driscoll. 

A Look at ExtraCare Rewards and CarePass

several loyalty reward cards including cvs extracare

The company’s ExtraCare Rewards program launched more than two decades ago, now recording 74 million members. The overall program is segmented across three categories: ExtraCare, ExtraCare BeautyClub, and ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health. 

CVS recently revamped its loyalty offerings, adding several new digital touch points. These include having the option to receive an emailed receipt, access to a rewards tracker and monthly rewards via the CVS Pharmacy app, a Scan to Save feature so users can quickly identify which products have eligible coupons, and an ExtraCare SMS program that reminds users of exclusive savings, personalized offers, and available coupons — the latter has grown more than 80% in the last year.

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“We have continually evolved the program…in 2021 we made the first-ever changes to the program’s core 2% back in ExtraBucks Rewards offering, which we are really excited about,” says Driscoll, adding that extensive customer research revealed that CVS consumers wanted faster access to ExtraBucks rewards, which prompted the company to give them options: cash rewards in on their next visit or continue accruing for a bigger payout. 

Driscoll says the company is also looking to expand and improve CarePass, its paid subscription program, which offers members perks like free delivery for front store products and eligible subscriptions. 

Creating a Strategy Around Valuable Consumer Insights

Particularly for long-standing membership programs, data collection is one, if not the most, valuable piece of the pie across loyalty initiatives. When it comes to digital transformations, specifically, Driscoll says that data is extremely important, and plays a significant role in the company’s overall strategy. 

“At CVS, we apply machine learning, artificial intelligence, and advanced data analytics to our rich shopping data. By doing this, we have created an ‘intelligent engagement platform’ to understand our customers and create customized, personalized engagement strategies,” she says. 

In addition to these efforts, the company gathers data — Driscoll emphasizes this must be done securely and confidentially — through its ExtraCare rewards program. This helps not only gather feedback, but to deliver a more personalized, digital-first health care experience. It can also help with decisions on future product assortments, services, and innovations, she adds.

Building Loyalty in an Increasingly-Digital World

Driscoll recognizes that consumers are more digitally engaged than ever. The brand has invested heavily in their digital presence in order to improve accessibility for patients, customers, and caregivers. 

Much of this was driven by an immediate need to bolster digital offerings amid COVID-19. 

“The pandemic has shown that consumers rely upon digital tools to manage their health in unprecedented ways,” says Driscoll. “We met that moment by providing services like easy and intuitive digital COVID-19 testing and vaccine scheduling, enabling virtual care, Omnichannel Pharmacy and more.” 

digital engagement and app download statistics from article

Having a comprehensive add-on to its rewards program via its mobile app has proven to be a successful approach as well. According to Driscoll, the company has seen 20% year-over-year growth in digital engagement among its ExtraCare members, and since 2020, double-digit increases in app downloads. 

“What we’ve done is provide them value and access in a manner that’s relevant to their lifestyle or needs in a simple, seamless and frictionless way,” says Driscoll. “By doing that, we have an opportunity to deepen our relationship with each customer. We see many of our members regularly share that excitement on social media.”

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The answer for retailers looking to build out their loyalty programs lies here: loyalty and digital experiences must now be intertwined, and personalization is key. 

“For some this might come in the form of a text message reminder about a health product they regularly take, which they have a coupon for that might be close to expiring,” says Driscoll. “For others, we might make them aware of something new on our shelves that is relevant for them, based on past purchases and what we know about them, and offer them savings to try it out.” 

The bottom line is that people want easy ways to save and an enjoyable shopping experience, she says. “Our digital solutions make it easier to save money, from easy access to coupons, to earning and tracking rewards through ExtraCare.” 

CVS Health ranked high on our Top 100 Retailers list for 2022. See the full ranking here.

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