Rite Aid announced the soft launch of its website and mobile app during its fourth-quarter earnings call. The company said that new digital features include more transparent rewards and loyalty benefits, a more user-friendly online shopping cart, prescription reminders for digital pharmacy accounts and other features.
In addition to its digital strategy, the retailer also noted in its call that it added self-checkout technology at 260 stores, and it will add more in 400 locations in 2021.
The retailer reported a 28% increase in digital sales in the fourth quarter. COO James Peters said that the company will "continue to strengthen our e-commerce capabilities to accelerate the growth we're already seeing."
Rite Aid's digital and in-store modifications point to the retailer's sustained effort to turn itself around even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last August, the retailer brought on a new CEO with a positive outlook for the company's future. In October, Fitch downgraded the company due to "continued operational challenges." but the company also reported a small revenue increase year-over-year in its third-quarter results.
Of course, Rite Aid isn't the drugstore retailer facing ups-and-downs. CVS' Aetna acquisition drove profits last year, but the company also revealed in the fall its plans to close 75 stores in 2020. CVS also recently announced that it is looking to fill around 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary positions as it responds to the pandemic as an essential retailer.
For Rite Aid, the coronavirus appears to have brought renewed focus to not only the role of pharmacists but also the need for a better online and offline strategy. Rite Aid announced on Monday that it is expanding COVID-19 self-testing sites in various states.
Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan said on the earnings call that, "As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it's magnified the importance of our go-forward plans and the need for what we can and will offer in the communities we serve." He also emphasized the strategic importance of "unlocking the value of our pharmacists and revitalizing our retail and digital experience.