Retail Healthcare and Situational Shopping

Posted on February 25, 2011


Research shows people spend more money when they shop “situationally”. Situational shopping is defined as purchasing items as a side activity to doing something else. An example would be surfing the web on a smart phone for a restaurant phone number and then buying tickets to a concert in the middle of your search.

To be an effective model for successful care delivery, it makes sense for retail healthcare to immitate the most successful and relevant retail shopping experiences. This includes mimicking situational shopping.

When we think about healthcare access, we find many reasons not to go to the doctor:  too expensive, too far away, too difficult to reach your doctor, too hard to fit into a very busy schedule. It is easy to procrastinate and put off our long-term health. If healthcare is easy to fit into our daily activities, and available when we have an interest to go on the go—at the mall, during a long layover in an airport—we are far more likely to make it a situational activity.

In an average year, I looked at which of my appointments I have a high likelihood of “pushing”, i.e. postponing because of last-minute shifts in schedule priority.

  • dentist – 25% chance of change / postponement
  • haircut – 75% chance
  • doctor – 50% chance
  • optometrist – 75% chance
  • car repair – 60% chance
  • veternarian – 60% chance

Part of the above calculation is a function of how hard or easy it is to schedule versus reschedule. Another part is a measure of the personal importance and urgency to complete the appointment, among other things.

Regardless, no individual wants to wait or hold himself to a rigid solution because life is hectic.  If healthcare was more fluid, it may be more achievable for more people. I think to adopt a new model of care will take a shift in thinking. Until now, we have not thought of being opportunistic when going to the doctor. Yet this is what I think about when I think of retail healthcare.

Instead of carving out time from our work day and all the hassle that entails—travel time, gas, parking, waiting, prescriptions, expenses—healthcare could be comfortably and effectively shoehorned into our day, with no loss of quality and a major gain in convenience and possibly price. All of this can be achieved “accidentally” the way situational shopping happens.

A better product or service and enhanced experience at a more attractive price, this is the holy grail of value propositions and the main message with which retailers try to sell.  Healthcare should take good notes and do the same.