Among top advertising and marketing luminaries on the opening day of the 4As Transformation conference in Los Angeles, I think the chief operating officer of a drug store chain best summarized the key challenges most marketers face with digital technologies.

Transformation 2014

Ken Martindale leads Rite Aid, the 4,600 store pharmacy chain.  According to Martindale, “the change that is occurring in our channel is unprecedented.” Gone are the days of “just putting pills in a bottle,” Rite Aid now lives its brand position of “stay healthy” by providing immunizations, offering health care coaches and partnering with physicians practices. Changing customer expectations and competitive pressures are forcing Rite Aid to reinvent its business. So even if you don’t run a drug store, you’ve got something in common with Ken Martindale.

That means his perspectives on how technology is affecting marketing should also be of interest to you. Martindale cited two major challenges facing his marketing operation thanks to digital. The first is data.  According to Martindale, Rite Aid has amassed more than 2 billion customer transactions via its loyalty card, Wellness +. How does Rite Aid use that data to create more personal relationships with customers and improve business results?  Not easy to do. An earlier presenter, Marc De Swaan Aarons of EffectiveBrands had it right when he said “big data” is like sex in high school. “Everybody’s talking about it, but nobody’s doing it right.”

Martindale said the second major technology challenge for marketing is measurement. Rite Aid can now quickly assess whether a program is working. If it works, Martindale says marketers need to be able to “put the gas down.”  If it’s not, it’s time to stop and reassess. The right diagnostics enable real time course correction to ensure programs deliver maximum results.

Virtually every client Eric Mower + Associates is working with is grappling with the new opportunities and challenges that technology present. Martindale’s diagnosis on Rite Aid’s marketing situation helps keep my focus on two of the most important issues – data and measurement.