Rite Aid Looks to a Digital Future

A Digital Transformation

Six years ago Rite Aid barely had a digital operation. The brand didn’t have an online store, which meant it had to service online shoppers via Amazon. A year later it adopted Magento and created its first owned and operated ecommerce site, but with an ecommerce team of just three people growth was constrained.

One of those people was Joe Tertel. He began by serving as Rite Aid’s Manager of Ecommerce Marketing and he was tasked with driving traffic to the Rite Aid online store.

Driving traffic meant actively managing the company’s email, search, social media, display and affiliate campaigns and he did the best he could given a distinct lack of sophisticated tools. Still, the higher-ups took note of the stellar results of his email campaigns and in short order assigned him responsibility for all email initiatives across Rite Aid.

Today he is the Director of Digital Marketing. His responsibilities now include driving online sales, in-store foot traffic and sales, loyalty membership and usage, as well as finding new pharmacy customers. He oversees all digital channels now, including programmatic and OTT.

Joe’s rise in rank and responsibility coincided with Rite Aid’s decision to embark on a digital transformation. That transformation started at the c-suite, most of whom have been with Rite Aid for less than two years, and all of whom have digital on their resumes.

Over the past few years the ecommerce team has grown substantially in both headcount and scope. Joe’s team, which is part of the overall marketing group, now included separate managers for social media, search and performance, digital content, and overall email and campaign management. The broader ecommerce team included an operations manager, merchandising manager, catalog managers and an in-house analyst.

To support a robust digital operation, Rite Aid migrated to the Adobe Stack, and literally bought all of its products. “If we didn’t have the buy-in from the top we wouldn’t have been able to grow or get the infrastructure, all the Adobe and mar-tech that we have now.  Nor would we have been able to build out the ecommerce team,” Joe explained. “Buy-in at the highest levels is essential for a successful digital transformation.”

Marketing Capabilities Then and Now

Prior to their Adobe tech stack, Rite Aid had very little targeting capability. Joe and his team had to rely on the capabilities offered by Google, Facebook and Rite Aid’s media partners. Any kind of one-to-one personalization required Joe to upload customer lists to these platforms, which presented its own set of problems. “We had to request our CRM team and analytics team to create the lists for us, and that wasn’t an easy thing to do. They wanted to know why we were asking for these lists and what we planned to do with them. It was time consuming to explain it all. The process was long and limiting.”

The team was also limited as to how to measure the ROI of its initiatives, relying mostly on the number of clicks on its store locator link. There was no meaningful way to assess the business outcomes of ads seen in search or social media, for instance. “It was an okay proxy, but really, most people know their local store,” Joe explains.

Another significant challenge: Rite Aid could only target its existing customers. The company had no way to identify, reach and engage wholly new prospects to the brand, which meant it couldn’t build its upper funnel.

Now with the Adobe stack, Joe and his team can create segments of customers to target based on a wide variety of attributes without any assistance from the CRM team. They can target people who’ve taken specific actions on the website, such as visitors who’ve purchased or browsed specific items or categories of items online. They can also create segments of customers who have browsed online but purchased in store, as well as people who have never visited the website and have only purchased in-store.

These targeting capabilities enable the team to understand the customer journey, and to launch remarketing campaigns based on specific user behavior, such as cart abandonment, or campaigns for lapsed customers.


With Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Advertising Cloud, Rite Aid is able to launch sophisticated new customer acquisition campaigns. The Audience Manager includes a data marketplace where Joe can purchase third-party data from over 500 data sellers. The Advertising Cloud is an end-to-end media buying platform that allows the team reach and engage those audiences.

For instance, Joe recently launched a campaign targeting competitors’ customers whose local stores were closing in order to inform them that Rite Aid would always be their neighborhood pharmacy. “We were able to buy against competitors’ customers from within Adobe,” Joe said.

The team can also build lookalike models for all of their customer segments and use it to target non-Rite Aid customers (e.g. beauty buyers who are a competitors’ customers). With plenty of third-party data now available to them, Joe and his team can create myriad customer segments and tailor their communications to each. “Our creative team is creating a lot more assets now, each talking directly to the individual,” he said.

Turbo-Charged Loyalty Program

One of the most dramatic changes is the way Adobe has transformed Rite Aid’s loyalty program, called wellness+. The entire Adobe stack is centered around the wellness+ numbers, giving Rite Aid a 360-degree view of their customers.

The Adobe Campaign product associates all email addresses to the recipient’s wellness+ number, and the Experience Manager associates it with the cookie IDs.

The result is a deep understanding of how individual customers engage with the brand, along with what they buy, both online and in-store. This insight is used to optimize communications, promotions and marketing strategy. It’s the stuff that every retailer has dreamed of, enabling them to be the proprietor who knows the needs, tastes and brand preferences of every customer who walks through his store. Only in the case of Rite Aid, that’s almost 2,500 outlets plus the millions of people who visit its site and use its app.

2020 Adobe Experience Maker Awards

Something Digital is proud to have played a role in Rite Aid’s success. In collaboration with Adobe, who designed the site, and Rite Aid we were able to help them achieve their digital ambition and to evolve alongside the changing market.

It’s no surprise that when Adobe announced its 2020 Adobe Experience Maker Awards that Rite Aid and Something Digital were named as one of its three finalists in the Mastermind category. You can read more about that here.

Phillip Jackson

A multi-instrumentalist, Phillip is an avid collector of vintage guitars, keyboards and amplifiers and has a home studio located in West Palm Beach.