People who are lost in the drugstore aisles, blinded by runny, itchy eyes and beset by sneezes can look for help from PharmAssist, a Web-enabled kiosk with a touchscreen that helps
narrow down what you have and what you need to stop it. The in-store, search-based advertising platform from Evincii is installed in 144 Longs Drugs stores, where it's lifted category sales from 3
to 6 percent.
"We bring the power of search to brick-and-mortar shoppers," says Roger Berkman, Evincii's vice president of marketing. But PharmAssist is more of a
recommendation engine than true search. Those in need of over-the-counter relief can use the touchscreen to narrow down the right remedy by selecting from a menu of symptoms, or they can search by
brand. This process is powered by proprietary tech the company describes as "search by intent." If you're sneezing, it might suggest an allergy medicine; if you add muscle pain,
PharmAssist may diagnose flu.
Thanks to a connection to the individual stores' databases, the kiosk's search engine delivers all relevant products that the store carries, and it can
also direct users to the right shelf. Manufacturers can pay to have their products shown on the top row of search results, a strategy that Berkman says increases their sales by 7 to 18 percent.
Shoppers can select an item on the recommendations results to get more information. When they do so, manufacturers who pay to play can deliver video or audio ads, as well as any other information they
think will close the sale. At this point, most advertisers repurpose their TV spots.
Unlike with SEM, there's no real-time component to PharmAssist. The self-contained kiosk, which is
turnkey to the retailer, uploads usage information and downloads creative after hours. Evincii provides weekly reports on what symptoms have been entered and how many times information on an
advertiser's product was requested. While an advertiser theoretically could use this information to fine-tune its ads or identify promotional opportunities, Berkman says the brand managers who
typically buy placement on the service haven't expressed interest in that kind of granularity.
Evincii plans to release kiosks for other categories, as well. Can they help us figure out
whether Certs is a breath mint or a candy?