Brands

How CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens Retained High Consumer Trust in 2022

Retail and e-commerce analyst Claire Tassin examines the state of trust in retail, highlighting two of this year’s biggest winners

Graphic conveying in-store shopping trends in the retail industry
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Tadi Martinez

This memo is part of Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands 2022 series and a preview of our retail and e-commerce report. Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands 2022 is the definitive measure of brand trust across industries, showcasing the companies and products that have earned or maintained consumer trust in 2022. To download the reports, click here.

Retail’s most trusted brands of 2022 all represent pandemic success stories due to their ability to capture disrupted consumer behavior and new purchasing habits. CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens, the No. 1 and No. 3 U.S. retail brands on Morning Consult’s Most Trusted Brands 2022 list, respectively, had the most direct impact as pharmaceutical and medical service providers during a health crisis.

Each brand retained high levels of trust well before “coronavirus” entered the lexicon, as the two drugstore chains are frequent shopping destinations for many consumers. Their expansive brick-and-mortar networks helped them play instrumental roles in vaccine distribution, but the vaccine rollout led to some trust turbulence for both brands given the heavily politicized environment surrounding the pandemic.

Key vaccine milestones had disparate impacts across demographics. Both pharmacy brands lost trust with baby boomers during the vaccine rollout, while CVS gained some ground with Gen Z. Crucially, trust with Gen Xers and millennials — those most likely to have children ages 12 to 15 — did not decline after COVID-19 vaccines were approved for that age cohort. Trust in each brand has seen little movement since the latest vaccine milestones: They are neither gaining nor losing ground in any substantive way.

As health-centric retailers, CVS and Walgreens enjoy the halo effect of heightened consumer trust in health care relative to their retail peers. Health care is the third most trusted industry by consumers, well ahead of retail. In the cases of CVS and Walgreens, their health care service offerings helped nudge them ahead of the retail pack.

Retail in general enjoys substantially more trust among baby boomers than other generations: 71% of this older cohort trust retailers “a lot” or “some,” compared with just 48% of Gen Z adults. Retaining baby boomers’ trust means leaning into table stakes like offering high-quality products and good value for the price. With fewer strong trust differentiators, Gen Z is harder to please, but offering good customer service and committing to improving the environment have an outsize impact on Gen Z trust.

Looking forward, CVS and Walgreens will continue to invest in in-store clinics offering health care services, expanding their roles as health care companies in addition to retailers. Given that health care also sees stronger customer loyalty than the retail sector, those investments should pay off. Still, these brands can’t rest on their laurels, and will need to continue innovating on service and sustainability to stay relevant with younger shoppers.

Download the Most Trusted Brands 2022 reports here.