With the expansion of the pandemic, a new chapter opens in the turbulent history of long-distance sales, for the market and of course, for pharmacies.
In the general business world, digital markets, along with home deliveries and other digital communication services, flourished during this pandemic.
Conferences, trainings and meetings, are now done digitally and have entered our daily lives for good.
Along with the classic electronic orders with home delivery (click & deliver), in Europe, the “click & collect” service flourishes in many areas of trade, but also in pharmacies, where customers order online and collect their products from the physical point of sale.
Here in Greece, we experienced a variation of it, the “click away”, with collection outside the store. We have also seen the “call & collect” service at the pharmacy, especially for the receipt of medicines, so that customers do not have to wait long in the physical store to be served.
The “click & collect” service is, in a way, a new chapter that opens in the turbulent history of online pharmacy sales and more. Starting with the fierce competition between the "big ones" in the e-commerce world, this service found immediate response and evolved rapidly.
Classic online sales, which require great resources and real expertise, are now evolving into a more realistic and interesting idea, a way to attract patients and customers to the pharmacy's physical space, the so-called “web-to-store” thanks to the Internet, and the ”click & collect” service is one of its pillars.
We report here the turbulent developments in the regulations for the electronic sale, with the medicines not yet available for distribution from electronic pharmacies in Greece.
But today, many realize that physical and electronic sales can coexist and that we cannot stop the market from evolving.
After all, “click & collect” and “click & deliver” are technically the same - online sales, with no home delivery and no mandatory online payment for the former, being the difference.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, online payment is increasingly required, mainly to secure the order and to avoid cases of non-receipt of products.
Also note, that the consumer who buys online is mostly price-driven, while the “click & collect” customer already knows what he wants and the price is less important to him.
Even if the process ends with online payment or even home delivery, the philosophy is completely different in these two cases.
- The logic of multichannel service
Switching to purely online sales when you already have the “click & collect” service is technically easy, but it is a strategic decision that few pharmacists are ready to make.
We even notice the opposite. The risk and hesitation may be due to the price comparison that is easily done on the Internet.
Online sales offered by physical points of sale easily accessible to the customer (such as pharmacies) are part of a reasonable multi-channel service and a great competitive advantage.
Physical contact is not incompatible with digital and we are increasingly seeing the coexistence of physical and online shopping of the same customer from the same point of sale.
The goal ultimately remains to maintain contact with customers and service excellence, through various procedures, such as: booking orders, reward cards and many more... among which of course “click & collect” is merely considered as an additional service that may meet a need.
- Customize prices and catalogs
However, we need to be careful to ensure competitive prices, taking into account the shipping costs, without "cannibalizing" them. The difference is clear.
Experts, of course, advise to have the same prices in the online store as in the physical pharmacy or maybe with a small difference.
The pharmacist should not downgrade his position from the low prices while our search engine does not always highlight the cheapest price, but the best qualitative reference to the product.
But which products should you promote through online sales or “click & collect”? The first unanimous answer from the providers is that it is better for the pharmacist to get rid of this work because he does not have time to devote to it, hence the extensive automation of the proposed procedures.
Beyond that, opinions differ as to how the product catalog appears online. It is absurd to put everything on the internet, so it is necessary to have a strategy that the provider develops together with the pharmacist, especially by analyzing his sales through special tools on a regular basis.
Of course, some pharmacists have specialties and special categories that are worth highlighting on the internet. So, it is difficult to manage large product catalogs. Even the big platforms initially place all the pharmacy’s parapharmaceutical products, but later they remove the codes that prove to be unprofitable.
Therefore, the future of online sales seems to be shaped by the online customer service and experiences with other digital pharmacy activities.
This makes them easier to manage, especially in terms of technical support and logistics, as it is not necessary to move large volumes and, therefore, it does not require large operating costs.
It is given that home delivery service will become more and more necessary, although, for the time being, it still finds fanatical opponents in Greece, in contrast to other European countries where this service flourishes because it serves the customer better.
- One prediction and one tip
With the rapid increase of online sales of pharmacy products in Greece, the institutionalization of certification and operating procedures of the "e-pharmacy" and, consequently, the possibility of delivering medicines at home, probably OTC drugs initially, as is the case in the European Union, is not far off.
So do not hesitate to develop the business model of online sales in your pharmacy and gain a competitive advantage.