Times of crisis can bring out the best in pharmacy business! Indeed, to face the health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, Sars-Covid-19, and the consequent decline in business activity, pharmacists have been forced to apply new strategies and reconsider their services.
Apart from dealing with the health crisis effectively, it is time to focus in development as a long-term goal.
During the epidemic spread of Covid-19, pharmacists are not only the professional experts for patient medication, they also have an unprecedented opportunity to take their profession to another level and diversify their services for business growth.
The pharmacies under Covid-19 pandemic
We have to admit that as business sector, pharmacies have faced the least difficulties objectively.
Of course, having the fewest financial losses does not mean that business operation was remained unchanged. In the first and second waves of lockdown, the pandemic crisis hit pharmacies irregularly, as neighborhood stores benefited mainly from moving restrictions, while shopping malls generally suffered the most.
Uncertainty, instability, fears… The three words that most accurately describe the health domain and the reduced business activity that stimulate pharmacists to become more creative and inventive.
New data, new strategies, new services, such as teleconferencing that will be established in the long run as they have already proven their usefulness and value, all these factors will demonstrate their full capabilities.
Successful service implementation
Part of pharmacies has made a significant movement in the application of digital tools, such as social media, and they have undoubtedly advantage over their counterparts in communication abilities.
The cost of developing and maintaining digital services should not be discouraging, but should be considered a long-term investment.
This change will be efficient neither they take into consideration the careful strategic planning of the business target, the creative content and the understanding of customers’ needs. In addition, many pharmacists who have set up new pharmacies, even to the province, have given priority to adopting new services for their patients.
This diversification has given them the opportunity to start their new pharmacy properly and upgrade their business, to strengthen contact and costumer relationship.
The digital pharmacy is reinforced by health crisis
Digital transformation is a new trend that seems to be gaining ground so far and pandemic restrictive measures and telecommunicating have helped to halt any resistance to this change.
However, even many pharmacists discuss about it, few dare to adapt in new circumstances, as it needs courage to know what not to be afraid of.
It is a fact that global health crisis will remain prominent for a long time and this is definitely a golden chance for renewal, modernization and digital development.
Several young pharmacists did not wait for Covid19 disease, but they prepared the ground in advance.
They invested in construction of e-shops and online orderings, expanded their customer base beyond their neighbor borders and strengthened the loyalty of their customers, resulting in increased profits. In a word: they have adapted!
We invest in consumer confidence
The pharmacist, as a health provider, is importantly a source of critical information and support for the public.
Especially in the midst of the pandemic that contact with doctors has become very tight.
The digitalization of medicine prescription has also lead elderly costumers to visit pharmacy stores more often.
This is a great mean to build customer loyalty. How can it be possible? By discovering new ways of communication with customers, understanding in depth their needs and offering added value, each time going one step further than what is expected: showing substantial interest, with a smile, guiding with specific scientific advice and calmly reassuring any patient insecurity.
The goal is to build an interactive environment and make the customer feel unconsciously motivated, so that they finally spontaneously choose the specific pharmacy for their purchases.
New business model and digital transformation
The reasons customers visit pharmacies during the lockdown period radically change the market place.
The duration of staying inside the physical store is reduced and urges us to consider smart ideas for displaying products and promotional messages.
Pharmacies in commercial location are called to develop new development strategies in order to gain back some of their customers who have been served by pharmacies in their local neighborhood.
Consumer habits change in order to served with safety: online pre-orders, immaterial recipes, click & collect methods of shopping, remote health care by phone, home delivery and so on.
The new philosophy of "digital services" acquires its full meaning in such times of health crisis.
So instead of disputing the new reality and the fundamental change of customer needs, I suggest to accept and move in the direction of adaptation.
Besides, I guess we are all looking forward to respond effectively to the current challenges and new needs of service and develop a patient care system based on humanity as the close contact is now made by obstacles. Isn’t that right?
Covid-19 and effects on buying behavior
"Events in life do not shape us, they reveal us," says Wayne Dyer. Therefore, the health crisis does not disrupt shopping habits and consumer trends, but highlights them. Interest of natural and local products is growing and the concerning about their origin and traceability is rising.
We have to admit that the pandemic crisis leads to the peak of competition between pharmacies in non-monopoly products.
Most patients will visit pharmacy near their home to execute prescriptions and buy medicines, but will also search web sites for products such as cosmetics and vitamins in order to benefit from the lowest prices.
This is evidenced by the increased sales of online shopping, a phenomenon which will intensify in the near future.
What are the advantages of the neighborhood pharmacy?
Since the onset of this health crisis, public authorities have continued to rely on pharmacies to distribute surgical masks, to conduct influenza vaccination and now offer information and services on the new coronavirus vaccine movement.
This fact underscores the importance of our role as health care providers and reminds to enhance this supporting role at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to use it commercially for the benefit of society as a whole.
And because the current situation promotes new lifestyles - strong telecommuting, moving from large urban centers to small provincial towns, etc. - some neighborhood pharmacies could benefit.
1. Health crisis is not an impossible challenge, pandemic crisis is a lesson.
And it creates opportunities for health care professionals. We are called to adapt flexibly and redefine our business model.
2. We pharmacists remain at the frontline of patient care.
By investing in the consumer trust and in the development of new service strategies we build a significant advantage.
3. Digital media are communication tools and connection means with our customers.
Even if it is considered a technological alteration for many of us, every leap consists of many short steps.
The first step is substantial to be done, and when you made it, you adapt when you do that it is a successful beginning!
Aikaterini Adam, Pharmacist