July 7, 2020
Inside: How to use e-commerce to increase convenience and expand your business.
Now more than ever, patients are looking for convenient ways to interact with the pharmacy while maintaining social distancing, and they are relying on services like delivery, curbside pickup, and online orders.
An NCPA survey found that 61 percent of community pharmacists believe that demand for online ordering will remain high even after the coronavirus crisis abates. For pharmacies that don’t yet have an e-commerce platform, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.
As a local business, going online may seem like an unnecessary step, especially when most of your patients live close by. But research from IPSOS found that adding e-commerce boosted small businesses’ revenue while decreasing administrative costs. It even helped them increase their geographic reach.
In order to make the most of your e-commerce platform, keep these tips in mind.
Use your web store to highlight new products or products that are especially in demand. Letting patients know that you have hot items like face masks or disinfecting wipes will draw them into your online store, where they will hopefully add those items and a few more to your basket.
Your pharmacy’s home page is the perfect place to display information about new or popular products. They should be the first thing that patients see when they log onto the site, along with copy that makes the products more tempting. Letting patients know that there are only a limited number of products available or that they are discounted — but only for a limited time — will encourage them to pull the trigger.
The idea of logging every single one of your OTC products into an online store probably seems daunting. But you don’t have to put every product online in order for your e-commerce endeavor to be successful.
Instead, remember the 80/20 rule — that 80 percent of your sales are made off of 20 percent of products. Identify what those 20 percent of products are and make them the first items available in your online storefront. Most patients will be able to find what they are looking for online even if you haven’t posted your whole inventory.
After you’ve uploaded that first batch of items, you can gradually add more inventory to make the online store more comprehensive.
By taking your pharmacy operation online, you create a new opportunity to win over customers with online reviews.
Research has found that when retailers display product reviews, consumers are four times more likely to purchase the product, and having at least five reviews on a product has the biggest impact. Consumers are more likely to rely on online reviews for products that are more expensive or affect their health and safety.
The best way to gather online reviews is to follow up with patients. Up to 80 percent of online reviews are posted because consumers received an email asking them to review their recent online purchases.
You may not be able to ship items out the moment an order comes in like giant online retailers do, but your e-commerce store can still be a great way to promote services that add convenience to patients’ lives.
If you have a delivery service, give patients the option to have their online order delivered when they check out. It may not be next-day shipping, but it still saves them a trip. If you can’t deliver, you can still have online orders ready so patients can pick them up at the drive-thru or with curbside pickup.
During a time when people are still practicing social distancing, these convenience-based services can become a real selling point.
These days, more people use their mobile phones to browse the web than desktop or laptop computers, so you need to have a website that looks as good on a phone as it does on a bigger screen.
If you have an easy-to-use mobile site, your pharmacy can be with patients wherever they take their phones — which is everywhere. Keep these best practices in mind when setting up your e-commerce site for mobile:
If your mobile site is too difficult to navigate, your patients will give up and turn to a big box store with a slick mobile interface to get the products that they need.
You won’t find success in e-commerce if your patients don’t know about your services.
When you launch your online store, do everything you can to let patients know about it. Send out email blasts, post about it on your social media pages, and tell patients about it when they visit the pharmacy.
After your initial media blitz, don’t stop marketing. Keep excitement high by posting on social media about popular products and linking to their page on your store.
You can also write blogs about seasonally relevant products that you offer in your online store. With posts like, “Top 10 OTC Products for Spring Allergy Season,” or “Best Stocking Stuffers,” you can engage customers on the topics they’re already thinking about while also nudging them toward your store.
In order to get started selling products on the web, you’ll probably use the assistance of a vendor that can create a professional-looking storefront at your current web address.
There are dozens of e-commerce vendors to choose from, so it’s important to do your research before settling on one. When choosing a vendor, these are a few factors you should consider:
A great e-commerce vendor should offer a storefront that is easy to set up and edit, even if you don’t have much technical expertise.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.
An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
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