Inside: Lessons from the NCPA Front End Town Hall to make the most of your curbside and drive-thru pharmacy business.
With the outbreak of coronavirus, many pharmacy patients want to pick their prescriptions up quickly and get back to the safety of their home, and they are relying on pharmacy curbside pickup and drive-thru services to socially distance.
Since patients are no longer browsing in the store, they are no longer adding gifts and other over-the-counter impulse buys to their basket. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your front end or the services you normally provide inside the pharmacy.
At a recent NCPA Town Hall on front end sales, pharmacists shared their solutions for increasing curbside and drive-thru sales. We’ve collected some creative ways to boost front-end sales even while patients aren’t coming inside of the pharmacy.
1. Embrace e-commerce
Put your products in an online store to make it easy for patients to pick out exactly what they want and then swing by the store to pick up their orders.
If you don’t have an existing e-commerce function on your website, cataloging every item on your shelves will certainly seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Remember the 80/20 rule: that 80 percent of you profit comes from 20 percent of your products.
Add your most popular, profitable products on to your site first to get it up and running. That should satisfy most patients, and you can continue to add your other products as you have time.
2. Get creative with displays
Patients who don’t call or order ahead of time can still take part in curbside pickup services. Because they won’t be able to browse the front end of the store like they normally would, you can let them know what you have with creative displays.
Create a “fast food” menu listing all of your commonly purchased items. Patients can order at the drive-thru just like they would if they were visiting their favorite taco joint.
You can also create window displays that show what you have available. From their car, patients will be able to see toilet paper, supplements, and other items, and they can point out what they would like to purchase.
3. Advertise products on social media
Another way to get the word out about products that patients aren’t seeing when they pick up at the curb instead of coming into the store is social media. Use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to post the in-demand items you have in stock or products that are new to the store.
Make sure to check your DMs frequently so you can correspond with patients who are interested in buying. With a quick chat on social media, you can set the product aside for them to come and pick up later.
4. Take special orders
Pharmacies can take advantage of the fact that most patients are placing pickup orders in advance. It’s already common for pharmacists to place special orders for patients if they don’t have the right prescription in stock — now they can do the same thing for their front end.
Let patients know through email or social media that if they want a specific product, they can call up the pharmacy and you will order it for them and have it ready for pickup the next day. This tailored service will make patients feel taken care of in this stressful time.
5. Open a text line
Some products on your front end are designed to be browsed — like greeting cards, gift items, and cosmetics — but curbside pickup and drive-thru aren’t suitable for browsing.
To continue selling items like these, open up a text line for patients. If they are looking for a card for their grandmother’s birthday, a pharmacy employee can do the browsing for them and send photos of cards they have available. Then, the patient can pick out the one they like best and come pick it up.
6. Bring vaccinations outdoors
Just because people aren’t coming into your pharmacy as frequently doesn’t mean your vaccination business has to suffer. Bring your vaccinations out to your stoop.
Pharmacists can administer immunizations while maintaining appropriate social distance. Patients stay in their cars and roll down the window to receive their shots.
7. Partner for pop-ups
You aren’t the only local business struggling to figure out how to engage with and serve your patients in a time of social distancing. Reach out to other businesses in the area and make a plan to boost each other’s sales.
Your pharmacy parking lot is the perfect spot for restaurants to host a pop-up. People will come to pick up their meals, and they may stop by the pharmacy to do some curbside shopping. It’s a win-win-win scenario for your pharmacy, your fellow local businesses, and the customers.
8. Create customized bundles
The gift items in your front-end have probably seen a drop-off in sales as patients rush to make sure they have their medications and essentials like toilet paper. But you can put a bow on those products and boost demand.
Curate bundles of front-end items and package them in a way that’s both visually appealing and easy to pick up at the curb. You can create themed bundles for relaxation, birthday surprises, pick-me-ups for moms, or Father’s Day packages. In a time when patients have a lot more on their minds than finding gifts, these bundles are an easy fix that still feels personal.
9. Have the right products
One of the best ways to make sure your curbside pickup or drive-thru operations remain successful is to have the right products available.
Demand has changed during the coronavirus pandemic. As long as the virus remains a threat, patients will be interested in products that boost their immunity. Keep supplements that promote a robust immune response in stock, along with cleaning and hygiene supplies like soap, hand sanitizer, and cleaning sprays.
Many people are also pivoting to telehealth, which creates another new demand. Instead of getting their blood pressure taken at the doctor’s office, patients will have to take it themselves. Make it known that you carry products like blood pressure monitors, thermometers, and pulse oximeters to aid patients in their transition to telemedicine.
An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies
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.
PBA Health, an HDA member, 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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