Pharmacies were the hotspots during the pandemic, front and center in their communities when it came to healthcare services and vaccinations. For many patients, this was their first exposure to everything a pharmacy can do, especially for those in rural communities.
Now that the word is out about all the services pharmacies offer, it’s the perfect time for you to expand and find new ways to impact your community. But don’t rely solely on your intuition to figure out the best way to grow your non-prescription sales. Look at your sales figures and see which product categories your customers are buying most, and then take necessary steps to make these products easier to locate. Expanding your services along with revamping shelves and layouts will help improve patient outcomes and increase revenue.
All over the U.S., pharmacies are noticing success with administering vaccines and immunizations. This convenient service helps combat shrinking profits. Plus, community-based pharmacies gain recognition among medical practices and their patients for the convenience and affordability of this service.
“We do pneumonia, shingles, flu, and COVID-19 vaccines right now, but I think we will be seeing a lot more added as they’re developed. I think Coronavirus has allowed physicians to say, ‘Hey, your local pharmacy can do this for you.’ We don’t have as much PBM regulation on the vaccines as we do on prescription drugs, so we see a lot more profit on this,” said Brad Harmon, owner and pharmacist of Harmon’s Pharmacy.
Visiting a pharmacy for a test is much easier for patients than going to a doctor’s office or lab these days. Pharmacists are also able to take more time to talk with patients and answer questions than a primary doctor. Also in the patients’ favor is the ease of following up on test results. In some states, pharmacies can assess the test results and prescribe what’s needed at the same time. Plus, when pharmacies offer point-of-care testing, they can increase their own revenue flow.
“We can do testing like COVID, strep, and the flu, that you’d otherwise have to have done at a doctor’s office,” Harmon said. “This has become a new revenue stream for most independent pharmacies.”
Pharmacists are also able to take more time to talk with patients and answer questions than a primary doctor. The ease of following up on test results is also in the patients’ favor, and in some states, pharmacies can assess the test results and prescribe what’s needed at the same time.
Many states will also allow pharmacists to perform screening tests for such chronic conditions as HIV and Hep C. You can also play a part in monitoring chronic medications and diseases by checking A1c and INR levels. These tests will make it a lot easier for pharmacists to help monitor and make recommendations for their patient’s chronic medications.
Train Your Team to Cross-Sell and Upsell
Have you ever wondered how many of your patients might have nutritional deficiencies caused by the drugs they’re taking? Maybe you have, and maybe you haven’t. If not, now is a good time to hone in. Many drug-induced nutritional deficiencies can be blamed on numerous drugs dispensed in pharmacies. To compensate for this, many of your patients are buying nutritional supplements from other places, and they’re not always beneficial to their health or even the nutrients that their body needs. Hint. Hint. This is the perfect time to train your pharmacy team to build relationships with customers and make product suggestions based off the medications they’re picking up. Upselling supplements to offset nutrient depletion is a win-win opportunity, and your pharmacy team is key to making this happen.
“It’s a survival thing for independent pharmacies. We try to do as much upselling and cross-selling as we can,” Harmon said. “In my pharmacies, we do nutrition depletion as well as a vitamin line we carry that’s designed for nutrient depletion. If we see patients on stat drugs, hypertension, or diabetes, we have supplements we recommend to them for the nutrient depletions that come with those medications.”
Supplements aren’t the only thing you can upsell, though. Any time you chat with a patient or have them fill out a form, it’s an opportunity to gather data that can be used later on. Add your own questions to the forms that you know will aid you in better helping your patients. Ask questions like, “Are you having issues with anxiety or sleep?” Or “Are you taking a probiotic or multivitamin?” Be sure to get an email address from your patients, too. Some of this may sound a bit daunting, but you’ll see that patients actually enjoy interacting with their pharmacy team.
Partner with Other Providers or Organizations
If you haven’t already, consider partnering with long-term care facilities to try and gain contracts with them. This is an important and profitable step in your marketing plan that can help bring in new revenue. Helping the at-risk population by developing programs and strategies has been shown to improve patient care and lower total medical costs. For instance, more and more independent pharmacies are offering weight-loss clinics. They help with dietary and nutritional information, monitoring clinical data including weight loss, and they guide patients to a healthier lifestyle. Because these programs are not paid for and managed by PBMs, you have full control of your profits as you help your patients.
“We have a new service we haven’t kicked off yet,” Harmon said. “We’re still in the training phases of it. It’s a cognitive testing device. We intend to work with local physicians who have older patients who are showing signs of Alzheimer’s or memory loss of some kind. We can give them a cognitive test, and every six months we can retest to see where the patient is. All physicians have right now are questions to try to determine that, whereas our new service is set up to an actual computer program that will give an accurate assessment of their cognitive skills at that point. This, too, will offer another revenue stream for community pharmacists.”
While not a substitute for one-on-one consultations, classes are a resource that can lead more patients into the store in the future and provide more revenue. Pharmacies can offer classes on general wellness, smoking cessation, weight loss, and diabetes care, to name a few. You can also offer your patients an overall care plan to ensure you’re helping them now and into the future.
Check Your Pharmacy’s Layout
Your pharmacy’s layout primarily refers to the floor plan and arrangement of fixtures in the front end, and it’s all directed at how you want your space to flow and present your merchandise. The best layouts increase sales at every stage of the shopper’s journey through your store. It interrupts their natural flow of walking through the store and engages them in some of the things you’re trying to sell that they might not have looked at otherwise.
When your patients first walk into your store, they encounter the decompression zone. This is the first ten to twelve feet of space just after the entrance. This area is the space where everybody relaxes in their new environment. It puts everyone into a calmer mindset, so keep it free of advertisements and merchandise. From here, most people will turn to the right and work through the store counterclockwise. Most stores place a display called a power wall directly to the right of the door. It contains their highest-margin products or premium products they’re interested in promoting. The tendency of people to move counterclockwise is also why many pharmacies, depending on the location of the entrance, put the pharmacy counter in the back of the store. This is so shoppers will make the whole loop around the front end and run into a few speed bumps along the way. Speed bumps slow them down. They make your customers stop and look at something they may not have thought about before. Draw them in with interactive or demonstrative displays. From here, you can begin to draw up your layout.
Remember: The science behind the layout of your pharmacy is about money. The best layouts will increase sales at every stage of the shopper’s journey through your store.
Give the Front End an Overhaul
Have you looked at your pharmacy’s front end lately? If not, take some time to look at it from a customer’s point of view. Because it’s the first thing your customers see, you want it to invite them in, not send them out the door. The front end, if done correctly, can bring in quite a bit of revenue for your pharmacy.
How effective is your design and layout? Merchandise that you want patients to see and buy should be displayed, not old products collecting dust on outdated endcaps. Most of your foot traffic is in areas next to the prescription counter and aisles leading to checkout registers. Rotate products in and out of these areas on a regular basis, and don’t forget the end-of-aisle displays. Make each display eye-catching and current. By relocating merchandise to these highly trafficked locations, you’re drawing customers in and influencing their buying decisions. Plus, you’re potentially adding dollars to your sales. “Community pharmacists have an advantage over the chains,” Harmon says. “We own our stores and can say what we want stocked in them, unlike the chains. We can sell what we think we need and be most profitable with. We get to dictate that ourselves and not have anyone else do it for us.”
You can also stock or quickly acquire special-order items for your patients, plus cater to your patient demographic by ordering items the area demands. And as time goes on, staying on top of changing the merchandise and layout of the store can help keep things fresh and eye-catching. Changing up your front end can produce enormous profits.
As an independent pharmacist, you have a plethora of options on how to drive more sales for your pharmacy. You can offer prescription delivery methods like curbside pickup, drive-thru, and even home delivery. Consider providing telehealth appointments and scheduling patient appointments, or adding new payment options for your patients, such as contactless payment. Not only will your customers thank you, but so will your revenue. “The greatest personal service that we can offer our patients is ourselves,” Harmon said. “If you do it well, revenue’s going to follow and you’re going to have people come to you. Our store is our product, and we have to sell that product and our service to them. I’d rather look at the business as a product rather than the merchandise on the shelves as the product.”
The Front-End Five
Are you ready to jazz up your front end to entice your patients and increase your revenue? Here are some great tips that will engage all five senses in your pharmacy and spice up your front-end appeal.
- Avoid anything controversial or harsh
- Don’t play music with loud or volatile volume
- Use quality speakers
- Know your patients’ tastes
- Avoid advertisements of competitors
- Arrange speakers for optimal acoustics
- Use colors to set the mood
- Brighten things up with natural light, if possible
- Be sure all signs are clean, crisp, and easy to read
- Make end caps sharp
- Set up displays artistically
- Find a good balance – not too strong, not too weak
- No “operating room” smells
- Avoid musty and stale smells
- Muted floral or herb scents work well
- Use well-placed diffusers
Try offering samples of food and drink products, such as:
- Natural fruit smoothies
- Caffeine-free herbal tea
- Nutritional bars or drinks
- Gluten-free baked treats
- Condition-specific products for patients you consult
Open and display products for patients to test. Prime categories for touch include:
- Home safety
- Skin care
Basic Floor Plans
Grid: The traditional grid floor plan allows you to maximize the use of your available floor space to display the most products.
Loop/Racetrack: The loop floor plan forces customers to walk a certain path, giving you complete control over traffic flow and guaranteeing extra exposure to your products.
Freeform: The freeform floor plan allows you to prominently and creatively highlight products and provides an attractive, comfortable space for customers to walk through.
Combination: The combination floor plan utilizes multiple floor plans to suit your store’s particular needs and strengths.
The Lingo of the Layout
Key terms to know:
Decompression Zone: The area around a store entrance where the customers get their bearings before proceeding through your space
Power Wall: A large, visually appealing display in the area to the right of the decompression zone.
Speed Bump: Strategically placed displays in the store that attempt to grab the attention of the customer and get them to slow down and browse.
Planogram: A diagram for arranging products in categories on retail shelves to maximize front-end sales.
Gondola: A freestanding, shelved fixture used to display merchandise.
From the Magazine
This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.
More articles from the September 2022 issue:
- Expand your Revenue Stream
- New COVID-19 Subvariant Threatening the U.S
- Coming Soon: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
- Planograms Lend a Helping Hand
- Reducing Patients’ Fall Risk
- ProfitGuard Helps You Hold the Line
- Mastering Inventory Management
- Addressing Social Determinants to Health
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