September 23, 2019
Everyone knows not to judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to businesses, hardly anyone abides by that rule.
“Most people form an impression within the first seven seconds,” said Tom Boyer, director of national accounts and member of the owners group at Hamacher Resource Group (HRG). “Think about when you go into a new restaurant, department store, or doctor’s office—that first couple of seconds matters.”
The look and feel of the building, inside and out, forms customers’ judgments in those first seconds and beyond—as much in a pharmacy as anywhere else. “In the pharmacy world, appearance might not feel like a big thing, but the exterior and interior do make important impressions.”
Those impressions could be the difference between a patient loving or leaving your pharmacy. An attractive store earns business and spurs patients to spread the word, which is the goal of every retailer, Boyer said.
When it comes to the outside of your pharmacy, said Colleen Volheim, HRG’s category research and analysis manager, it should be “as welcoming as you can make it.” Creating a warm and appealing exterior can come as a particular challenge to pharmacies with rented space in shopping complexes where every retail outlet blends into the next. There are still ways to make your pharmacy stand out, though.
Clear, readable signage is a must. Keep it simple. “I’ve seen stores go overboard with backlighting behind the words, and it’s hard to read,” Boyer said.
Beyond the store name, use additional signs to make your pharmacy stand out. Put one or two signs in the windows promoting things like free blood pressure screenings or flu shots to catch the attention of people outside. Or place chalkboard or sandwich board signs with crisp and colorful lettering on the sidewalk so they are visible from the street. “It draws attention, and it’s a little something different to spark interest as they’re driving by,” Volheim said.
Seasonal decorations can also drive foot traffic. “I’ve seen some pharmacies put small evergreen trees lit up with holiday lights outside,” Tom said. “Some stores will go really crazy with decorations around Halloween. If the store has a large gift area, they can do fun displays in the store and in the windows to bring people in.”
Once you’ve established an attractive exterior, you have to deliver on your promises with the inside of your pharmacy.
Start with your entry. “If you’re planning to host a party at your house, what do you do? You make sure that the house is clean, and that the entryway is very inviting,” Tom said. The same principles apply to your pharmacy. Within that first couple of steps, the entry should remain open and uncluttered. Instead of hitting patients with a floor display as soon as they walk in, give them a little bit of space to breathe and absorb everything.
Aesthetic features can go a long way in creating a relaxing shopping experience. The light fixtures and paint color should be bright, but not too bright. These small details are an opportunity for the pharmacy’s personality and branding to shine through.
As you think about the store layout, keep patients at the front of your mind. Make sure to create a space that’s comfortable for them to shop in. “Do you have older customers using walkers or wheelchairs? There needs to be room for them to get around your store easily,” Volheim said. This might mean expanding the space between the aisles so they are easier to maneuver.
Interior signage should also make the shopping experience more pleasant. From the entrance, patients should have a line of sight that includes the entire operation: the checkout counters, the departments, and the pharmacy. Hang signs from the ceiling to help people find where they need to go.
Shelf talkers—the signage found among your products—are a great way to keep your pharmacy’s personality apparent throughout the store. The colors, design, and layout of the signs should remain consistent “rather than talkers from multiple sources, where you’re losing your branding and it’s confusing to the shopper,” Boyer said. They are also a great way to keep your store feeling fresh without a lot of effort. By changing them out frequently, patients feel like they’re seeing something new every time they walk in the store.
And because your pharmacy is a healthcare destination, cleanliness and tidiness are particularly important. A tidy and well-lit store can provide a comfortable visit for sick and weary patients. “Thoughtfulness and little details like that can go a long way,” said Megan Moyer, senior marketing communications specialist for HRG. “When shoppers aren’t feeling well or can’t get around easily, you want to make their visit as stress-free as possible.”
Just like your home, your pharmacy’s appearance needs an occasional refresh. “If there aren’t significant changes over the years, customers might lose interest in shopping your front of store,” Boyer said. “Updates can reengage your long-time shoppers because there’s something new and interesting about the store.”
A good rule of thumb is to do some sort of remodel or update every seven years. It could be as much as a full remodel or as little as replacing aging carpet or ceiling tiles.
An inexpensive paint job can go a long way. “You may keep the fixtures the same, but update the wall color,” Boyer suggested. “When you put it all back together, it looks clean and fresh.”
Because you see the pharmacy every day through your eyes, it can be easy to stop noticing the little things—stains on the ceiling tiles or chipping paint on the walls. But these things are obvious to patients. Instead of entering through the back door like you usually do, “walk in like you’re a customer and look around from that vantage point with a fresh pair of eyes, or ask someone to do it for you,” Volheim suggested.
Make a plan to take a look at your pharmacy every so often. A checklist reminding you to replace rugs once a year and update your outdoor decorations seasonally can prevent your pharmacy appearance from getting stale.
Involve your staff so that everyone feels ownership over the appearance. Boyer recalled, “In a large store I worked with, the pharmacist assigned ‘category captains’ who each had a certain part of the store that was their responsibility. It was like an internal contest, who could make sure their area was always stocked, refreshed, and clean.”
By keeping up with the little things, you let your consistent customers know that you care, which makes it easier for them to trust you with taking care of their health.
Hamacher Resource Group focuses on improving results across the retail supply chain by addressing dynamic needs such as assortment planning and placement, retail execution strategy, fixture coordination, item database management, brand marketing, Rx track and trace, and analytics.
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.
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