I am planning to run a marathon next autumn and have already started mental preparation. My wife will run her first 10K in the same event, and our friends will run the half-marathon. While looking at course maps, we noticed that the start points are not the same for all the race distances. Some of the distances start and end at the same place (thus going in a circle), while others start down in the city center but end at the Olympic stadium (where the other distances will start). This is a bit confusing, but probably has its logical explanation.
The modern customer journey is somehow similar. It starts somewhere, and may end at the same place – or not. Which, again, can be a bit confusing. And of course, the goal of any retailer/brand is to have loyal customers, thus keeping the journey going… Which is quite similar to marathon running, as completing one marathon often is the motivation for the next one.
Old and new journeys
A customer journey involves emotions (ideally the same ones the retailer or brand tries to elicit in the customer), and will hopefully motivate the customer to purchase some products. A typical customer journey may start with some online research, recommendations by friends or by a traditional advertisement. For pharmacy customers things are a bit different, as the journey may even start by visiting a doctor that issues a prescription.
Selling drugs to the general public has traditionally been a heavily regulated industry, and in the past, customers with prescriptions (usually paper-based ones) had few options but to visit a pharmacy. Advertisements were often limited to simple information on opening hours, and the customer journey was fairly well defined and bound by regulations.
Digitalization, with e-prescriptions connecting doctors to pharmacies and e-commerce empowering customers, has changed this model. Customers (patients) get their prescriptions uploaded to central databases, and are able to order fulfilment online (via web or app), either for home delivery or for pickup at a nearby pharmacy via click & collect.
Three types of customers
Many customers still prefer visiting brick and mortar pharmacies, but combine that with the use of websites and apps. Broadly speaking, today’s pharmacy customers can be divided into three groups, depending on where and how they make purchases:
- Brick and mortar customers. They prefer to visit the traditional pharmacy, but often prepare online by looking at product details and opening hours (some kind of webrooming). This is a very large group: most customers still prefer visiting the pharmacy and speaking to a pharmacist in person. As a matter of fact, pharmacies often experience relatively high traffic on their websites, but few online purchases.
- Click & collect customers. These customers prefer to order products online, and then pick them up in the pharmacy. Regulations sometimes hinder home delivery of Rx medicines, and customers are therefore directed to click & collect. Another motivation for selecting in-store pickup may be that the customer wants to leverage both the expertise of pharmacy staff and the convenience of online shopping.
- Home delivery customers. These are customers who order online (or via phone/app) for home delivery. This is often the smallest of the three groups; it is, however, growing as regulations change.
All these customer groups have one thing in common: their customer journey presents multiple touch points between the retailer and the customer. Exactly where the journey starts and where it ends is a best complex, and at worst unclear.
Many opportunities for digital pharmacies
All three groups give the digital pharmacy multiple opportunities to create a positive customer experience, with potential higher margins for the pharmacy if the experience is executed well.
Here are some of the main points pharmacies should focus on to ensure high quality experiences across the channels, leading to repeat business:
Pharmacy as a health center
Pharmacies don’t only sell products. They can provide advice on drug interactions, or suggest products that reduce side effects. Customers might be willing to pay for various specialized services, such as blood pressure monitoring, vaccinations, or training on how to use medications. A pharmacy that becomes a health center, specializing on offering competent advice and professional services on top of selling high-quality products, can increase its revenue and make customers loyal thanks to its greater breadth of services.
Pharmacists are generally a very proud professional category – at least in my experience. If properly nurtured, this pride can be the source of great customer service. Nothing beats a proud, and knowledgeable, pharmacist when it comes to providing information to patients.
Convenience from start to finish
Pharmacies offering omni-channel services such as click & collect need to make sure that the processes work seamlessly from order to delivery. A click & collect customer, who takes advantage of the convenience of ordering online, will probably prefer to receive fast service while in the pharmacy. The pharmacy will therefore need to create special queues for pickup, and make sure that customer can easily add cross-sales (e.g. health and beauty items) to their order while in-store.
Customers opting for home delivery (and click & collect) must be presented with a simple, clear process when ordering prescriptions. This includes, for example, hassle-free login into e-prescription databases, and the option to refill a prescription by taking a picture of their current medication. To increase the chance of additional retail sales, retailers should implement personalized product recommendation systems on their e-commerce platform.
Subscription for refills
Customers who use the same drug (or item) frequently may be willing to enter a long-term relationship with the pharmacy, for example in the form of subscriptions for medicines or for other items. This is a great opportunity to create trust, and foster a long-lasting relationship.
Sales of health and beauty products
Customers visiting pharmacies to purchase non-prescription items tend to seek quality over price. In order to maintain their reputation and boost loyalty, pharmacies should not compromise quality for the sake of achieving minor cost savings. They should, rather, focus on high quality products, and strategically place them both online and in-store.
The right technology
In general, any technology a pharmacy implements should support quality and security, while at the same time granting flexibility and empowering both customers and staff.
For your digital pharmacy, select an IT solution that supports seamless shopping experiences. This includes giving customers online access to e-prescriptions (as allowed by regulations), and generally empowering them with meaningful online content.
Don’t go for just any integrated solution: for the experience to be truly seamless irrespective of channel, the different sales channels must be properly unified.
Websites and apps should provide at least basic cross-selling features, encouraging customers to purchase relevant products – for example, advising appropriate items that might be needed in combination with prescription items.
Pharmacies can take many diverse initiatives to improve the in-store experience, from high-speed service for click & collect customers, to professional advice where required. The ideal Rx solution should support all these necessities, on top of providing pharmacy staff with easy access to information on generic products, side effects and interactions.
There are great opportunities ahead for pharmacies that complete their digital transformation taking into account, and supporting, the modern customer journey.
If you need more information on how the right pharmacy IT system can support your transition to a digital pharmacy and boost your customer service, do not hesitate to contact our experts.
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