Customer engagement in COVID-19 times
How have your Pharmacy sales been impacted in 2020? This was a question posed to many of our network clients, and their replies varied considerably depending on their location and business model.
‘This article is no doom or gloom story; in fact many Pharmacists felt that COVID-19 was changing their business and service model for the better by giving a renewed focus on health & wellbeing categories and introducing new customer experiences by using technology such as script ready platforms.’
In collating the responses, standalone suburban Pharmacies have been operating largely ‘business as usual’ with many reporting an influx of new customers that:
are now working from home and shopping locally
have more time to consider the personal health and wellbeing of themselves and their family
are happy to seek and support their local or independently owned community business
Not surprisingly, major shopping centre Pharmacies that have experienced periods of COVID-19 centre restrictions and nearby retail store closures have witnessed the greatest decline in foot traffic. As customers increase their confidence and return to these sites, it will become imperative for Pharmacies to communicate and market their location, services and product range in what will be a significantly altered retail environment.
As a result of social distancing and travel restrictions, many Pharmacies are reporting a decline in GP visitation and therefore some reduced script activity from this. If customers with non-life-threatening issues didn’t urgently need to go near a Dr surgery and Telehealth didn’t provide a comfortable solution, then customers were simply staying at home. This is creating a prescription void where historically scripts may have been written by GPs and fulfilled by the Pharmacy team.
‘I experienced this in our lockdown area where our Dr called to check if we needed any counsel or support as we couldn’t easily attend our regular appointment. While we certainly appreciated the call, nothing required urgent attention and we would hold off until we could visit again in person. It also suggested to me that our local surgery and GP may not have been as busy as they were pre-COVID-19.’
A couple of other Pharmacists have commented that the 2020 cold and flu season has been essentially non-existent this year due to social distancing, lack of community movement generally and improved personal hygiene. With sales and foot traffic in this health category well down on previous years, comments also indicated that this decline was also impacting sales of other ancillary ranges and items.
As we emerge from winter and into the spring and summer ‘get outdoors’ period, what should Pharmacy business owners and retail managers consider in strengthening their customer service offer and directing their business given the focus on health and wellbeing?
We spoke with our customers who by and large did not see the advent of new products or ranges as becoming a major differentiator for their business. Many are now keen to further explore new technologies that might assist to engage or partner with their local community and customer base in the area of health and wellbeing. Everything was on the research table: social media platforms, external digital marketing and internal digital communication activity that assisted with social distancing requirements and customer engagement.
‘Silent customer service initiatives, such as clean and concise shelf tickets and digital communications, will help generate activity for any business by providing customers with a level of information at shelf or entry that can influence and encourage support of your products or services.’
Australian-based Shopfront Solutions is known within the Australian Pharmacy industry for their marketing communications platform and are currently providing service & support to over 1,500 independently owned Pharmacies including the Pharmacy Alliance, Chempro and Pharmacy Choice membership groups. Their cloud-based price and digital marketing platform is specifically designed with Pharmacy at the core and includes a mobile app for ease-of-use print technology and digital communications. If you would like more information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the team at www.shopfrontsolutions.com.au.
Scott Carpenter – Head of Sales and Business Development at Shopfront Solutions, M: 0490705651