I was recently reading an article by blogger Lana Bandoim, a freelance health tech and science writer from Indiana USA. It was all about US independent pharmacy owners competing against the likes of CVS Health, Walgreens, Rite Aid Pharmacy and Amazon.
In an environment where the big boys dominate, the independents still appear to be holding their own. It was great to read about the experience of independent pharmacies in other countries, particularly in an environment where competition is high. Granted the regulatory regime is different but there are still aspects we can learn and apply to our own situation in Australia.
Lana points to commentary from the National Community Pharmacists Association that independent pharmacies can compete because they “provide a variety of niche services, often unavailable elsewhere". She uses the examples of individualised, personalised services that the bigger chains are unable or not likely to provide: -
“For instance, they frequently offer customers a service called compounding, or personalised prescriptions. Since these types of medications aren’t sold commercially, Amazon isn’t likely to invest the time or effort into personalising your meds.”
"Another service that independent pharmacies have mastered is medication therapy management. Usually, this type of service is detailed and thorough”. “Don’t bother turning to Amazon – medication therapy management isn’t something their customer service line can handle. And your favourite mega-chain pharmacist is probably too busy and overwhelmed to do this type of review”.
Whilst the US environment is different from ours, it is still a worthwhile read. Particularly learning about what the smaller players are doing to compete. In this case, compounding, medication management services, personalised individual service, quick home deliveries for free, nursing homes and interestingly 60% of independent pharmacies have active online options. Above all personal customer service.
The main point here is you may not be able to compete directly with the big boys on their terms. So, you excel in the things they can’t. Concentrate on the customer and offer solutions that your competitors aren’t doing. Focus on the customer. You are not going to grow by doing the same things you have always done. You need to innovate, and the service to the customer, your connection and relationship to the customer, and the services you offer then becomes the focal point.
I have said it before, a simple way of looking at this is by using the analogy of Sell Serve Show. The three big areas you need to concentrate on. Sell meaning the products you sell. Serve meaning the services you offer. Show, the area currently lost in community pharmacy in Australia, is the educational element.
Ask yourself: -
- What is your pharmacy’s niche offerings?
- What can your pharmacy offer that others can’t?
- How do you personalise your offering?
You need to change and you need to grow. You cannot keep doing things the same way. As Charles Darwin said, “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Now is the time to start building a pharmacy of the future. You need to be ahead of everyone else.