What Community Pharmacies can do that Big Box Discounters won't


In recent weeks I have noticed that my inbox is being filled with headlines that include the words CHEMIST WAREHOUSE and AMAZON. I can (once again) sense discomfort within the pharmacy industry. There are always conversations both negative and positive about the future of community pharmacy. At Peak Strategies we argue the later, the positive. Of course, we know there are some major hurdles to overcome, however we believe there is a need for community pharmacy.

To support this statement, today we will share some case studies from our own family and friends. The case studies include both positive and negative feedback. However, we believe that they demonstrate opportunities that community pharmacies can offer that a big box discounter won't.

Case Study 1:

A customer went to a pharmacy as they were needing a script to be filled. They had previously been to this pharmacy. The pharmacist noticed the customer was filling a script with a lower dosage than her previous visit. So, the pharmacist asked about the customer goal’s in the future for this medication. The customer explained her current health issues and plans, which included weaning herself off the medication.

With this information the pharmacist wrote down alternatives to the medication and other various options. The customer was so pleased with this service that she left her script on file. The customer said “This is the first time a pharmacist has really shown interest in my health journey. I have been filling this script for over five years and the only question I remember being asked is, have you had this medication before?”

Case Study 2:

This young customer last year was diagnosed with some serious health conditions. As a result, their specialist prescribed them with various medication. This customer went from not having to take any medication to filling four scripts every three months. We asked if they have received much support from pharmacists and their responses was rather disappointing. They had not been loyal to any pharmacy as they didn’t see the point. This is because they believe that the pharmacist’s role in their health journey was merely to fill the scripts.

We also asked if they could recall the experiences they’ve had some far with pharmacies. They explained that pharmacists had been asking if they were aware of the side effects of their medication. However, no one had offered MedsCheck or provided any further explanation. In fact, when we chatted about MedsChecks and the My Health Record with them- this was the first they heard about either.

Case Study 3:

This elderly customer recently changed pharmacies. They take a lot of different medication which is also constantly changing. The reason for swapping pharmacies was due to the professionalism, friendliness and the overall service at the second pharmacy.

Because of the quantity of medication and how often they’re prescribed something new, they required a tailored service. The initial pharmacy they were visited didn’t provide enough information and assistance in managing their scripts. Therefore, they tried an another local pharmacy. At this pharmacy they received not only exceptional support but were introduced to a free delivery service. This genuinely helped this customer as it was extremely convenient. They now frequent this pharmacy for all their health needs and including their partner's.

 Case Study 4:

This customer is a young mother and she is regularly grabbing medication from her local pharmacy. She is loyal to a specific community pharmacy due to the customer service she receives. This pharmacy always asks how she is getting on with the medication and ask if it’s working. They also offer alternatives and other complimentary options. Furthermore, they share research about certain products. Being a mum, she relies on the local pharmacy to assist with her family’s needs. She trusts the information she receives and believes that the pharmacy is a huge support for her family.

How is this an opportunity for Community Pharmacy?

Big box discounter’s marketing heavily focuses on one thing and one thing alone- price. They position themselves as discounted and great value for money. This is a clever strategy and very hard to compete with (unless you want to lower all your retail price points). People walk into those pharmacies and are there for the cheap goods, not for a great service. Not one of these customers were interested in discount or price; they shared a common interest, assistance from a health professional.

What does customers expect from your pharmacy?

A pharmacy is a part of the local community and their goal is to assist people with their health needs. Therefore, pharmacies should create an experience that is personalised for the customer. If you do this right, it will create opportunities for your pharmacy in the future. The case studies above provided different perspectives about community pharmacy. However, they all identified that customers can benefit in building a strong relationship with a pharmacist.   

The example in case study one shows that the pharmacist built a relationship with a customer from just communicating. They asked a couple of questions then listened.  The lady in the case study above was so impressed with the service, that she left her script at that Pharmacy. The pharmacist had a two-minute conversation which has resulted with at least four more script refills. The customer has committed to that pharmacy for over five months.

In case study two, this customer is currently learning how to deal with a health condition and taking a serious amount of medication. They are at the beginning of their journey and need support. This is what pharmacy should be all about- helping the community with all their health needs. This customer doesn’t realise the benefit a pharmacist would be for their health. Once they build a strong relationship with a pharmacist it would be interesting to hear their feedback again.

Both case studies three and four demonstrated the power of building a relationship with your customers. The customers felt they were being listened to and provided a service tailored to their personal circumstances. This once again is a strategy different to those of a big box discounter, rather than thinking you need to have a $1 cosmetics bin by your cashier, think about how to add value.

Understand what your customers need from you as a health destination. Are you in an ageing suburb? Like case study three, maybe free home delivery service would benefit your elderly customers who find it difficult to make it your pharmacy often. Furthermore, a medication review service might be a great way to ensure your customers understand what medication they are taking and why. Alternatively, if your local area has a high population of young families, you could focus on baby health. This can include services as a baby nurse and pregnancy information nights. Community Pharmacy can create tailored services to their customers, this is something big box discounters sometimes cannot.

So, now is the time to ask yourself the question- why would customers visit your pharmacy instead of another?

Big box discounters will not go away, and more players will hit the market. So, rather than having a reactive approach start being proactive. Reach out to customers and ask for feedback, take the time to understand what your customers want and why. Once you have identified opportunities you need to create a plan of attack. Did you know at Peak Strategies we offer mentoring services to assist with such projects? We have both a wealth experience in pharmacy, accounting and marketing. These skills will help guide you in creating a strategy for your pharmacy which is relevant to your customers, affordable and ready for promotion.

- Written by Sarah Rendell, Client Communications Manager