Retail pharmacy is a highly specialized discipline that’s significantly different from exclusively prescription-focused operations. Big pharmacy chains have spent millions perfecting methods, practices, and technologies that allow them to attract new consumers, operate efficiently, and create a very positive consumer experience. And because today’s retail operations are expected to center on the consumer experience, most retailers are leaning on mobile technology to get the job done.
Smartphone usage is a driving force behind dramatic changes in the retailer-consumer relationship, but it is far from the only change. To the retailer, cultural shifts expose a population of consumers with a high degree of price sensitivity and a low degree of brand loyalty. Bring in the notion of “connected retail.” The connected retail concept is universally embraced across the retail spectrum. But what is it exactly, and how does it apply to the retail pharmacy space?
Today’s consumers want a seamless shopping experience across all the places they visit — online, on their mobile devices, on social media, and in the aisles. Connected retail does just that. It links the consumer’s shopping experiences when and wherever they shop. The biggest players in retail pharmacy sing praises of connected retail during each quarterly earnings call. At Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co., the company celebrates the fact that “mobile technology is an integral part of its strategy for driving more traffic into its 8,300 stores nationwide.”
Increasingly, independent retail pharmacies are investing time and resources toward connected retail. Here’s one business case example:
Going Mobile: One Quick Glance to Buy or Pass It By
Thompson Pharmacy is located in Altoona, Pa. With multiple locations, a large retail inventory, and employees to manage, it was difficult in the past for the company to tend to complex consumer needs.
Now William Thompson, owner of Thompson Pharmacy, can keep an eye on the business without having to be in the store, all from his smartphone. In one case, while Thompson was away from the store, a potential consumer asked him if he carried a certain product. He looked it up on his smartphone and saw they had the product in stock. He was able to provide immediate answers for the consumer — leading to a sale.
The Thompson Pharmacy team also uses smartphones. They can check a price on smartphones without having to leave consumers in the aisle. It has made a great impression on their consumers.
In addition to consumer benefits, Thompson Pharmacy has improved business performance through the use of mobile technology. Having inventory, cost, and pricing information in the palm of staff members’ hands has been instrumental in bringing this about. The Thompson Pharmacy team can make smarter buying and pricing choices that fine-tune margins — all while better connecting to their consumers.
Connected Retail: Getting Started
The Walgreen research referenced earlier presents one path to connected retail. Each pharmacy retailer begins a consumer experience improvement process with a goal in mind. And each strategy is built with measurable goals — not only in terms of increased sales.
Build a digital presence that includes mobile devices, the place where the vast majority of next-generation consumers live, work, and play.
Establish an online presence through the social media sites most likely to be used by consumers. Make it fun, mix up the content, and create buzz.
Establish measurable goals In addition to sales, it’s important to track web traffic and conversion rates.
Generate consumer engagement through a loyalty program — by pushing out coupons through Facebook or Twitter and tracking individual consumer behavior.
Create buzz — both online and in stores. Retailers can use all the media mentioned above — social, mobile, and online — to drive foot traffic.
Continually evaluate what your consumers are doing online, and how they want to be informed.
Epicor is a technology and software solutions partner for more than 20,000 consumers in more than 150 countries. For more information, please visit www.epicor.com. CT