In Washington State, a few days of late August rain are not necessarily a sign of the coming fall. For native Washingtonians that are immune to the effects of gray skies, a bit of summer rain is just a welcome break from watering the lawn. So despite the rainy week, I harbored no intentions to pull out the heavier blankets or dig my rain boots out of the back of the closet. That is, until this morning, when I arrived in the parking lot at the RMS office.
So what changed from the moment I opened my door to a damp summer day to the moment I am suddenly taking stock of everything I need to do for the impending rainy season? Well it wasn’t the sign outside Starbucks touting the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and it wasn’t the emails from all my favorite retailers advertising cold weather layers. (It’s Washington after all) No, what made my brain suddenly shift gears was the big red banner on the façade of a store across the street. “Get your Flu Shot Today”.
Now I talk with pharmacies every day, and somehow I managed to forget that cold and flu season is suddenly upon us, so I’m guessing that most consumers are as unprepared as I am for this cold and flu season. So In preparation for my trip to the pharmacy to stock up and get vaccinated, I went searching online for the best ways to stay healthy this season. Pretty much anywhere I looked had the same basic tips for avoiding the flue. But in any store I go to, I’ll probably have to go to 3 different aisles to find everything I need. So here’s my advice to pharmacies for this cold and flu season… Make it easy. Crazy-Easy for customers to obtain the health advice and wellness products that they need.
1) Educate– Every website I looked at while trying to figure out how to avoid the flu this year had the same number one tip. Get a flu shot. But even with the benefits of getting a flu shot being pushed from every angle, a majority of Americans don’t get a flu shot. According to this article, compliance among adults is only about 35%. Promote your flu shot hours, provide documentation of the benefits or just talk to people about why they aren’t getting vaccinated.
2) Bundle– No matter how much you educate, not everyone will get that flu shot. And even those that do still need to be prepared for other viruses that run rampant during the fall and winter months. So put together baskets with everything a patient needs to try and stay healthy. Hand sanitizer, vitamins, tissue, even a cookbook on healthy eating. Health and Wellness are big topics with lots of sales opportunities. Roll a flu shot in and you have an easy, highly marketable Cold and Flu Season Wellness Package. *Hint: Your pharmacy POS system can bundle all the separate items together into a basket so that only one item has to be entered for all of the different components to be removed from inventory*
3) Merchandise- No matter how well you prepare your customers, some of them are going to get sick this season. A cold and flu end cap will make it easy for patients to get everything they need without really having to think about it. After all, the last thing I want to do with a sore throat and runny nose is try to remember what I need and where to find it. You’ll also drive impulse purchases this way as customers will be more likely to try new remedies. If you have enough floor space you could have a separate end cap for prevention products as well as children’s medicine.
4) Recommend- There are so many different products to choose from these days. Which medication will alleviate my symptoms but not make me drowsy? What vitamins or supplements can I take with this prescription? Help your patients choose the right OTC medication. They’ll associate a good outcome and satisfaction with the product with your store. They feel better and you earn their repeat business. It’s win/win!
5) Incentivize- Getting a flu shot and buying hand sanitizer isn’t exactly on the top of everyone’s to do list but you can make it a little more palatable with some incentives for your loyalty customers or a unique BOGO promotion. Have a loyalty program promotion day where members get double points for wellness products or cold medications. Or set up promotion where buying a full size hand sanitizer or box of Kleenex gets you a free travel size.
Big box pharmacies may be able to give flu shots, but they are not likely to personalize the shopping experience. I hope some of these tips will help you make the most out of this season and lead to happier healthier customers. If you decide to implement any of these ideas, I would love to hear how they work out for you.
Karen Deckard came to RMS with a background in retail and customer service. Karen was initially brought on board as a Sales Assistant and managed IIAS certifications for RMS’s pharmacy POS customers. Today, Karen woks as a Customer Success Manager, striving to provide independent and institutional pharmacies with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today’s competitive pharmacy market.