We at RMS frequently focus on the things that independent and hospital outpatient pharmacies excel at when compared to the big chains and box stores:
– Better, personalized service
– Actual patient care
– Disease state management, and
– Sensible product recommendations
These and other areas underscore the important niche that more independently focused businesses fill in the communities they serve.
Despite all of this, big box stores still represent a large portion of our customer’s competition, and they actually do some things right. As much as I don’t like to think about what they’re doing right, to be more successful you can’t ignore these areas.
So what is it that makes a person fill their prescriptions at a box store when a local pharmacy that provides better service is just a couple of blocks away? Well, there are a number of reasons that people choose to shop where they do. Luckily, every one of these reasons can be overcome.
Convenience – It seems that convenience is probably the life blood of most big chain stores. One stop shopping, drive thru windows for easy prescription pickup, and extended hours. Seems perfect, right? At least until you realize that what’s masquerading as convenience is really causing undue stress due to poor service, long lines, and a lack of focus. Granted, it may seem impossible to try to compete with the convenience factor but there are things you can do to make your pharmacy look more appealing.
For one thing, if you don’t have a drive thru window, consider adding curbside delivery. Many customers have challenges coming into a store, so offering this next level of customer service can garner you a customer for life!
Maybe review transaction volume by time of day – are customers storming the doors first thing in the morning or rushing through right before close? If so, it might make sense to extend your hours so customers don’t shop elsewhere while you’re closed.
When it comes to product offerings, space limitations may present an obstacle for you. But careful monitoring of product movement will help you identify departments you might want to expand, and those you might want to reduce or even phase out.
Price – For most people, price, or the perception of price, plays a big role in where customers shop. And for independent businesses, it can be detrimental to try and compete in the arena of retail pricing. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Promote your private label products. These items reduce costs to your customers, while adding higher margins to your bottom line, resulting in a win/win. Here are some strategies on how to increase private label OTC sales.
Additionally, because you won’t be able to compete in every area, it’s doubly important to monitor product movement. Maybe you can’t compete when it comes to hair color and cosmetics, but maybe you can when it comes to supplements. Scaling back on items where your costs are higher, and increasing inventory on products where you can afford be more competitive can give your bottom line a significant boost.
Name recognition – There’s no way that an independent business can keep pace with the scale of advertising that allows box stores to become a household name. However, a good customer loyalty program can help immensely. Not only do customer loyalty programs offer customers another reason to frequent your pharmacy, the card in the wallet or tag on the keychain with your pharmacy name provides a constant reminder of a better option better products and services.
It’s important to embrace what your pharmacy does differently than the competition, but it’s also important not to ignore the things that they do right so you can stay relevant and competitive in your community.