How independent pharmacies can survive and thrive in 2021
Updated: Jan 5
Lockdown-related pressures in 2020 have accelerated the need for change in most pharmacies.
The rise of the discount chains and online pharmacies makes it imperative for pharmacies to start 2021 with a new plan for adapting to these competitive pressures.
Business change doesn’t necessarily require a large financial investment – but is does require new ways of working.
This starts with:
1. New thinking - visualising the future state of your business
2. Starting small - with one person starting one new behaviour
3. Repeating what works - until it becomes a habit
The most successful pharmacies I work with have built a motivated team with complementary skills covering sales, service, systems and planning. The best-practices in each area are not rocket science – but they do require consistency and focus.
In the article below I list the four key areas for your team to focus on to ensure your pharmacy’s future success. Share this article with your staff and ask them to help you to identify the best person on your team for each of these initiatives.
Better still, get in touch with me to discuss how one of our business coaches can work with you one-on-one throughout the year to help with a personalised change programme for your pharmacy.
4 key areas to transform your pharmacy in 2021
1. Add-on sales
2. Instore services
3. Minor ailments
4. Digital communications
1. Make more add-on sales
Successful add-on sales in pharmacy improve customer satisfaction by recommending the best solution for your customers. Some are easy and can be done with most customers – but a concerted effort is needed to start these conversations during a busy transaction.
Pick one or two of the suggestions below and strive to add-on these products.
Antibiotic support probiotics with every script for antibiotics
Flora Restore probiotics with every UTI or thrush sale or script
Medicine measures or syringes with every children’s pain relief liquid or cough liquid
Vitamin C with every Cold & Flu treatment – have chewable samples or single sachets on the counter
Saline rinse with every blocked nose or allergy sale
Step 1. Put the add-on product(s) on the counter near the till
Step 2. Keep a tick-chart at the counter to record each successful add-on via a counter tick-chart
Step 3. Aim for 20 add-on sales and shout morning tea when this is met
2. Provide Services
Community pharmacies’ future will increasingly revolve around easy, professional in-store services as a point-of-difference to attract more loyal customers.
Passport and ID photos
Wound dressings and bandages
Beauty services e.g. brows, nails, ball makeup
Step 1. Ensure you have all the necessary training and equipment set up for easy access
Step 2. Organise professional instore signage
Step 3. List the service(s) and pricing online
Step 4. Arrange for online bookings in an electronic calendar app e.g. Timely
3. Be a “Minor Ailments” expert
Just like providing services, differentiating your pharmacy from discounters depends upon the advice customers receive when they are in your pharmacy. If your OTC medicines can only be self-selected with no staff input, your customers might as well shop at the supermarket or online.
Here is a list of the “minor ailments” comprising the majority of customers’ needs:
Hayfever, Eye Allergies, Skin Allergies
Baby & Child
Pain & Fever, Teething Pain, Colic, Nappy Rash, Baby Feeding, Probiotics, Headlice, Worms
Cold & Flu
Prevention, Sore Throat, Congestion, Coughs, Children’s Coughs
Probiotics, Indigestion, IBS, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Haemorrhoids, Nausea, Travel
Red Eyes, Dry Eyes, Eye Infections,
Skin Infections, Wound Care, Supports
Fungal Nail Infections, Athlete's Foot, Corns & Warts
Omega 3 Oil, Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure
Ear Wax, Thermometers, Dosage Aids, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Quit Smoking, Incontinence, Weight Management
Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs, Probiotics
Joints & Muscles
Joint Nutrition, Muscle Pain, Stress and Tension, Cramps, Anti-inflammatories
Nose & Sinus
Runny Nose & Congestion, Blocked Nose & Sinus, Snoring
Mouth Ulcers, Oral Thrush, Dry Mouth
Headache, Migraine, Strong Pain Relief
Cold Sores, Body Wash, Dry Skin, Chafing, Eczema & Psoriasis, Inflamed Skin, Insect Bites, Skin Repair, Burns, Blisters, Fungal Infections, Scabies, Acne, Scalp Conditions, Sun Protection
Sleep & Stress
Sleep, Stress, Mood, Energy
Urinary Tract Infections, Iron, Vaginal Thrush, Pregnancy, Period Pain
Step 1: Identify the best staff member(s) to refer customers to for each category e.g. “I’ll get Jenny - she’s our Skin Care expert”
Step 2: Prepare an OTC Formulary* listing the recommended product(s) for each condition
Step 3: Ensure the recommended products are clearly, professionally merchandised. Contact me for a quote to prepare personalised planograms for your pharmacy,
Step 4: Promote your advice for these conditions regularly online (get in touch for advice on how to use Facebook, email and your website for best results)
4. Improve communication
Great communication is key for any business.
Pharmacies have been slow to adopt more modern digital communications compared to many other sectors. Online tools are many people’s preferred way to get information.
If you’ve got writing, organizing or marketing skills you could manage communications for some of these channels in your pharmacy.
Text reminders for script customers
Live Chat on your website or Facebook Messenger for customers’ questions
Facebook / Instagram - daily posts to gain followers
Blog articles – at least monthly
Customer Club Newsletter – Email or direct mail campaigns announcing special events / offers
Staff Newsletter - shared via Google Docs so everyone can access it
Dispensary newsletter – updates and changes
Doctor's Newsletter – regular updates for your local prescribers
Step 1: Identify your current digital tools / platforms
Step 2: Ask software / marketing experts to help you set up the templates, so they are easy to update and use
Step 3: Start small. Tackle one initiative at a time and ensure you can allocate regular hours to it so it becomes permanent
Change is hard, but if you can build a team that is open to change you will stand out as a leading pharmacy because of your ability to engage with your customers and satisfy their needs.
Aim for progress, not perfection
...and share this message regularly with any critics you encounter.
*You can join our group of 50 independent pharmacies who are growing their businesses using my data-driven OTC Formulary for successful buying, merchandising and marketing.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how we can support your pharmacy with:
a personal business coach
an OTC formulary
digital marketing tools