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Time to review front-end strategies?

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Fresh approaches in health, beauty, wellness can help offset Rx pressures

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The front end of your stores holds great potential, and you have strategies in place to optimize those sales. But the industry shifts and changes every year.

So it might be time to review those front-end strategies to ensure you are making the most of everything available to help improve the income generated in that profitable section of the drug store. With ever-mounting pressures on prescription margins and a growing propensity for shoppers to self-select, timing is of the essence.

Assuming your store layouts encourage pharmacy customers to go through the health, beauty and wellness (HBW) departments to reach the pharmacy counter, attracting their attention so they stop and look around can be a challenge. Certainly there are destination items that some customers come to the store specifically to pick up and, in those cases, the art of cross-merchandising should encourage them to look beyond the product they set out to buy.

For those customers who may not have a particular item they are seeking, but rather wander the aisles as they wait for their prescription to be filled, there are materials and methods at your disposal to help encourage impulse sales.

Manufacturers with a healthy promotional budget may provide in-store materials to drive revenue for their brand. Examples include counter displays, full-standing displays, and any number of at-shelf signs or promotional materials. Thoughtfully placing displays in high-traffic paths is a sure way to gain attention, as is any display placed at checkout counters.

Promoting at shelf can be trickier, but it also has grown more sophisticated in the last several years. Coupons can be dispensed at shelf, as well as rebate offers and educational materials. There’s also technology available to capitalize on buyers’ interest when they are near and in the store.

At-shelf educational materials are particularly beneficial, especially when you bring in a new-to-market or new-to-your-assortment item. Since pharmacists and staff aren’t always available to help customers in the aisles, having easily accessible, consumer-friendly information available at the point of selection can have significant influence on sales.

Ensuring staff is well informed so they can best assist customers looking for HBW products is another proven practice. Making staff aware of new products and promotions allows them to pass that valuable information on to shoppers who are looking for solutions. Ensure your processes for imparting this information to store personnel is effective and make the necessary tweaks to empower them to lead customers to the newest and/or most innovative options available.

cdr-filler-opinion-750Condition-themed end-caps can prove incredibly helpful to shoppers. These cross-category displays can serve as “one-stop” shops for anyone faced with the particular ailment. Highlighting these solution centers creates profitable market baskets. Use signage, floor decals that lead to the end-caps and, of course, make sure your store associates are knowledgeable about the various displays and the conditions they address.

Utilizing omnichannel and marketing to further the in-store, at-shelf experience is necessary. Engaging customers while they are interacting with you online with offers that can be used in-store is a win-win. Use your big data to customize promotions and content pushed directly to shoppers via email or other platforms. Whether consumers are interacting with your store via social media, your website or other sites, keep branding and messaging consistent and keep the “dialogue” going to keep them engaged and strengthen awareness.

Beacon technology, which works with your store’s mobile app, is another way to engage shoppers and push offers to them when they are in the vicinity of your store or in front of the shelf, depending on how sophisticated you choose to be. Google introduced Nearby in 2016, a program that uses Google Play to send alerts to smartphone users. With Nearby, consumers don’t have to download your particular app in order for you to engage with them when they are close to your store. In both cases you can capitalize on capturing the shopper’s attention and influence purchases at the most opportune time.

While digital signs have become popular in other retail formats, they haven’t been put to use in drug stores to any great extent. This could be the next step in improving the in-store experience for your customers. In the scenario where all store personnel are busy assisting other shoppers, an informative interaction between the customer and a digital sign can enhance the shopping experience. It also could occupy the customer just long enough until an associate can make their way over to offer personal assistance.

Change is key. Updating end-caps and displays often is an important practice. Being creative with end-caps and implementing the newest, most innovative at-shelf materials can bolster customer interest. Offering value, whether in the form of coupons or easily accessible information, is essential. Use the available tools and employ innovative solutions to convert those shoppers when they are there in front of your shelves.

Megan Moyer is an industry researcher and writer with Hamacher Resource Group Inc., a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail.


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