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It’s time for retail pharmacy to move beyond the transaction

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Anne Marie Stephen

The future of retail pharmacy is driven by your customers (patients/shoppers/consumers). Consumers have moved into the digital age — which is not news. It is up to you to determine how you will service their evolved expectations. They engage with their social communities online, complete tasks on the go and transact all via their mobile devices. What that means for retail pharmacy is: Welcome to the club … you too have been disrupted.

It should be noted that I am using patient, shopper, consumer and customer somewhat interchangeably throughout this piece. Why? Good question. The answer: The world has become more connected and fluid across digital, physical experiences enabled by technology. Consumers are the same person carrying their experiences and expectations across all aspects of their daily lives with them into all of these interactions, including retail pharmacy. All industries are being disrupted, driven by consumers’ new level of expectation around experiences with how they engage and transact with your brand.

Here are three areas in which retail pharmacy can begin its transformation beyond the transaction to meet this new level of consumer expectation.

Know your brand, know your customer

Exclusively transactional relationships are quickly being usurped by players in the digital world. It’s not enough to provide products to our customers, it’s the basic point of entry for today’s consumer. How you differentiate your offering beyond transaction is the difference maker for today’s consumer. In a sea of options, now more than ever a brand needs to pinpoint what it represents. You need to speak directly to that consumer. Being everything to everybody is not an effective strategy for generating a customer connection that results in transactions. It’s time to double down on your brand and speak to your specific customer.

Know your role in health care and solve customer challenges

Know your role in the health care ecosystem to move beyond the transaction. Understand the complete picture of the patient experience and how retail pharmacy fits into overall health care for your customers. Having a holistic view of your customer provides insight into how you can engage your customers productively to drive engagement and transactions.

Think of your business as a contestant on “Shark Tank.” The sharks consistently ask the entrepreneurs who are offering a product, “What problem does this solve?” In the same way, you can think through the challenges and identify the pain points patients may be encountering and how you can bring efficiency and ease.

The recent acquisition of PillPack by Amazon.com is a great example of solving customer challenges. PillPack’s slogan is “Pharmacy Simplified,” and its advertising makes it clear that it is offering a simple solution to existing customer challenges:

• Your presorted pill packs are customized, to direct when and how to administer medications.

• Save the time you would have stood on line at the pharmacy counter.

• Have your prescriptions delivered directly to your doorstep.

Health care insurance is another category that is being disrupted. Oscar Health Insurance offers straightforward insurance plans with only three service level and pricing options. Customers answer a few questions with the Oscar associate guiding the call, and in under 10 minutes the customer has insurance. Unlike what has typically been a difficult and often unpleasant, time-consuming, confusing experience to purchase insurance, Oscar is such an easy, frictionless and friendly experience that it is a total surprise and delight. Beyond the initial transaction, Oscar offers its customers inclusive service from assisting with locating doctors who accept their insurance down to even scheduling the appointment. Of course, it offers secure patient communications through its website.

Use technology to enable
customer experience

It’s important to first know your brand and your customer and identify your goals and objectives to address customer challenges. Once you have clearly done that, you can find the right solutions that will enable the experience you want to deliver. Technology is an enabler of experiences — not the end goal. It is always important to ensure that whatever solutions are being adopted fit into the overall strategy for achieving your business and customer objectives.

One Medical is a great example of how to use digital technology to support the patient experience in the physical world. One Medical uses digital technology to extend patient care beyond the office setting. It has embraced digital patient communication via a closed network both online and in its app for setting appointments, sharing lab results, direct communication with caregivers in an email network and even support via telemedicine. It is a responsive, fluid communication between patients and medical providers, making it easy for both parties to engage easily by adapting the health care experience to the digital, fluid nature of today’s consumer.

Anne Marie Stephen is chief executive officer of Kwolia and the founder of Retail Innovation Lounge. She can be contacted at annemarie@kwoila.com.


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