The Role of COVID-19 in the Pharmacy Sector
Covid-19 disrupted the world economy and the way people did business. Along with healthcare, retail pharmacies too were put to test during this difficult period and played a big role in keeping the healthcare system in motion when it was extremely burdened amidst the pandemic. In fact, CVS labeled 2021 as the Year of the Pharmacist and the report predicts that pharmacists will continue to be the most frequent health care touchpoint in the coming year after their major role in the COVID-19 pandemic.
While pharmacies were still just testing the online markets, with the pandemic accelerating eCommerce demand, a lot of them had to take the plunge into these untested waters in the last year and a half. Digital retail pharmacies quickly gained momentum as many countries mandated curfews and the fear of the virus kept people confined to their homes – coaxing them to turn to eCommerce to fulfill their prescription drug requirements. This is evident from the number of new players like Capsule and Medley Pharmacy raising massive investment and seasoned eCommerce giants like Amazon entering the digital pharmacy market in the last couple of years.
Emerging Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry
As the digital landscape keeps evolving, a digital transformation in the retail pharma and healthcare sector is already underway. During the peak weeks of the pandemic (mid-March), e-pharmacies sales in the Czech Republic increased by more than 100% as compared to last year’s sales in the same period. Similar growth was observed in Slovakia and could be seen as an indicator for upward growth trajectory and acceptance of digital pharmacies for other countries as well. Below are some of the trends that are picking up in the pharmacy industry:
People are turning to pharmacies for their health problems
A recent CVS report observed that people have become more open to sharing their concerns with pharmacists and taking their medical opinions on a lot of health issues. The report also predicts that pharmacists will be the most frequented touchpoint for people and will continue to play a major role in the healthcare ecosystem. This makes it crucial for the pharmacy sector to evolve along with the expectations of today’s netizens and be prepared to serve them in the best possible way.
Patients expect better experiences from the pharma industry
Today’s patients, like any customers, are highly demanding and like in every other experience, expect better services from the pharma sector as well. They rely heavily on online content for ailments and health related queries and turn to pharmacy and healthcare sectors for the same. For digital pharmacies, where the competition is already intensifying, this is a great opportunity to reach patients with high quality content and services. They need to offer quick and reliable support through accurate information, fast delivery, and good customer service to better convert today’s online information seekers and digital customers.
Retail pharmacies are getting future-ready with omnichannel
Pharmacies can no longer rely on brick and mortar presence alone. As retail goes digital, pharmacies need to step up as well and pivot to a digital or an omni channel presence to cater to the evolving customer needs and expand their reach. With seamless and easy options to start your online journey with platforms like Shopify or BigCommerce and with multiple tools to improve distribution and merge online and in-store inventory, retail pharmacies need to think beyond offline presence and step into the ‘new-age’ retail by adopting digital tools and up and coming retail technologies.
The Key Role of Data Analytics in the Digital Pharmacy Sector
As discussed earlier in this article, digital pharmacies are picking up fast and to thrive in the online retail sector, they need to leverage data to their advantage. They need to be competitive and offer the best prices, assortment, content, and experience to their target audience to be able to thrive in the new-normal.
Here are 5 ways digital pharma companies can leverage advanced data analytics to drive innovation and profitability in the new-normal retail:
Match exact and similar products in real-time
Patients, while buying their medicines online, have vast information at their disposal and are bound to use it to get better deals for the medicine they are looking for. In the age of comparison shopping, you cannot dictate prices based on intuition or a hunch. You need to have visibility into your competitor price movements, track their pricing strategy, and take advantage of the gaps left by them. With machine learning powered product matching and price monitoring tools, you can identify and compare against exact and similar products sold by your competitors with 99% accuracy. You can make accurate pricing decisions based on current and historical pricing analyses of competitive products.
Read more at : How to Classify, Match Product With Machine Learning
Manage inventory and assortments better
Although pricing forms the foundation for any successful business, to be able to convert shoppers you also need to display the right assortments at the right time. You need to forecast demand to be able to maintain optimum inventory levels and not run out of stock or over stock any products. And for this you need data. From consumer data, historical data, to competitor data, the more insights you get into the market and the demand, the better you can plan your assortments and product availability based on data analysis.
Track and compare prices at basket level and zip code level
When you are selling OTT and prescription medicines and consumer goods online, the prices for these change depending on the taxes and charges every region levy on these items. WIth a smart pricing solution, you will be able to compare competitor prices at a basket level. To plan for assortments better, you can also do zip code level tracking to analyze what products your competitors offer in a certain region and which products you need to stock up on. E.g., in a more affluent area, a certain expensive brand of drug might be more popular whereas in a more low income area, cheaper, generic alternatives of the medicine might be more in demand.
Offer competitive prices
A smart retail analytics solution goes beyond tracking competitor prices for you. It helps you draw insights from the available data and suggests calculated recommendations and smart prices that will convert shoppers and improve product level margins. It tells you when to reduce prices and when to increase them. It enables you to improve your margins while increasing your conversion rate by optimizing prices at the right time. You don’t have to resort to deep discounts in order to offer competitive prices. You instead need to leverage a rule-based dynamic pricing strategy that helps you optimize prices in real-time.
Create better consumer experiences
Patients today are informed and go the extra mile to better understand their ailments and treatment options. According to a survey, over 85% of patients said they were confident in taking responsibility for their health and knew how to access online resources to help them with it. While catering to such informed patients, pharmacies need accurate data to offer better, more personalized experiences and provide quality information.
Improve online visibility
If patients cannot find your products easily online, chances are they will turn to your competitors.
Studies suggest that more than 80% of consumers don’t click past the first page of search results. Your product visibility and search result rankings hence become crucial to getting found by your customers and improving your conversion rate. With advanced digital shelf analytics, you can track your online performance, improve your content and optimize for ranking keywords, enrich your listing with the right images and attributes, and improve your digital shelf rankings.
Final Words: The Digital Pharma Future is Bright
Digital transformation has swept the retail sector and retail pharmacies are no exception. With new players entering the market and existing eCommerce giants branching into digital pharma, the future of e-pharmacies looks promising, as long as pharmacies arm themselves with the right technology. In the race to win customers in the post-pandemic new-normal, data and analytics will play key roles in driving market share, customer experience, and profitability.
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