Even before the pandemic, pharmacies were seeing a surge in popularity thanks to how easy they make it to access basic medical services. Covid-19 simply deepened this trend, as did national efforts to push vaccines through local community pharmacies by leveraging the relationship between pharmacists and their customers.
A recent survey by B&A found that 39% of respondents now consider pharmacists their “most important healthcare professional.” Over half said they were more likely to have consulted their community pharmacist than their GP during the height of the pandemic.
This hyperlocal quality has given community and independent pharmacies a real edge over their big chain competitors, but that alone isn’t enough. In a post-Covid world where patients have become accustomed to doing more online, it’s crucial that community pharmacies begin taking a digital, omnichannel approach to their businesses.
Having an online presence doesn’t make your business “omnichannel.” In fact, having multiple, disconnected channels can create different, potentially negative experiences for customers (not to mention a lot of extra work for the business itself!). The difference lies in the connections between the platforms that ensure information remains the same no matter where a customer enters their picture.
Breaking down “omnichannel”
Simply put, omnichannel is a holistic strategy to retail that focuses on giving customers a high quality, consistent experience no matter what channel they’re interacting with: a brick-and-mortar outlet, social media, a website or dedicated app, or messaging platforms like WhatsApp or Telegram.
Omnichannel strategies rely on a web of technologies to marry the best of both the online and offline worlds: the convenience of digital solutions, and the familiar intimacy of physical in-store experiences.
Omnichannel really works
An omnichannel approach helps independent pharmacies lean into their close connection to the community and set themselves apart from the pack, especially big chains with wider footprints.
In any competitive space like the dispensary business, great customer service can make all the difference. While omnichannel strategies are undoubtedly more resource intensive, research has shown that customers love omnichannel experiences because they are able to shift between their preferred platforms. You are not dictating where your customers can find you — instead, you’re empowering them to decide how and where they interact with your business, paving the way for positive experiences.
For instance, a customer browsing your stock on Instagram could place an order on your ecommerce site for delivery, but they could just as easily opt to pick it up in-store on the way to work the next day. Or maybe a patient can check your booking platform or website for available vaccine shots before making an appointment via WhatsApp.
An omnichannel strategy has the potential to bring a lot of benefits for your business by helping you retain 89% of your customers. And these aren’t just regular customers — omnichannel users are highly valuable because they are loyal, and likelier to tell their friends and family about their positive experiences.
5 ways an omnichannel strategy can transform how you connect with your community
1. Creating convenient, consistent access accurate information
Thanks to the internet, customers have become accustomed to accessing information online at any hour of the day through whatever platform they like best. With an omnichannel approach, customers would be able to access accurate and consistent information about your services at their own leisure.
2. Personalising experiences
When your technology enables users to pick up where they left off at any point of the business with little difficulty, you’re not just creating a seamless experience: you’re laying the groundwork to build a strong sense of loyalty within your customers, especially as “hyper personal” experiences become the norm rather than the exception.
With an omnichannel strategy, you would be able to connect siloed information about a patient or customer in a secure way in order to create personalised experience from beginning to end. This could be especially important in the context of a relationship between a pharmacist and patient, where access to a patient’s medical history is integral for providing long term, consistent healthcare.
For instance, if your system has a record of a patient’s previous medical history, this could be connected to a bigger database that could support your ability to advise them on what medications and services are available to them.
3. Expanding business opportunities
As pharmacists take on more and more of the responsibilities of a GP, there will be an increasing number of opportunities to expand your business into other areas such as telemedicine, vaccines, and basic health checks. Telemedicine in particular has been trumpeted as the future of healthcare by making specialised health advice more accessible to customers. Omnichannel technologies such as video communication and booking solutions would equip you with the capabilities to offer more services without too much extra labour and time.
4. Enabling one-to-one communication
The relationship between patients and medical practitioners relies heavily on direct, one-to-one communication. With omnichannel solutions, you can create many more opportunities to initiate these kinds of conversations with customers beyond the physical space, and reintroduce the “human touch” element that patients are always looking for.
Take this scenario for example: by linking up your website with a messaging platform, a vaccine-hesitant patient is able to connect with one of your pharmacists through WhatsApp and, after a few questions, make a decision to book an appointment via text.
5. Strengthening your cybersecurity
As online and offline become increasingly enmeshed, the risks of a cyberattack will only rise. The healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks because of the sensitive nature of personal medical information, and a lack of preparedness among smaller medical institutions.
Omnichannel’s holistic philosophy can also be applied to how we think about cybersecurity: it can’t be done in silos, and should not be treated as separate from the rest of the business. The most effective cybersecurity strategy views every solution as part of a whole, each piece connected and dependent on the other. In the long term, this will benefit your business because you are mitigating your risk of attack, while also cultivating your customers’ loyalty by demonstrating your commitment to their digital safety.
Stand out online and offline
HasHealth offers pharmacies the tools they need to take appointments online, send out pre-appointment health questionnaires, manage customer records, and more. Book a call to learn how we can help you deliver a better customer experience.