Managing your pharmacy for maximal impact

By Katherine Doric

Your customers’ ultimate reaction is what really counts. This represents the summation of their total in-store experience and will, in large part, determine whether they will come back and how frequently.

To ensure their experience is favourable involves planning (and ongoing review) of all elements of your retail offering. You need to know where you are and where you want to go. As US business analyst Peter Drucker said: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Identifying your financial objectives is fundamental. You need to know what you are aiming to achieve in both the back and the front of your pharmacy. Achieving financial objectives generally involves selling more. And selling more involves creating a better customer experience.

The elements of customer experience are: the way customers respond to the pharmacy itself (its ‘look and feel’) and how easy it is for your customer to navigate the store and find a product.

How do customers feel when they walk into your pharmacy?

This will determine a number of things: their willingness to buy, their willingness to browse, their openness to up-selling and cross-selling, and the amount of time they spend in your pharmacy.

Consider how your retail store layout is working for you. Make sure gondola ends and promotional displays are clearly visible, and that the layout is efficient in directing your customers to promotions or to high-value, high- sales categories. Are there ‘dead’ zones in your store? What can you do to change them?

The atmosphere and ambience of your pharmacy are very important, particularly in what they communicate to your customers. They should say: ‘I’m thinking about your comfort and convenience’. Air-conditioning can improve customer comfort. Ensure your store is well lit and place spotlights strategically to highlight important categories or products. Clear, attractive signage can direct customers to high-traffic categories. Make sure there are ‘big-enough’ mirrors near colour cosmetics, or where hats and sunglasses are sold. Seating for customers who are waiting on scripts is a good idea. Window displays should be regularly updated.

If you’re part of a retail brand, the benefit is that the customer has a sense of who you are. Consider whether your store is aligned with the brand and the brand values. Having a full complement of core-range products and offering pricing and promotions according to the brand strategy will maximise the benefits of being with that brand.

Giving the customers what they want

Range the right products and continuously assess your product assortment. Make sure the products you have on shelf are relevant to the population surrounding your store. Consider what brands and SKUs are in high demand and which are not, and make time to review and rationalise your assortment to make way for better-selling or new lines.

Planograms use data and information, and are designed to maximise sales by placing the high-selling, high-margin products in the best possible positions to attract customers. If you are part of a pharmacy brand, you should have access to store and category planograms. If not, advice is readily available.

Suppliers are an invaluable asset, particularly in assisting with merchandising their products in your store. ‘Category captains’ can advise on planograms and can help you to create a category or brand ‘story’ that heightens product appeal.

Think about merchandising themes to tell a product story – the season, special occasions, etc – such as promoting fragrances and cosmetics on Valentine’s Day or doing a one- off flower display or gift package of flowers, chocolate and a fragrance. Do a deal with the local florist.

Stock on shelf and efficient replenishment strategies are key. Make sure your shelves look voluminous and inviting. Nothing looks worse to a customer than empty or sparse shelves. And you can’t sell fresh air!

Are the products themselves in good condition? They need to be clean, well packaged and within their use-by date. Continuous stock rotation is an important shelf-maintenance activity. Make sure product pricing is easy to see. Use colour-coded shelf tickets to indicate products on promotion and/ or in catalogue, or to identify new products or deleted lines.

The customer experience

Does your customer leave your pharmacy feeling satis ed, uplifted, happy, neutral, or – worse – annoyed?

There are many opportunities to enhance the customer experience in pharmacy and to in influence customer decision-making in store. Think about customer behaviour and how customers make decisions when buying specific categories. The customer is buying a product benefit, but they can be influenced by a value perception of the product or a requirement for quality and premium positioning.

Make sure pharmacy staff are friendly and amenable and willing to be of help. Many customers are making a planned visit to the pharmacy to ll a script. Always look for an opportunity to educate the customer and offer a companion sell, such as a probiotic with an antibiotic. Ensure staff are also knowledgeable about key categories and products to be of maximal assistance to customers.

What about the appearance of staff? Does everyone look clean and professional? Is the white coat of the pharmacist actually white – or is it a strange, off-grey colour? Are staff friendly and approachable? Do they acknowledge and welcome customers?

Conclusion

Managing your store space for maximal impact involves thinking about and taking action on all aspects of the customer experience – how customers feel when they walk into your pharmacy; the ease with which they achieve what they came into the store to do; and their experience of both.

How your customer feels on leaving the store is of crucial importance in determining if, and when, they will return.

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