Does my pharmacy need a website?

There is an increasing need for pharmacies to build an online presence, with a particular focus on ensuring a superior mobile experience, says Shane Bartle, CEO of ecommerce company Storbie.

If pharmacies do not have an adequate online presence, they could be missing out on sales through their physical store.

“People think an online store is just another channel to make money. Don’t think of it that way – think of it as much more integrated to the buying habits of your customers.”

A survey found 69% of smartphone owners would use their device for shopping while on holiday, including 62% using their phone to find store locations and 50% getting product information, he says.

Bartle was a speaker at the 2015 Pharmacy Business Network (PBN) and will be speaking at PBN again in 2017, drawing on his expertise and knowledge in the field of ecommerce and multi-channel retail to inform pharmacy owners and managers as to the importance of having an online presence.

His insights are informed by what is happening in the consumer health market, looking at how it is changing and how pharmacies can adapt in order to attract and retain the modern consumer.

The basics of having a website: More than just online sales

Bartle points out that many consumers won’t even consider transacting with a company that doesn’t have a strong online presence to go with their physical store presence.

“A website should serve as a company’s central hub in today’s modern marketing world. A 2013 Accenture study shows that 89% of consumers want businesses to offer multi-channel retailing”.

Bartle outlines some key reasons for pharmacies to be visible online. “For many businesses, online sales may only account for up to 10% of sales, but online plus web-influenced offline sales now make up over 50% of all sales. This is especially important for pharmacies, as consumers are increasingly searching for health information online before going in store to purchase”.

“It may be a simple search on a mobile device to find out the location of the nearest pharmacy and their opening hours. By registering with the free Google My Business tool, pharmacies can make sure their information shows in search results”.

“However, there is also reason to provide much more content online, in order to be seen as the experts in consumer health, and keep customers coming back”.

“If pharmacies get really smart about building their online presence and online marketing activities, it will be a no-brainer for consumers to continue making habitual purchases with them, with the potential of up-selling with one-off items like the gifts and beauty products that pharmacies often stock”.

Pharmacies can take advantage of the trend for people to self-diagnose online, by providing informative content about common conditions, he says.

“People will read the information and see your branding, and start to associate your pharmacy with this knowledge. It’s quite a cheap way of increasing brand awareness,” Bartle says.

“Pharmacies are in a great position, because we [consumers] trust pharmacists to give us good information.”

Interesting and relevant content will ensure a website does well when people search online.

Mailing lists and social media are further ways pharmacies can build a relationship with nearby customers, Bartle says.

Pharmaceutical Services Limited (PSL) are on board to help pharmacies get online and have collated an online product catalogue of the top 100 pharmacy-stocked retail products. This will make it even easier for pharmacies to get started with a core catalogue of products which they can then build on.

Bartle is CEO of ecommerce company Storbie, fast becoming NZ’s leading provider of DIY online stores. With over 100,000 products and millions of dollars being transacted across the sites on the Storbie platform, he is extremely knowledgeable about integrating ecommerce into ‘business as usual’, a reality that pharmacies, and all businesses, must now face.

Storbie offers a pharmacy website package in partnership with PSL.

Bartle urges pharmacies to start small and add more to their website as they get more confident.

“Don’t try to over-complicate it: just get started,” he advises.

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