Last week, we went through six questions that pharmacists should be asking the company they work with when they build a website. Those six questions covered the basics to get your site up and running.
Once you’ve worked through them, you’ll want to ask some more advanced questions. These questions are all about selling online and listing your products online. Even if you don’t intend on doing this any time soon, it’s worth having a discussion, just to lay the groundwork for the future.
Am I setup to sell online?
Even if you don’t intend on selling online right away, you should look into this anyway. If you cover some basic building blocks early on, it will be much easier (and cheaper!) to set up an online store in the future.
This is because a website that sells things online is a lot more complicated than a website that just acts as an online brochure. It needs to show up-to-date stock levels and pricing, it needs to have payment functionality, and it needs to connect to your accounting systems to give you an up-to-date view of how much you’re making from your website.
You may not use (or pay for!) these things today, but it’s useful to have a system that is prepared to support you, should you want to in the future. If you need to connect other software to your website, it’s much easier if you’ve set up your website on a platform with the capability to do so, rather than custom building those connections on an existing website. It’s like adding lots of power points to a new bedroom. You may not use them today, but in the future, it’s better to have them and not need them than it is to drill holes into your wall again!
Can I display my products online?
Even the smallest pharmacy will offer a selection of retail products instore and it makes sense to showcase the availability of these online. Choosing not to display your product range online is like deciding not to display them on your shelves – how do people know what you have to offer if they can’t see it?
Even if you’re not going to start selling online right away, you still want to be able to show people what they can buy if they come into the store. This is important because studies show that although increasing year-on-year, online transactions only represent 11.4% of all retail sales. Additionally, more than half of in store purchases are influenced by the web – that’s representative of 44.3% of your shop sales!
Talk to your website partner about how they will source product information including photographs and customer friendly product descriptions from your suppliers. Discuss what your options are for general sale, pharmacy only and pharmacist only medicines as well as prescriptions. Be sure to have clear expectations about what involvement will be required from you, and the costs associated.
How do I keep product information up-to-date?
You also want to be confident that product information is up-to-date. If you’re displaying products on your website, you really need those products to match the products on your shelves. The last thing you need is for someone to come in for a product, only to find you stopped carrying it months ago!
So make sure you can easily keep this information up-to-date. Ideally, this should be automated – but if not, make sure it’s at least easy to make changes, quickly. If it’s a manual process, make sure you have an internal process to update this information or an understanding of what responsibility your website partner will take on, and what it will cost ongoing. Better yet, is there a way that your suppliers can do the heavy-lifting, let them focus on quality and compliant product information leaving you to focus on your customers?
How are stock levels and prices kept in sync?
This is similar to the last question, but it’s really important, so it deserves a question of its own. Even if you have an ironclad process to keep your product information up-to-date, you also need to have up-to-date stock levels and pricing. If your customers see something they need on your website, then come into the store only to find you’ve run out of that product, they’re going to have a poor experience. The same is true for price changes.
Generally, the best way to deal with this is to just automate it through connecting to pharmacy point of sale systems. You know that your stock levels and prices move around all the time, and you also know that you carry lots of different products. You could painstakingly update this yourself, but not only will it take a lot of your time, you’re also almost guaranteed to make a mistake.
Ask your website partner if they support connections to your point of sale system, what information it updates and how often. If they don’t, be sure to be clear about what’s involved to manage this manually, or what it might cost to build a custom integration.
How will I receive payment?
It’s a good thing to know upfront about what payment options your website will offer your customers, and how much that will cost you. Your website partner should be able to talk you through what payment methods their system supports, and the different plans available to you. Typically, like instore, there will be a transaction fee associated with credit card payments, but you should also find out if there are any additional fixed upfront or ongoing costs to be aware of.
How do I manage promotions?
Like many pharmacies, you will run regular in-store promotions. To get the most value out of your website, any promotions or deals you run in the store should also be available on your website. After all, people love a bargain, and if they see one on your website, that‘s a great reason for them to buy online or come into the store.
Make sure you have a conversation with your website partner about how (specifically) you would manage these. Is it just a matter of changing some text? Or is it something else entirely? Developing discount and coupon systems is a highly complex process so make sure they’ve don’t it before and can show you examples of how to create a 2 for 1 deal or to automatically apply free shipping if you spend over $50. Make sure you clearly understand the process, and that you’re confident you can do it every time you have a promotion.
Once you ask these questions, you’ll have a clear pathway to going beyond just a website – you’ll be able to add an online store to your pharmacy. This helps get people in the store, and helps you serve customers who don’t have time to come into the store. So even if this is in the future for your pharmacy, it pays to put the foundations in place by asking these questions today. That way, the path is much easier (and less costly!) if and when you decide to take it.