How merchandising can help patients reach their goals faster

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How merchandising can help patients reach their goals faster

By Arman Amiri, McKesson - 09/27/2019

With mounting reimbursement pressures reducing margins on prescriptions and increasing competition, independent pharmacies must continually increase their value in patient care and find ways to deliver comprehensive products and solutions that meet patients’ needs. With limited time and resources, pharmacy owners often ask how they can afford to spend time focusing on the front end. I think we need to reframe that. The real question is: How can they not focus on their pharmacy front end? 

Quality Products Paired with Quality Guidance

According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, average margins on front-end merchandise are 15% higher than on prescription sales. An effective front end can attract new customers, deliver higher margins, improve cash flow and build patient loyalty.  

It should be no surprise that a community pharmacy’s biggest asset is the pharmacist. Health-and-wellness products are available through many channels, but buying the product with quality guidance from a trusted pharmacist is what differentiates the pharmacy front end. Most consumers think they know what they need when they walk in, but a pharmacist can help them get to their health goal quicker. Pharmacists, one of the most trusted healthcare professionals today, can explain how products work and how they may interact with consumers’ lifestyles and other medications to help improve their overall health.

One key way to exceed customer expectations is to think like a chain, but act locally. This means having a national product offering with a local flavor. That local flavor could include local honey, candles, handicrafts and community memorabilia, as well as offering flu vaccines, travel vaccines, point-of-care testing or other clinical services. Customers are much more likely to revisit a pharmacy if you’re able to demonstrate that your pharmacy provides products they need to take care of their health and the health of their entire family.

Finding the Right Product Mix 

I believe our pharmacies can truly make a difference when pharmacists and team members perform at the top of their training and incorporate all of the tools at their disposal. Patients can expect to receive an unparalleled patient experience that delivers a local care solution for the sick, while also being a hub for the healthy. This applies to clinical services and over-the-counter products you stock.    

It is important to find the intersection between market trends and the capabilities of your pharmacy to meet customer needs. For example, there are new trends driven by millennials and what they’re looking for from retailers. However, you don’t want to meet them all, just the ones that cross over into health care. There is an opportunity to offer cleaner, natural products or vitamins and supplements that support self-care. By making clinical guidance available, as needed, you can connect to their needs and empower them around their own health. Whether your customer base consists of millennials, seniors or young families, the front end provides a great way to better take care of your patients and be that local, trusted provider. Think of your pharmacy as a way to connect with patients, and how you connect with them is what makes a difference. There are some pharmacies today that offer yoga classes, provide free children’s vitamins, conduct charity events or find a niche category to engage with their community. The possibilities of adding “your touch” in your practice are endless.

Twenty years ago, customers viewed the pharmacy simply as a place where they picked up prescriptions. Today, as acute care facilities shift healthcare closer to home, pharmacists are serving more as a provider, bridging the gap between acute care and home. This offers a tremendous opportunity to maximize every inch of your front end to help your customers achieve their health goals better and faster. 

Arman Amiri is senior director of solutions and services at McKesson.