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3 tips to get your pharmacy ready for cold and flu season

As summer comes to a close and the school year ramps up, patients are preparing for the impending cold and flu season. For some patients, seasonal flu can be a major burden — particularly for children and adults age 65 years old or older who are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600,000 people were estimated to be hospitalized for a flu-related illness during the 2016 to 2017 flu season. If these rates continue, pharmacists should expect to face a surge of visits in the coming months.

Pharmacies located within retail locations as a grocery, supermarket or club store are uniquely positioned to be a healthcare destination for consumers in need of care. Consumers tend to visit their grocery store once a week, which is a great opportunity to drive shoppers to the pharmacy in preparation for the flu season. Through our work with national and regional retail partners, I’ve identified three ways that in-store pharmacies can engage and build loyalty with shoppers during the cold and flu season, increase the value they bring to the businesses they are a part of and improve overall health outcomes.

  • Utilize the whole store: Pharmacists often are the first point of contact for shoppers looking for information about improving health and wellness. However, opportunities to work with other departments within the store to drive traffic back to the pharmacy exist. It can be as simple as cashiers reminding shoppers at the end of every transaction that the in-store pharmacy provides the flu shot. Or, placing signage in such complementary aisles as cleaning products, where messaging about disinfectants and sanitizing during cold and flu season may resonate and encourage pharmacy visits. The most important detail is the call to action, making sure your message encourages customers to speak to their pharmacist. A well-trained pharmacist can answer questions, handle objections and convince patients to be proactive about their health.

  • Step out from behind the counter: Over-the-counter medications are one of the most powerful ways to drive shoppers to the pharmacy. Once customers start adding cold and flu OTC medicines to their basket, they may be encouraged to visit the pharmacy for additional recommendations. Pharmacists can build rapport by walking through the aisles. When shoppers see that white coat out in the store, they feel more comfortable asking questions, and that pharmacist becomes more approachable. Through this touchpoint, pharmacists can engage shoppers, address potential concerns related to prescriptions and provide guidance on overall care.

  • Create value at the register: Good customer service will always be a point of differentiation for pharmacists looking to create a strong relationship with their patients. Pharmacists can demonstrate their value by providing holistic guidance, helping patients find everything they need for optimal care. They can make the experience easy and convenient for their patients by strategically positioning related cold and flu items near the pharmacy counter. Additionally, as medications are prescribed and dispensed, pharmacists can direct customers to other locations within the store where they can purchase such supplemental items to support patients in their recovery.

By using these tips in anticipation of the cold and flu season, pharmacists can deepen the connection with patients, increase value for the business and create the stickiness that will enable shoppers to look to the in-store pharmacy for ongoing care. Preparing now for what patients will need in the coming months will further position pharmacists as the critical partner in their health care.
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