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How 2020 Reshaped the Pharmacy Industry

It would be an understatement to say the pandemic in 2020 did not change almost every aspect of people’s lives. From personal shopping habits and remote working to how consumers conducted business was forever changed. The independent pharmacy industry was not immune to these changes either. About a year ago, owners were quickly deciding how to still conduct business with a closed front lobby, potentially reduced staff, and at a minimum, a change in overall workflow.

In the past year, how you marketed your pharmacy has changed as well. The focus was shifted from community sponsorships and customer appreciation events to primarily digital and marketing through the drive-thru and or curbside. Here is a more in-depth look at changes in marketing:

1. Digital became king. If you did not have a digital marketing strategy before 2020, you had to quickly adopt one last year. While people hunkered down in their home, they were looking for businesses that delivered or offered pick-up options. That drove people to pharmacies’ websites, social media pages, and Google My Business pages. Having up to date information on these platforms was crucial to staying relevant to prospective and current customers. If any of these were out of date, there was potential loss of business.

Because information changed quickly, digital marketing was the go-to place to let your patients and the community know the latest news about your pharmacy. We are seeing this trend continue today with the COVID-19 vaccine. People are searching for pharmacies that are currently offering it. Your 2021 marketing plan needs to include digital marketing, thinking about how often you will post to social media or update your website. Who will handle these tasks for you? In addition to providing information, it is important to have a designated person monitoring your digital platforms for comments, questions, and reviews. It is just as important to be responsive to people as it is to post information about your pharmacy services.

Video is also a vital part of a digital marketing strategy. Since people didn’t want to come to the pharmacy, you could bring the pharmacy to them with videos about the state of your business or promoting products and services. Research shows that videos tend to perform better than just text and images, so think about adding a video or two to your 2021 plan. We recommend they are under a minute and kept conversational. It is Ok if you mess up, people like the relaxed style.

2. No community events. Before 2020, we recommended our clients do at least 2-3 community events, whether that is a custom appreciation party at the pharmacy, sponsor a local walk, or participate in a health fair. Doing these has been a great way to market your pharmacy where chains typically do not. It is also a great opportunity to talk directly to potential customers. These types of events were non-existent in 2020, but pharmacy owners looked for other ways to connect with community partners. Examples include donating PPP items to hospitals, hosting a drive with a food bank, or having a drive-thru customer appreciation event.

We do think in-person community events will come back in later 2021, and definitely in 2022. While we wait for that to happen consider adding virtual or parking lot events to your overall marketing plan. Many non-profits suffered in 2020, so anything you can do to help them is a win-win.

3. Community pharmacy is in the spotlight. Towards the end of 2020, the COVID-19 vaccine started to roll out. In many communities, independent pharmacies were the only spot to get the vaccine, thrusting them into the spotlight. This is a great opportunity to show what makes independent pharmacies unique and special. If you received any media coverage, be sure to promote it on your social media and website. There is nothing better than free press!

Along with media attention, administering the vaccine can bring a lot of new faces into your pharmacy. Make sure you put a plan together on capturing those potential new patients. If you are using an online scheduling form, send a follow-up email thanking them for coming into your pharmacy. Or consider sending a thank you note card, with an OTC coupon to use on a future visit.

The biggest lesson learned in 2020 is to be flexible. Things may change at a moment’s notice. By having a marketing plan in place, with a few different options, you will be able to adjust quickly as things continue to evolve. As things return to normal, consider doing a survey to ask what your customers which new services they want to stay. Do they love the curbside pickup for example? If you need help with putting a plan together, don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our website, or by calling 515-280-2914.

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