Are pharmacists the best kept “hidden secret” of the pharmaceutical and grocery industry for enhancing loyalty? In an environment faced with the perennial threat of online superpowers like Amazon, the in-store pharmacy or grocery channel needs to start leveraging the power pharmacists can wield over loyalty.
These medical professionals are often the first line between patients and quality care, sometimes sparking meaningful interactions even before doctors and nurses have the chance to say “stethoscope”. In the oftentimes challenging healthcare landscape of the US, their broad accessibility to consumers is a huge factor in their influence. And years of training has empowered them with a wealth of knowledge on a diverse range of topics, critical in building an authentic rapport with consumers and growing equity over time. In the world of loyalty, pharmacists should be considered indispensable nodes of engagement who can connect with consumers on a human level and keep them returning to the store or sticking with the products that are right for them – but does your loyalty strategy appropriately leverage their talents?
Pharmacists: Loyalty Evidence By The Numbers
The data stacks up: patients are more connected to pharmacists now than ever before. In a 2014 study, pharmacists reported spending 20 percent more of their time on patient care services that were not related to medication dispensing than they did just five years earlier. And a research poll conducted last year suggests consumer engagement with pharmacists is becoming even more salient:
- 59 percent of respondents say they ask pharmacists questions often
- One quarter of respondents have either made or changed a health care decision based on a conversation with a pharmacist
- 64 percent of respondents think of their pharmacist as part of their health care team
Clearly, the infrastructure is well developed for loyalty practitioners to take advantage of pharmacist influence in a strategic effort to strengthen loyalty programs. But in order to see results, which specific marketing ideas might be best to focus on?
1) Reinforce Convenience
Pharmacists are seeing their role in the store become more generalized, and for consumers, generalization implies convenience. In a loyalty setting within pharma, convenience is an enormous driver of return customers and repeat purchase behavior. In fact, consumers decide to visit pharmacies because of convenience (70%) and accessibility (42%) more than mere cost (32%). With this characterization deeply ingrained into pharmacist motivations, “convenience” should be a tangible factor in pharma loyalty programs. Convenience ploys can take the form of overt tactics like bundle-deals, cross-branded promotions, and timed offers, but convenience should also be rooted deeply into the overarching loyalty experience through concepts such as easy-to-navigate portals and mobile integrations (think text-updates on when it’s time to refill a medication).
2) Consumer Health As A Benefit
Traditional loyalty programs emphasize cost benefits to stimulate member growth – but in the world of pharma, the promise of effective health maintenance can be an even greater motivator. This position is supported and reflected by consumers’ own behaviors; for example, shoppers who belonged to a pharma loyalty program were more likely to take their medication as prescribed, helping them keep on-track and lead healthier lifestyles.
“The chance of you stopping (your medication) at one year is 12 per cent lower if you’re going to a pharmacy with an inducement program than if you went to pharmacies without an inducement program.”
Therefore, themes of health and wellness should be woven into the messaging which underpin pharma loyalty programs, and pharmacists are the perfect channel through which to encourage members to take advantage of these benefits. The strategy should have more of an impact on member registrations and ongoing engagement than simply touting cost savings.
3) Health Information As Content
Pharmacists are now far more than the pill-peddlers of yesteryear; patients are seeking out their advice on a growing spectrum medical queries amidst an increasingly complicated healthcare environment. Loyalty programs need to address this hunger for information, and content-rich platforms can seamlessly transition customers from in-store information gathering to ongoing program engagement. The best loyalty programs effectively draw member attention both inside a store and out, so offering informative, health-themed blogs, articles, or email newsletters written by industry experts (or in an ambitious strategy, even their local pharmacist) is an excellent way of building CRM, hyper-targeting members, and nurturing the connection and positive emotions they feel when speaking to a pharmacist.