Pharmacies play an important role in public health protection, and retail pharmacy software is critical to the health of pharmacies. They serve their local communities, and alongside the dispensing of medication, provide invaluable advice and guidance.  As an essential service, pharmacies have been under immense pressure during the pandemic. Continuing to deliver their service is literally a matter of life or death to patients who need life-changing medication. Many of those patients are amongst the most vulnerable, and have been unable to get out to collect their prescriptions.

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Demanding Times for Retail Stores

Pharmacies have seen increased demand for medications, along with infection prevention products such as masks, test kits and sanitiser. With doctors overwhelmed, pharmacies have increased their role in preventative health. Combined with this has been the need to keep their own staff safe and able to continue working.

The pharmacy industry has seen change on an unprecedented scale over the last 18 months. In a recent article entitled ‘How COVID has changed pharmacy’, the leaders of four global pharmacy giants – Walgreens, Boots, Alphega Pharmacy and WBA International Retail – summarised just how wide-ranging those changes have been:

  • They’ve had to digitise many of their services, including online consultations and ordering via ecommerce solutions

  • The brick and mortar stores have changed, with extra cleaning, plexiglass screens, one way systems and personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff

  • Pharmacies are offering new services, including testing and vaccine administration, and home deliveries to vulnerable customers.

Changing Models of Modern Retail

Other industry experts point to a surge in dispensing volumes, combined with a change in store operational patterns – for example, retail stores in airports have been shut, whilst those in residential communities have been doubly busy.

One of the biggest changes has been in the way that customers order and receive their medications. Online ordering has surged, with fulfilment through home delivery or click and collect/BOPIS. In fact, Retail Times reports that along with grocery, pharmacy ranks at the top of the list of stores where customers would use click and collect/BOPIS in order to keep themselves safe. A recent UK survey found that 42% were ‘more likely’ to use click and collect/BOPIS at pharmacy and grocery stores during the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 26% who said they were ‘more likely’ to use it in other stores.

The Pharmaceutical Journal reports one major pharmacy as saying that 10% of its customers are now choosing click and collect/BOPIS.

Embracing the Challenges of Pharmacy Retail

The pharmacy industry knows it must embrace these challenges, and many have harnessed the power of cloud omnichannel solutions. They’re using specialist retail pharmacy software to drive the online/offline integration that underpins the changes needed in the sector.

COVID has placed a demand on pharmacies for sweeping process transformation. The key to being able to rapidly and effectively implement such a transformation is the ability having a strong digital presence that is seamlessly integrated with the physical stores.

  • Online presence – Pharmacy retailers need to be able to build effective and efficient ecommerce solutions – websites where customers, of all ages and abilities, can easily get clear advice, see product availability, pricing and delivery options, and place orders for the medication they need.

  • Online/offline integration – a pharmacy’s digital presence must be fully integrated with the store. This means being able to offer ‘hybrid’ purchasing and collection models, including home delivery,, click and collect/BOPIS, or curbside pickup, where the customer drives to the pharmacy and has the medications delivered to their car.

  • Flawless inventory management – pharmacies are seeing an increased focus on their supply chain, essential to get the right medications to the right place at the right time. This means full inventory visibility in a single system, whether it’s at a distribution centre/warehouse, or in the store.

Pharmacies are at the front line in the war against COVID. They have to adapt, and embrace digital transformation in order to survive and to continue to deliver their essential service to clients. The ability to build a strong online presence, fully integrated with their brick and mortar stores, can be delivered by the right retail pharmacy software, enabling our pharmacies to continue their role as the guardians of community health.

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