Pharmasave Helps its Independent Pharmacies Meet Surge in Online Shopping with Launch of Unique eCommerce Platform
Canadian consumers are developing new shopping habits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re not only masking, maintaining physical distance and hand sanitizing, they’re also becoming quite adept at clicking, with online sales more than doubling across the country since early March.
According to Statistics Canada, eCommerce sales surged 99.3 per cent between February and May 2020, hitting a record $3.9 billion in May alone. With the trend showing no signs of slowing – and analysts predicting that the split between in-store and online shopping will be changed forever – there’s a sense of urgency among retailers to meet online demand, particularly among smaller, independent retail pharmacies who don’t necessarily have the resources to do it on their own.
That’s where Pharmasave is stepping up to ease the transition for its member-owned, member-operated cooperative, becoming the first independent drug store chain to introduce eCommerce with the launch of an integrated – yet independent – platform that is unique in the industry.
“We recognize the challenges that independent pharmacies are facing in these extraordinarily unprecedented times,” said Pharmasave National CEO Carmen Churcott. “Recognizing that consumer behaviour is likely to remain changed indefinitely, we’ve done the heavy lifting for them, helping them to embrace this rapidly growing channel in a way that goes hand-in-hand with our business model.”
In September, Pharmasave introduced a fully integrated, fully supported eCommerce platform representing the culmination of several years’ effort and ongoing investment in digital technology. Unlike other eCommerce sites in the retail pharmacy space that take a more corporate approach, Pharmasave set out to digitally replicate the community-focused experience already enjoyed by customers at each of its 740+ locations.
“The result is a coordinated initiative that facilitates a community-centric approach to eCommerce,” said Churcott. “At the same time, our independent operators have the option of expanding their product mix beyond the limitations of their physical footprint, giving them a leg up in the highly competitive online retail space.”
Flexible, Easily Customized Platform
What makes Pharmasave’s eCommerce strategy stand out from others in the retail pharmacy space is its ability to deliver a full-service platform without sacrificing the customized, community-focused shopping experience Pharmasave patrons are accustomed to.
The platform comes preloaded with a core of product offerings and owners are provided with easy-to-use tools to tailor the site by adding niche products specific to their store, such as giftware or specialty home healthcare products.
“We’re giving pharmacy owners a simple and elegant way to reach the growing base of customers who prefer to shop virtually,” said Pharmasave Director of Business Technology François Robinson, who spearheaded the eCommerce initiative. “The platform is already built for them, all they need to do is fine-tune it.”
For consumers, the experience is as easy as finding their local store online, filling their virtual cart and checking out, with the option to pick up in store or have the items delivered. In the event that their local store doesn’t offer eCommerce, they can opt to select a nearby location instead.
“The way our system works, you actually select a store before you land on the eCommerce site,” explained Robinson, noting that stores range in size from 500 square feet to 22,000 square feet, with some located in downtown urban cores and others in remote towns. “It’s up to the discretion of each store what they want to carry online, beyond the core set of products, so our approach ensures consumers will find the products they’re already familiar with.”
In addition to providing the platform to members, Pharmasave also assists with implementation and set up, and offers full-scale training. After the site goes live, each independent store operator manages their own online inventory, sales and customer relationships, while Robinson’s team provides ongoing technical support and maintenance behind the scenes.
Seamless Transition to Online Shopping
While the goal is to have 100 per cent of Pharmasave stores participating in eCommerce, the decision to go online is up to each store. Andrea Hyndman, co-owner of Pharmasave Broadmead in Victoria, BC, is among the first to pilot the new platform. Following a soft launch in mid-August, her store’s site has featured new products on a daily basis – a process she said is as easy as uploading a picture, choosing product attributes and adding a description.
“In the current pandemic climate, in-store visits are down so we are very excited to give consumers the opportunity to shop from the comfort of home, especially those who are immunocompromised or high risk,” said Hyndman, adding that it would have been very difficult to get a professional eCommerce platform up and running on her own. “It’s extremely reassuring to know support is there when we need it.”
Pharmasave’s eCommerce platform is the next step in an evolving digital strategy that already includes the eCare@Pharmasave interactive online patient platform for managing prescriptions and personal health, and MedAlign@Pharmasave, a collection of pharmacy services for conducting comprehensive medication reviews, compliance packaging and medication synchronization. “Now retail customers can also enjoy the same virtual experience – with a personal touch,” Churcott said.
“We’ve invested proactively in the time and resources required to give each of our stores a digital asset they can call their own,” she said. “Consumers are embracing online shopping at a fast rate and as they continue to lock in those kinds of shopping behaviours and patterns, it’s important that we set our members up for online success.”
Click here to experience the new Pharmasave eCommerce platform.
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