Competing with the big box pharmacies on every corner may be a challenge for independent pharmacies, but it isn't an insurmountable one. The fact is, despite the competitive advantages provided by all that corporate backing – bigger advertising budgets and lower supply costs, for instance – there are lots of ways that those big box types fall short in comparison to small, community pharmacies. Good pharmacy strategy for your small business means highlighting and capitalizing on those differences.
Perhaps the most important way that big box competitors fall short is in customer service. That's why so many corporate chains are trying to imitate the “neighborhood mom-and-pop store” atmosphere of the best community drugstores. However, they can't; their business model simply isn't built for it. That sort of atmosphere comes from a feeling of accountability to your customers and the local community, rather than to some distant corporate headquarters that, in turn, is accountable only to bottom-line results for shareholders.
Since the customer experience is the one main area corporate stores simply can't compete with, it should be a main focus point of your pharmacy strategy. That means building a business model that places high priority on going the extra mile for your customers – creating an atmosphere of caring and community.
Make time to interact with your customers, answering their questions and getting to know their needs and concerns – and know their names. In today's world, where customers have grown accustomed to being ignored until they reach the checkout counter, just greeting them by name when they walk in the door makes a tremendous difference in terns of the overall customer experience. Make a point of asking regular customers what they like about your pharmacy, as well as what they think you might be able to do better. Are there services they'd like to see offered in your store? Are there products they're looking for that aren't on your shelves?
Find out what's needed in your community as well, and make changes to better provide for those needs. Is there a high concentration of elderly residents? Perhaps a larger focus on home care products or prescription delivery services is in order. What chronic health problems are most prevalent in your area? Perhaps you would do well to offer wellness information and services related to diabetes to fill a community need, or maybe there's a larger need for counseling on management of heart disease, hypertension, asthma or allergies. Knowing what your community needs can help you carve a niche for your business, offering information and services that aren't available from those standardized big-box competitors.
The bottom line is that the best pharmacy strategy when it comes to competing with the big box stores is to make your customer service top-notch, standing head and shoulders above the level of service corporate stores can offer. The goal, of course, is to make yourself indispensable to your customers by providing the personalized service that chain stores cannot – because making them feel valued as individuals is the recipe for customer loyalty.