Does Your Store Need a Customer Gathering Place?

Posted by Robert Walthall on Thu, Jun, 23, 2016 @ 08:00 AM

Does Your Store Need a Customer Gathering Place?As a pharmacy owner, you can be pretty sure that customers coming into your store, even those you'd consider "steady" customers, appreciate having a choice when it comes to their retailing options and may frequent various other shopping locations as well. And while some of your clients may be coming in for a quick script fill and nothing more, that doesn't mean they have to leave with no additional purchases in their baskets. Your store's overall retail design can have a real influence here.

Studies show that the average customer spends a total of 15 minutes or less per visit in your establishment, and you want to make those 15 minutes count in the way of successful merchandising. While it's important that the prescription filling process be as streamlined as possible in order to minimize customer wait times, it's also advantageous for those waiting customers to have something beneficial to do while waiting. Look at it this way: you don't want the front end retail section of your pharmacy to simply be a two, three, or four thousand square foot waiting room! You need the retail design properties of the store to engage these folks while they're waiting and, through the use of scientifically proven merchandising techniques, sway them to pick up at least a few items from the store shelves in the meantime.

You Can Make Your Independent Pharmacy Great

Several factors contribute to the success of your retail merchandising efforts, all of which should be considered when deciding on your store's retail design:

  • Frequency of visits per customer has a measurable effect on front end purchase volumes.
  • Overall in-store experience will determine how long a customer will remain in the pharmacy.
  • On average, the longer they stay, the more they'll buy!

The trick, then, is to create an in-store experience that's totally unique when compared to the run-of-the-mill pharmacy experience, especially what's encountered in the chain drug stores or other big-box establishments. Proven ways to accomplish this transformation include changing floor surface materials, upgrading lighting to do away with harsh fluorescent tubes, opening up your store to natural lighting by installing large windows and/or skylights, and bringing in some of nature's greenery by way of non-flowering (pollen-free) plants.

One of the newest discoveries for promoting an enhanced in-store customer experience is actually an old-school tactic made popular a century ago – the drug store soda fountain. As an alternative, a simple coffee/tea bar or even just a few tables and chairs set up for customers to sit, relax, and visit while in the store serves the same purpose. The idea of a designated "gathering place" adds a homey, friendly touch to a store that hopefully causes customers to want to linger longer, promoting increased revenue.

Why Your Store?

Recent studies suggest that there are three main reasons patrons prefer doing business in independent pharmacies:

  1. Trust and respect for their pharmacist
  2. Desire to keep the dollars they spend within their community
  3. Friendliness

First impressions are incredibly important when it comes to a customer's in-store experience. It starts outside in the parking area when viewing the store's exterior and continues upon entering and meandering through the aisles. The atmosphere should be vibrant, engaging, and above all, friendly. An informal gathering place designates your place of business as one that caters to customers, offering respite and relaxation and promoting the idea that there's no hurry to just take care of business and be on your way.

There's a reason why the old-time drug store was such a popular neighborhood gathering place. Perhaps it's time to come full circle and bring back the past. Adding that special uniqueness to your store will definitely have people talking!

Image credit: Joseph Sohm /

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