We’re in a time of accelerating change.

Ten years ago, the only way for New Zealanders to get their hands on an iPhone was to import it from overseas and have a telco unlock it. Now over 70% of us own a smartphone.

Not unrelated, New Zealand is currently seeing a decline in people driving. There are around 100,000 less drivers now than in 2012. Fewer people under the age of 40 are learning to drive, with less teens on the road than those over 75 years of age.

These changes are just part of what is causing a significant shift in the way we shop. With access to the world in your pocket, why drive to a store, when the store can come to you?

Pharmacies are not immune, and need to adapt if they are to continue being relevant in this evolving market.

In 2017, 97% of consumers used the internet to find a local business. 41% did so at least weekly. It’s part of the belief that “everything is online”.

This generation merges online and offline. They expect to have the option to do everything on their mobile. As an example, there were over 70,000 visits to Storbie pharmacy pages in January 2018, with 46% using their mobile.

As shoppers, they use the web to review businesses and products, weigh up the convenience of visiting physical stores versus delivery, and in the case of health care, one in four self-diagnose online instead of visiting a doctor or talking to a pharmacist.

This shift may seem overwhelming, but there are small steps you can take to be part of this new generation’s world. And because pharmacies don’t have a lot of time to spare, here’s five ways you can engage with the new generation of shoppers.

Control your online footprint

Any existence of your business that can be found via a web search makes up your online presence, be it directory listings, social media profiles, reviews, or a website. If you don’t manage these pages, potential customers could be directed to a competitor when searching for your pharmacy online.

At a minimum, your location, store hours and services should be made available and managed by you.

Create an online shop with integrated Point Of Sale and supplier products

Pharmacies are already using technology to streamline and support their daily work. An online shop is an extension of this.

Over two million Kiwis are shopping online, and this number continues to grow. E-commerce provides customers with an online product catalogue, services, information, and justifies purchase decisions. Web traffic also grows foot traffic, giving your physical pharmacy a boost.

Use a platform that is integrated with your POS system to ensure easy management. And let your suppliers upload product photos and compliant descriptions to further ease your workload, then simply sync their products to your website.

Build a marketing list

Staff are used to collecting information at the checkout for restricted medicines, it’s not a big step to then ask all customers for their name, email address, and permission to send them e-newsletters.

You can incentivise shoppers to sign up by offering a discount off their next purchase. Regular newsletters could include updates, health advice and promotions.

Create a Facebook page

2.3 million Kiwis access Facebook every day. Creating a business page for your pharmacy is a simple way to engage with locals. It’s a great platform for sharing updates, promotions, and photos.

Promote online in store

Print cards with your business name and website on them to give to customers with their purchase. As you add it to their pharmacy bag, explain that they can also shop online. You may wish to add a discount or other offer to encourage sales.

This article produced by Storbie, originally featured in the March '18 edition of Contact, the magazine for members of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand and has been re-published here with permission.

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