Get Customers to Switch to Your Pharmacy


Learn what Consumer Reports says customers value in independent pharmacies and use these strengths in your marketing to compete for new patients

What is your pharmacy great at?

In today’s crowded, highly competitive pharmacy market, as an independent pharmacy you have to continue to promote what makes you different than your competition to help get new patients.

The good news, according to a January 2014 Consumer Reports article, “Finding the Right Pharmacy1 is that independent pharmacies (including the independently owned franchise chain Health Mart®) rank higher than competitors on several key areas. The Consumer Reports article advises consumers why they might consider switching pharmacies.  

How Independent Pharmacies Stack Up

In the Consumer Reports survey of more than 33,000 consumers, independent pharmacies outranked all national retail pharmacy chains and mass merchandisers in terms of:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Speed and accuracy
  • Courtesy and helpfulness
  • Pharmacist’s knowledge 

Reasons to Switch to Independents

In addition to higher overall consumer satisfaction, Consumer Reports offered several reasons why consumers might benefit from switching to an independent pharmacy:

  1. Greater expertise and more personal attention. The Consumer Reports article highlights for consumers that establishing a good relationship with a pharmacist they trust is the primary reason to choose a drugstore. Lucinda Maine, CEO and executive vice president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, is quoted, “You can and should expect your pharmacist to be both accessible and knowledgeable. If he or she is not, then you should take your business elsewhere.”

    Ninety-four percent of survey participants gave their independent pharmacists high marks in knowledge. Customers of independent pharmacies also praised their pharmacist’s accessibility and personal service, and reported they were much more likely to discuss their prescriptions with a pharmacist. In contrast, customers of large chain pharmacies often found it difficult to communicate with pharmacists, at times because they thought the pharmacists seemed too busy.

  2. Shorter wait times. Customers are much less likely to have to wait for prescriptions at independent pharmacies than elsewhere. Only 7% of customers said a prescription wasn’t ready when promised at an independent pharmacy and just 4% complained of long waits. At pharmacy chains, 19% of customers found that a prescription wasn’t ready and 21% experienced long waits. In addition to encountering fewer delays, Consumer Reports also mentioned that independent pharmacy customers encountered fewer medication mix-ups than those who shopped elsewhere.
  3. Consistent access to needed medicines. Overall, almost 40% of consumers surveyed reported that a drug they needed was out of stock in the past year. Independents like Health Mart had fewer out-of-stock drugs than most major pharmacy outlets. In the event of an out-of-stock, as a group independent pharmacies were more likely than other types of pharmacies to restock a drug later the same day or the next day.
  4. Individualized services customized to patients’ needs. Many independent pharmacies offer compounding, or custom-mixing, services to tailor medications for individual patients. Consumer Reports gives the example that independent drug stores “can make a medication without a certain dye for a patient with an allergy or create a liquid version of a drug for a patient who has trouble swallowing pills.” Additionally, the article highlights that independents often stock specialized medical items such as durable medical equipment. In addition, independents are most likely to offer anytime delivery services.

So, individuals who care about face-to-face service from pharmacists who offer personal advice based on knowing your particular health concerns, shorter wait times, consistent access to needed medications, and customized service may want to strongly consider switching to an independent pharmacy, as independents consistently outperform the chains in these areas.

Aggressively Encourage Customers to Make the Switch

Just providing superior service is not enough. You need to get the word out about what makes you special. At a recent National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conference,2 NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey said the Consumer Reports article reiterates what has been long known: independent pharmacies provide better service. He said the challenge is taking this consumer good will and applying it to produce tangible results.   

This means attracting new customers by playing to your strengths and emphasizing these distinct advantages.

Identify and target customers who value service. Of course, good service matters to everyone, but some people make decisions based solely on the lowest price, while others still care deeply about personalized service. Focus on those for whom service matters including:

  • Individuals with chronic conditions or unique medical needs. Consumers with chronic or complex conditions who are taking concomitant medications can benefit from working with a pharmacist who knows their medication history and needs, and who can help them adhere to their meds with MTM, packaging, compounding and/or medication synchronization (see “It’s Time to Start Offering Medication Synchronization”).
  • Older individuals. Many seniors place greater value on high levels of personal service, making a relationship with a pharmacist who knows their personal health concerns and can provide tailored medication advice even more important.
  • Individuals just discharged from the hospital. These individuals may have complex situations and need help ensuring that their prescriptions are filled and understood. (See: “Retail Pharmacy: A ‘Community Liaison’ in the Discharge Process.”)
  • Busy parents. Everyone cares about prescription accuracy and speed, especially busy individuals who are working and constantly juggling numerous family activities. Your accessibility and knowledge around OTC recommendations to help treat common ailments will also be appreciated.

Actively and creatively market your service advantages to bring in new customers. Emphasize your store’s unique service advantages in all of your marketing activities (such as advertisements, mailings and Internet marketing). A few ideas:

  • Make consumers question their current choice. While convenience and cost are big drivers in how consumers choose a pharmacy, care is a strong determinant. So, consider making a bold marketing play with a local advertisement, a Facebook post, a mailer, etc., that asks consumers if they are really getting the convenience and care they want with their current pharmacy. Try a flavor of the template promotion below that works for your business.

Are You Going to the Best Pharmacy for You?

Take this short quiz and find out:

  • Can you easily consult with your pharmacist about medications?
  • Does your pharmacist offer advice when you have questions about using over-the-counter remedies to treat a common ailment?
  • Do you have to wait for your prescriptions?
  • Are your medications always in-stock?
  • Do you have a chronic condition?
  • Do you make lots of trips for your medications?
  • Would you benefit from home delivery?
  • Could custom medication mixing or special packaging help you better take your medications?
  • Does your pharmacy offer screenings, immunizations and wellness programs?
  • Does your pharmacy offer to contact your doctor and/or insurer when you have issues?
  • Does your pharmacist know your name?

If you didn’t check many — or any — of the boxes above, it’s time for you to check out what an independently owned, local pharmacy can do for you.

Independent pharmacies consistently receive the best ratings in speed and accuracy, courtesy and helpfulness, and pharmacists’ knowledge in customer surveys like Consumer Reports’ “Best Drug Store” ratings and JD Power & Associates. We specialize in prescriptions, and take providing you the fast, convenient, quality care personally.

Transfer your prescription today! Call or visit us at [insert your store contact details here].

  • Promote what makes you unique. Chains may market low prices or 24/7 service. You need to play to your strengths and have messaging that reinforces your unique services — like durable medical equipment or delivery service (see “Deliver Great Service — Right to Your Customers’ Door”).
  • Reach out to local providers. Don’t just market to consumers, but also market to physicians, community hospitals, home care agencies, and other healthcare providers. Many prescribers aren’t aware of the differentiated care that independent pharmacies provide. Set up appointments and use the Consumer Reports survey as a discussion point. For example, ask, “Have you read the latest Consumer Reports article that discusses the ways that patients like yours can benefit by going to an independent pharmacy like mine?” Then clearly explain how you’re able to provide outstanding service to them and their patients that helps to improve health outcomes. (See “Increased Prescriber Outreach Equals Increased Traffic.”)
  • Incent current customers to refer others. Encourage current customers to refer their family and friends. Consider promotions such as discounts or gift certificates to new customers and those who refer a new customer. Use social media to have “refer a friend” campaigns with special rewards. (See “SEO: The Secret to Attracting More Customers to Your Pharmacy.”)
  • Partner with other service-related businesses. Your pharmacy is a community business at a time when “buy local” is a powerful selling point. So, consider teaming up with other local businesses that also compete based on exemplary service to do joint promotions that build your customer base. This can include a broad range of businesses, such as hair salons, florists, dry cleaners, restaurants (including those that deliver food), and any other businesses involved in offering individualized service. Customers of these businesses already value the personalized attention and could be open to learning about other local businesses — such as your pharmacy — that also provide great service. 

Pitch a story to your local media. Suggest a story to highlight the findings of the Consumer Reports study with specific examples of how your locally owned and operated pharmacy is providing differentiated services and serving the community. (See “Create Buzz for Your Pharmacy” and “Become Your Community’s Go-To Health Expert.”)

Once a customer is inside your store, call attention to your service advantages. Just because someone enters your store, don’t assume they know about your great service. Have large, clear signage that emphasizes “Expert Pharmacist Available” and that conveys “Tell us when you need it” (to convey the idea of speed and accuracy). Let customers know if you offer DME, diabetic shoes or compounding, and train your staff to ask customers about their needs in these areas.

Keep in mind that in this competitive environment, independent pharmacies offer great, distinctive service and have tremendous strengths. The key is to play to these strengths and translate them into new business.

1 “Finding the Right Pharmacy,” Consumer Reports, January 2014
2 Douglas Hoey, “Issues and Answers: A High-Level Briefing,” NCPA Multiple Locations Pharmacy Conference, Naples, Florida, February 13, 2014