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How to Construct a One-of-a-Kind Front-End Shopping Experience

By Kelley De La Fuente

See how specialization can help you set your pharmacy apart and attract new patients.
A pharmacist educating a patient on vitamin supplements
As an independent pharmacy owner, you know your patients and their medications, and you’re always ready with recommendations relevant to their conditions. Those same patients trust your store to carry their essential meds, along with the quality goods and services they want—all organized for convenient access.

But does your store have a unique draw that makes a connection with consumers throughout your community? Have you taken steps to become a subject-matter expert offering the right product mix and personalized service in a particular disease state or patient demographic?

If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to differentiate your pharmacy front end from competitors in your market. The good news: A few straightforward steps can pave the way toward creating distinct, memorable customer experiences in ways that matter most to your patients.


Identifying your specialty
You may be inspired to develop a niche—or several—based on personal knowledge or areas of expertise. After all, you know the value of providing personalized care to patients living with chronic disease. With each new condition, a patient’s healthcare needs become more complicated, requiring both more prescriptions and more healthcare services.

But you can’t just go with a “gut feeling” when it comes to building out a profitable front end. Your decision must be grounded in data and store-specific performance analysis. You can start by looking at your average number of prescriptions per patient, sorted by gender, age group and disease state.

How does that help? Well, maybe you’ve thought about setting up a travel clinic, offering destination-targeted vaccines within your pharmacy, but the numbers show you have far more patients over age 75 than in the 20-to-25 age range. It’s likely the travel clinic wouldn’t have much traction … but, on the flip side, you’d be well-positioned to become an elder care specialist.

Additionally, it would be helpful to review your point-of-sale (POS) data to see everything that’s running through the registers in your store. It can be a real eye-opener to find out not only your top 25 prescription drugs sold, but also the top 25 over-the-counter (OTC) items. Note that if you don’t have a dedicated POS, you can get a similar high-level view by tapping your store’s pharmacy system and manually tracking OTC products sold.

Another area to actively monitor is your pharmacy system or demographic tracking software, which can uncover your store’s top prescribing physicians, along with their disease-state specialty and most commonly prescribed drugs. If your #1 physician is an endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes and regularly issues diabetes-related prescriptions, that’s a huge indicator that your store is a healthcare destination for patients with diabetes. Take that knowledge out to the front end of your store. Make sure you have complimentary products on display and then project that message out to patients and prescribers your community.


Showcasing your capabilities
Let’s continue with the diabetes specialty example. If a patient with diabetes were to walk into your store today, would he or she get an immediate sense that your pharmacy caters to their needs? Would they see attention-grabbing signage directing them to the most relevant products? Do you have dedicated shelf space and/or end stands stocked with diabetes-related items, such as supplements, protein powders, foot-care products and nerve-pain products? Do you host community meetings for patients with diabetes and actively promote them in your store?

To a large degree, it comes down to making patients feel welcome and at-home. Think about how other retailers boost consumer comfort and confidence about their purchasing decisions. Just as a gardening store might use detailed signage—complete with photos and descriptions—to help customers pick the right plants, you could take a similar approach to disease-specific companion products. Guide patients with diabetes using a display that illustrates and explains which supplements match up with specific medications. Or you could take the same approach with foot-care products. In any case, the emphasis is on tailoring specialty items to the patient’s existing regimen.

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to consider confidentiality when building out a specialty. Patients suffering from some disease states, such as HIV or hepatitis B/C, may need more privacy to feel comfortable. Clearly, public signage would be inappropriate in this case. Instead, you’d need to set up a private consultation room within your store where patients could schedule time with their pharmacist. That same private room could also be made available for meetings of patient support groups.


Staffing up for your specialties
While assessing how to develop your pharmacy’s specialties, it’s always best to take a mental snapshot of what you already have in place to support the effort.

We’ll assume you’ve hired the right people to staff your store. Part of that personnel profile is whether staff members are completely engaged in the profession and have a willingness to try new things. Naturally, you can’t expect employees to be fully knowledgeable on any given condition from the start, but they must be committed to learning and growing into added responsibility over time.

You’ll also need to be an exemplary team leader, demonstrating and communicating why your chosen specialties will enhance operations. Budget the time and incentives needed to establish consistent staff training, which may include role-playing and answers to frequently asked questions.

Along the same lines, don’t rush to hire a dedicated specialist. In most cases, it’s not cost-effective to bring in a new person from the outside when you factor in outlays for onboarding and training. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. What’s more, existing staff have familiarity and a level of comfort with your customers—and vice versa.


Set your plan in motion

In the end, niche marketing should create a one-of-a-kind in-store experience. Identifying the most prevalent demographics and disease states in your community will help you fine tune your pharmacy’s front end, and in many cases it’s simply a matter of dedicating and attracting more attention to the enhanced services you’re already providing. That could be by building out appropriate displays and signage or by cross-training your staff to help patients select the right companion products. Before long, your pharmacy will have people returning time after time because they know you have expertise they need to manage their specific conditions. 

Need help figuring out what to feature in your pharmacy?

A Good Neighbor Pharmacy business coach can comb through comprehensive patient-analysis and store-performance data to determine exactly where you should be focusing your attention. Plus, they can recommend incremental changes you can make to your front end to differentiate your store and better serve your community.
A patient looks at Good Neighbor Pharmacy brand over the counter products on the shelf
1. Rand Corporation. Multiple Chronic Conditions in the United States.

About The Author

Kelley De La Fuente
Business Coach
Good Neighbor Pharmacy
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