E-pharmacies have developed as a potential sector due to this significant shift in purchasing behavior. They have managed to provide the ease of buying from the comfort of one’s own home. But does this mean an end of an era of physical pharmacies? No, this does seem like a far-fetched reality. For more than two decades, the concept of online pharmacies and online drug sales has been a little vague worldwide. Though after two years of the pandemic, online pharmacies immediately gained organic traction, they still aren’t a perfect alternative to offline/physical pharmacies.
The opportunity for a face-to-face connection with a pharmacist with trust is a big motivator for individuals to visit their local pharmacies. Customers trust traditional retail pharmacies because of their established reputations and physical locations. Neighborhood pharmacies have earned this level of trust and confidence over the years and are something that cannot be replaced with online pharmacies in a few years.
Benefits offered by conventional pharmacy
A third of urban Indians (32%) say they use an online pharmacy or buy from an online health platform on a regular basis. Almost as many (31%) claimed they did during the pandemic but no longer do. Only authorized pharmacists under Drug & Cosmetic law in India can provide medicines to the patients at an offline store. So, let’s try to understand the various benefits that a physical pharmacy offers that still attract customers:
- Vetting of prescription
The pharmacist verifies the legality, stability, and correctness of the prescription order, and sometimes even checks the patient medication record before dispensing the prescription, ensuring that the medication quantities are accurately dispensed.
- Personal touch
The pharmacist gathers and integrates information regarding the patient’s medical history, clarifies the patient’s knowledge of the intended dosage regimen and route of administration, and informs the patient of drug-related side effects.
- Support for minor ailments
Not every time individuals run to doctors for minor ailments like cough, cold, headache etc., to name a few. Local pharmacists understand the medical needs of the patient on small sicknesses and accordingly can recommend medicines or direct them to a medical practitioner if the symptoms persist for more than a few days.
- Quick adoption of new technology
To meet the rising competition from big pharma companies, local pharmacies have geared up to the competition by providing the same level of services to its customers. Whether it is home delivery, online order at pharmacy websites or online payment etc – local retail pharmacies have proven to be quick to meet the changing consumer needs.
Next-door offline pharmacies will continue to have their takers
The convenience element is one of the most crucial reasons why Indians keep returning to their neighborhood pharmacy. This isn’t just about convenience because of proximity; it’s also about familiarity with the store’s display, product variety, and, most crucially, the pharmacist.
Qualified and well-trained pharmacists can help customers read their prescriptions, understand doses, and provide general guidance on medication use, significantly altering the customer experience. For customers who are frequently in distress due to illness or health emergencies, their role becomes similar to that of a friend.
The large selection of products and services is the second reason why customers are increasingly choosing neighborhood retail pharmacies. The appealing display, and the accessibility to physically touch and see the medicines have its own advantages.
Even after the growth of online pharmacies, there is no decline in opening up new pharmacies (offline). Pharma companies are using their franchise model to penetrate even the remote areas in India where e-pharmacies have not reached. The intention here is not only to expand business but also to reach every corner of the country including Tier II and III cities.
Future of Indian Pharmacies
Though a KPMG report called E-pharmacies the future of pharma retail, offline stores will continue to hold their market in competition by adapting to the latest technology and digitization. Let’s rewind to a little back in time when major e-commerce giants were at a stand-still due to global disruption in the supply chain, local pharmacies provided unwavering assistance to their consumers throughout India whether it was oximeters or thermometers during devastating Covid-19 outbreaks in cities, small towns and even in Tier I cities.
The key here is to adapt to the new technology and services that online/e-pharmacies are providing. That includes but is not limited to ordering via app or centralized number, home delivery, customer discounts and offers etc.
Though Indian consumers’ preferences are evolving, the old traditional brick and mortar model of offline pharmacy will continue to flourish with continuous digital adaptation. Finally, it’s important to note how the modern-day neighborhood pharmacy has mastered physical and internet business strategies. Both models are now complementary; hybrid or omnichannel presence allows pharmacies to service a larger geographic area and helps them create stronger relationships with loyal clients. The future of Indian pharmacies will see a combination of online and offline models seamlessly integrated for a better customer experience.
Arjun Deshpande, Founder, Generic Aadhaar
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)