Big data is all around us. As consumers we’re generating it with every tap on our mobile device — and every day a new data scientist is staring at the numbers trying to make sense of it all.
The BuzzBoard team – to whom I am a board advisor – recently forwarded me a view of the U.S. pharmacy industry – not the drug makers but the local distribution networks made up of thousands of retail pharmacies. These pharmacies help drive the nearly $260B in “Drug Store Revenue.” The big players are of course the household brands – CVS, Walgreens and WalMart. But there are thousands of independent drug stores like Jack Drugs Store in the town of San Anselmo, Calif., where I live.
So here’s what I learned. There are an estimated 39,000 retail pharmacies. Dissecting these, we learn that only 50% of independent stores have a business page on Facebook while national brands that number jumps to 67% percent. So the right conclusion is that the independent stores are falling behind in their social media execution. No surprise – Jack’ Drug Store operates on a thin margin and just doesn’t have the time to devote to social media – but they risk falling behind the WalGreen’s and CVS in our same town.
A second finding is that just 9% of independent stores are turning to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) to drive consumers to the websites where they can position their pharmacy against the giant corporate competitors – 67% whom are leveraging SEM for customer acquisition. So in Jack’s case, they should certainly be considering hiring an agency that can help them raise their overall exposure and awareness in their local market.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, just 7% of independent stores offer their consumer some form on online ordering. This compares to fully 83% of chain stores that offer an online ordering capability. While this finding would be alarming a few years ago, in today’s market where more and more consumers are living their lives through their mobile devices, this is even more problematic for independent pharmacies.
There is help out there for the independent pharmacy. The large supply chain companies such as AmeriSource Bergen offer some digital support for their pharmacies. There’s also www.digitalpharmacist.com which comes from RxWiki which has been serving independent pharmacies for years.
Here are some take-aways: if you are related to, or know, or are a loyal customer at your local independent pharmacy owner, give ‘em a hand and let them know they have a couple of ways to gain ground against the big chains. 1. Make sure they’re playing the social media game – like it (no pun intended) or not, social matters more and more 2. Push them to find a digital agency to figure out an SEM strategy that gets the most for the money – they don’t have to dominate a category to get traffic and finally 3. Get transforming now – offer the consumer digital commerce pathways to stay connected and more engaged – the mobile consumer will not wait for them to decide – we live in a mobile centric world.
Neal Polachek is an independent industry observer and board advisor. For nearly 14 years he was Director of Research and Consulting, VP of Advisory Services, CEO of The Kelsey Group and President of BIA/Kelsey. Prior to joining The Kelsey Group in the late 1990s, he worked for a decade at Pacific Telesis Group in a wide variety of management and leadership positions. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.