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Online And Big Box Pharmacies Expand Options To Meet Consumer Demand

April 16, 2020 Sarah Cavill

In response to the social distancing and quarantines required because of coronavirus, many Americans stocked up on essentials like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned goods. However, a legitimate concern for many during this crisis is access to their prescriptions, due to self-isolation and worries about the medicine supply chain being impacted. 

In response to consumer concerns, the CDC recommends:

  • Unless it’s an emergency, use telehealth services for answers to health-related questions. 
  • Keep several weeks of prescriptions on hand when possible, and purchase through online services or opt for delivery in order to avoid in-person pharmacy visits. 

Many major retail and online pharmacies are offering coronavirus responsiveness via amended delivery policies and helpful, proactive content marketing that keeps consumers informed and reassured.

Online Pharmacies Offer A Variety Of Services Including Contactless Deliveries During Coronavirus

Shutterstock_1471304741 Pharmacist holding touchpad for search bar on display in pharmacy drugstore shelves background.Online medical concept.

Digital, or online, pharmacies work several ways. Capsule, a service based in New York City for New Yorkers, operates basically like a regular pharmacy, accepting insurance and filling prescriptions for delivery — but online instead of in person. Honeybee, also an online pharmacy, is focused on providing low-cost drugs using what Honeybee has dubbed an “ethical mark-up” instead of the traditional mark-up of some pharmacies. This policy allows Honeybee to offer low prices, but they don't take insurance. 

Millennials and younger generations are of particular interest to online pharmacies, because these generations are less likely to want to wait in line and deal with paper prescriptions. DrugTopics.com, a website that represents the views of pharmacists recently reported, “These [younger] customers have one primary shopping platform: their cell phone. The era of waiting in lines and dealing with [salespeople] is over. It’s archaic, and to most Millennials, undesirable. In almost every industry you can see the shift from traditional, retail experiences to digital, convenient experiences. Pharmacy is no different and must evolve along with the rest of the American market.”

Digital pharmacies are uniquely positioned during this global pandemic to offer contactless deliveries with little disruption to their existing business models. By also offering around-the-clock pharmacy chats and content that speaks directly to consumer concerns about certain medications, these digital pharmacies can provide additional guidance to existing and new consumers during coronavirus.

Amazon-Owned Pillpack Leverages Their Content Marketing 

PillPack, owned by Amazon, is a full-service pharmacy that coordinates with the doctors of its customers nationwide to create prescription profiles that automatically renew and ship. The PillPack service prioritizes urgent prescriptions, and pills come individually packaged with the time and day they should be taken for simple and efficient management of multiple prescriptions. The delivery is free, and PillPack customers pay co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses, as with any prescription. 

In response to the coronavirus crisis, PillPack has created COVID-19 content for their online magazine Folks. The PillPack content includes articles on how to manage the loneliness that comes from isolation and the experiences of those impacted by COVID-19. In lieu of overt advertising, content marketing can be a gentle and effective way to let customers know that brands care and are listening. 

Big Retail Brands Walgreens And CVS Offer Free Delivery And Industry Knowledge For Consumers

Shutterstock_1214446390 Several boxes with medicines in interior under prescipcion medica, conceptual image

Although many retail brands have closed around the country, most major retail pharmacies have remained open, and pharmacists are considered essential workers. Walgreens provides a comprehensive FAQ on their website, getting ahead of any questions about store safety, access to prescriptions, the knowledgeability of their pharmacists about COVID-19 and why their stores are opting to remain open: “Walgreens champions the health and well-being of every community in America, playing a critical role in providing patients and customers access to the care, products and services they need. This is even more important as we work around the clock to support the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

CVS is offering similar content to proactively answer consumer questions and concerns, and both CVS and Walgreens are providing free delivery for certain prescriptions and store items. Both brands are also in the spotlight as drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19, with CVS operating three sites currently and Walgreens planning to expand to seven states with 15 testing sites in the near future.

Many consumers, understandably scared and anxious about their health right now, are taking in news on a daily basis about how to stay healthy and avoid illness. Maintaining normal healthcare routines with the least amount of disruption, which many pharmacies are providing through delivery options, remains of utmost importance. By also offering helpful, informative content that can reassure consumers and provide answers to often asked questions, online pharmacy brands are providing additional services that may lead to long-term brand loyalty and trust.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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