Winning in the UK Pharmacy Channel: 5 Powerful Strategies For Consumer Healthcare Brands

As self-care becomes a top priority for consumers, pharmacies see more OTC sales than ever, and an unassailable strategy becomes non-negotiable for consumer healthcare brands to succeed in the UK pharmacy channel.

The growth in self-care isn’t the only element driving footfall, but the additional services pharmacists can now offer, such as advice for ailments, urgent medication, contraception, and the administration of selected vaccinations. Hence, pharmacies give brands a unique opportunity to engage with a widening group of captive shoppers, eager to take recommendations and purchase unfamiliar OTC brands that can help with their ailments or self-care.

In this blog post, we cover the key strategies Health & Wellness companies can take to make the most of the pharmacy channel and drive success for their consumer healthcare brands.

1 – Understand the pharmacy landscape

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the pharmacy landscape, not only should you perform extensive audience, market, competitor, and category research, but you must also understand the challenges pharmacists face, the behaviour of their customers, and the special marketing opportunities they offer brands.

The major pull of independent pharmacies is the irreplaceable trusting relationship shoppers have with their community pharmacists. Many consumers go to the same, local pharmacy for medical advice and prescriptions. Moreover, with their white coat and qualifications, shoppers see pharmacists as authoritative, respected figures. For Health & Wellness brands, their endorsement is gold.

You must also consider the pressure pharmacies are under as the public turns to them before their GPs in a widening range of scenarios, whilst pharmacists want to focus more on front-of-shop opportunities to cater for the growing footfall. Here lies an opportunity for healthcare brands to support pharmacists and gain a competitive advantage by helping merchandise and shelf their products.

2 – Regular face-to-face pharmacist training

It is fundamental for pharmacy staff to understand and appreciate your products, including the features and benefits, unique selling points, accreditations, contra-indications, and directions for use. 59% of pharmacy shoppers make their purchases based on their pharmacist’s recommendation* so ensure you emphasise why they should recommend your brand over competitors.

“59% of pharmacy shoppers make their purchases based on their pharmacist’s recommendation* ”

We advise frequent, face-to-face training sessions with hard-copy educational materials and detailed aids, including informative brochures and customer leaflets. Crucially, try to make these training visits as frequent as impossible to strengthen your relationship with the pharmacy staff and ensure any new staff also understand your brand. Take these opportunities to update the pharmacists on new product launches and advise on marketing initiatives, brand positioning, and merchandising. The easier you make it for them to recommend your brand, the better.

Significant investment is needed to visit pharmacies across the UK and conduct regular face-to-face training. By becoming a member of the syndicated team represented by Ceuta Group, you can offer training visits at a much lower cost compared to having an in-house team handle this responsibility.

“The easier you make it for pharmacists to recommend your brand the better.”

3 – Optimise for the 7-minute dwell time

Consider the large number of shoppers requiring the pharmacist’s advice or their prescription. They must wait an average of seven minutes before they can be seen, giving OTC healthcare brands a fantastic opportunity to draw their attention with visible, optimised shelving, eye-catching displays, and POS units. Window displays can further boost your brand presence and attract passers-by.

Invest in high-quality, visually appealing packaging that reflects your brand identity, instantly highlights products’ functions, benefits and unique selling points, and ensures your products stand out from competitors. Bold colours, clear messaging, and prominent positioning are paramount. It is also becoming crucial to prioritise sustainability, reducing and replacing plastics with recyclable and reusable materials wherever possible.

“Pharmacy shoppers have an average dwell time of 7 minutes.”

4 – Don’t leave your customers at the door

A global survey found that 56% of in-store shoppers used their smartphones to shop or research items while they were in a store.*, and this is set to grow with the shift towards self-care. Therefore, creating a powerful digital presence is indispensable. Optimise your website for desktop and mobile devices, engage with your audience on social media, answer any relevant healthcare questions, and share useful content to build trust and credibility.

Also, get involved in health events, webinars, seminars, and workshops. Whether you host events or participate in existing ones, you gain opportunities to engage with potential customers and healthcare professionals directly. This will breed familiarity with your brand and help you drive sales.

5 – Monitor and adapt your strategy

Monitoring and adapting your branding, sales, and marketing strategy is paramount. Best practices suggest you constantly monitor the performance of your products, regularly utilise sales data, customer feedback, and market trends to refine your strategies, and make data-driven decisions to ensure continuous improvement.

However, the level of data available in other channels is not available in the independent pharmacy channel, due to its autonomous nature and the significant investment required for updated systems.

Yet, Ceuta Group clients have exclusive access to the audits that we conduct every 8 weeks of the pharmacies across the UK. We gather data covering everything from our clients’ performance to pharmacy footfall, customer behaviour, and more. We provide this data for the Health & Wellness brands we work with, giving them insight and an edge that no other brands benefit from.

Conclusion

Standing out in UK pharmacies requires a well-rounded approach that includes understanding the pharmacy landscape, building strong relationships with pharmacists, engaging with your audience inside and outside of the store, and of course, monitoring and adapting your strategies to evolve with the market.

This guide should have given you a great head-start on your journey to success in the UK pharmacy channel, but Ceuta Group can help you get there in a more cost-effective and timely manner and on a larger scale. Our team of 350+ Health & Wellness business experts can not only devise and execute a cutting-edge strategy for your brand to flourish in UK pharmacies, but we can also deliver the same fruition across all online and offline retail channels, on a global scale.

To find out more about how to unlock the true potential of your brand, get in touch.

Contact us

Sources:

*Ipos survey commissioned by NHS England – Pharmacy Magazine Jan 2023

*Kantar: Pharmacy Channel (excl Boots and SD) | | All Respondents 52 w/e 18th June 2017 | Index Total Market vs Pharmacy Channel

*Think with Google. In-store smarmacy research statistics.Google/Ipsos, Global, Global Retail Study, Base: total sample (n=8,430), online 18+ who shopped in the last week, countries included: AR, AU, BR, CA, CZ, FR, DE, IN, ID, IT, JP, KR, MX, NL, PL, PT, RU, SA, ZA, ES, SE, TR, UA, GB, U.S., AE, VN, Feb. 2019

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