Over recent years, the pharmacy has evolved from merely the point of filling a prescription to a highly frequented healthcare destination. The pharmacy is no longer simply the last stop on a patient’s healthcare journey. More so than ever, the pharmacy is a destination frequented by consumers to purchase everyday household items, go grocery shopping, use public biometric health kiosks, receive vaccinations, and of course, fill prescriptions.
The integration of the pharmacy into everyday life presents a valuable opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to strategically partner with pharmacies so both parties, as well as patients, can achieve desired outcomes. The key to success is treating the retail pharmacy as its own marketing funnel, recognizing its potential to influence patients and consumers from the top-down and embracing the pharmacist as a key player along the way. The pharmacy’s ability to drive full-funnel performance presents a wide range of partnership opportunities for pharmaceutical companies, from awareness marketing to patient education to adherence messaging.
Build Awareness with In-Pharmacy Advertising
Advertising in pharmacies comes in many different formats and media placements are designed to strategically reach consumers at different stages of their pharmacy visit, including at the entrance, within aisles and adjacent to products, on biometric health kiosks, and at the pharmacy waiting area and drop-off/pick-up counter. The pharmacy presents a top of the funnel opportunity to build brand awareness by advertising in-store, reaching not only health-conscious consumers, but also everyday shoppers and the pharmacists on-site.
Awareness messaging can introduce viewers to your product and provide basic education as to what the product is and the problem it aims to solve.1 Pharmaceutical companies should tailor their sponsored messaging specifically to the pharmacy audience, as advertising in-pharmacy offers a unique ability to include a direct call to action that encourages viewers to speak to a pharmacist to learn more. Pharmacists are a reliable source of counseling and information for general, condition-specific, and chronic health and wellness concerns, and should be considered an ally to pharmaceutical companies and to patients making important healthcare decisions.
Partner with Pharmacists for Improved Patient Education
Pharmacists play an essential role in medication education and management, making them a key player along a patient’s healthcare journey, from diagnosis to treatment to adherence. With 81% of shoppers conducting research before making a purchase, pharmacists are especially influential during the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.1 At the consideration stage, the second stage of the marketing funnel, potential buyers are aware of a specific product and are evaluating whether said product is an appropriate solution to their problem, as well as if there could be an alternative product that better suits their needs.1 At this stage, potential buyers are often looking for assistance or an expert opinion to help them weigh their options and ensure they are on the path to making the right purchasing decision.1
At the pharmacy, a buyer need look no further than the on-site pharmacist, one of the most qualified, and certainly most convenient, resources to provide the desired assistance. The patient-pharmacist discussion that takes place during the consideration stage serves as research the patient will use to make their purchasing decision. A pharmacist can educate the patient about the product, make comparisons to competitors, and determine if the medication in question will interact with a patient’s current medication or increase the risk of adverse reactions.2 Pharmaceutical companies, however, must play an active role in ensuring pharmacists have the resources they need to properly educate patients on their product and its benefits to successfully move consumers down the marketing funnel and drive conversion.
Pharmacists and patients alike look to pharmaceutical companies to provide education around the products they offer. In addition to patient-facing education, it is also crucial that pharmaceutical companies provide pharmacists with the necessary knowledge to properly educate patients about medications they are considering and prescriptions they are filling. While awareness messaging within the pharmacy can dually reach consumers and pharmacists, pharmaceutical companies can do a better job of creating educational marketing materials that are specifically designed to educate the pharmacist, so they can then better educate their patients. The more knowledgeable the pharmacist is on a product, the better equipped the pharmacist is to decide whether the medication in question is the treatment that will result in the best possible outcome for the patient.
Apply Lessons from COVD-19’s Impact on Pharmacies
According to Laura Edmundson, Director of Pharmacy at Brookshire Brothers: “Industry-wide, it seems there has been a decrease in drug reps detailing pharmacists on new drug launches or new indications, etc. Because of that, I think our pharmacists miss out on a lot of details and scientific background for a lot of the new-to-market drugs. We are always open to any type of educational materials that are directed towards pharmacists, so they can better educate their patients.”
The decrease in detailing from drug representatives to pharmacies that Edmundson mentions can be attributed to COVID-19, which placed limitations on in-person visitations by sales reps to healthcare providers. COVID-19 had a profound impact on retail pharmacies as pharmacists stepped up to serve on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, performing COVID-19 testing under authorized emergency use and administering vaccines once they became available.3 As of October 4, 2022, approximately 271 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered within pharmacies through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program (FRPP), accounting for 43% of doses given in the U.S. to date.4 FRPP’s success is a result of collaboration between public health agencies to encourage individuals to go to a pharmacy to get vaccinated.4
Messaging from the CDC and state and local government departments of health included a direct call to action—go to a pharmacy to get vaccinated.4 Pharmaceutical companies can follow suit by tailoring their messaging specific to the pharmacy audience and including a similar direct call to action—speak to your pharmacist. In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, most pharmacists are licensed to administer a wide range of vaccines and immunizations to protect against HPV, hepatitis, flu, and more. Pharmaceutical companies can help raise awareness of the many services available at the pharmacy and can encourage viewers to receive vaccinations/immunizations at their pharmacy, resulting in immediate, on-site conversion.
Implement Measures to Improve Adherence
When it comes to pharma marketing, however, conversion should not be considered the last stage of the funnel.5 Pharmaceutical companies need to consider loyalty, which refers to a buyer’s likelihood to repeat a purchase and can be considered synonymous with adherence in this case.5 Adherence is especially important in the pharmaceutical marketing funnel as the products pharmaceutical companies offer are typically prescriptions requiring consistent refills or vaccinations/immunizations requiring seasonal or annual upkeep. Adherence is crucial for patients with all conditions, yet medication adherence continues to be an ongoing obstacle.6
At a National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) event this year, pharmacy representatives stressed the importance of keeping patients adherent to their drugs and voiced the struggle they often face in the effort to do so. According to the World Health Organization, medication adherence can be more impactful on patient outcomes than initial treatment itself.7 While adherence rates of 80% or more are needed for optimal therapeutic efficacy, adherence to chronic medications is estimated at only 50%.7 Additionally, 50% of treatment failures, approximately 125,000 deaths, and nearly 25% of hospitalizations occur in the U.S. each year as a result of nonadherence.7
Pharmacists play a pivotal role in medication adherence and are dedicated to implementing measures to help patients better adhere to their treatment regimens. Successful strategies include patient education, enrolling patients in automatic refill programs, sending patients refill reminder calls and text messages, and helping patients find access to lower-cost medication.8 While most pharmaceutical companies offer adherence and support programs, they struggle to raise awareness for these programs among patients and can look to pharmacists to help do so.
Pharmacists’ integral role in improving medication adherence means they play a vital role in clinical and financial outcomes for all parties involved—patients, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies.7 Their influence from awareness all the way to adherence demonstrates how strategic partnerships between pharma companies and pharmacies that embrace the pharmacist as an ally along the way can lead to a successful trip down the marketing funnel, a positive patient journey, and improved overall outcomes for all.
1. Shuteyev, Paul. “Awareness, Consideration & Decision: How to Convert at Each Stage.” Snovio, October 19, 2022. https://snov.io/blog/awareness-consideration-decision-what-to-convert-with-at-each-stage.
2. Stobierski, Tim. “What Do Pharmacists Do? Roles and Responsibilities.” Northeastern University Graduate Programs. Northeastern University, March 16, 2022. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/what-do-pharmacists-do.
3. Hippensteele, Alana. “HHS: Pharmacists Are Nationally Authorized to Administer COVID-19 Tests Under Prep Act.” Pharmacy Times, March 5, 2021. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/hhs-pharmacists-are-nationally-authorized-to-administer-covid-19-tests-under-prep-act.
4. “Covid-19 Vaccination Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 18, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/index.html.
5. “The ‘Marketing Funnel’ Explained.” Cobiro, March 7, 2022. https://cobiro.com/blog/the-marketing-funnel-explained.
6. Toich, Laurie. “5 Easy Ways Pharmacists Can Improve Medication Adherence.” Pharmacy Times, March 5, 2021. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/5-easy-ways-pharmacists-can-improve-medication-adherence.
7. Kim, Jennifer, Kelsy Combs, Jonathan Downs, and Frank Tillman. “Medication Adherence: The Elephant in the Room.” U.S. Pharmacist, January 19, 2018. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/medication-adherence-the-elephant-in-the-room.
8. Neiman, Andrea B., Michael Ho, Todd Ruppar, et al. “CDC Grand Rounds: Improving Medication Adherence for Chronic Disease Management – Innovations and Opportunities.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 16, 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6645a2.htm.