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The best online shopping experience for pharmacies and supermarkets. What can they learn from each other?

This article is based on the webinar from our Retail Talks series. Below we present the highlights of what was presented and discussed by our guest experts. To watch the full webinar, click here.

The impact of the pandemic on the supermarket market increased the digital penetration of customers, which made retailers prioritize the customer experience: from purchase to order delivery. In this scenario, it is essential for online supermarkets and pharmacies to strengthen omnichannel and lead the multi-channel strategy between stores and digital sales.

The experience of two pharmacy networks in Ecuador: Farmacias Económicas and Farmacias Medicity.

Before the pandemic, these pharmacies already had their call center for phone sales, but with the pandemic, the online sales channel was strengthened because people could only buy medicines through this means. The pandemic was a challenge for these companies, but also an opportunity to improve their e-commerce service and learn to deal with inventory and logistics problems.

Although sales have decreased after the end of the pandemic in the country, e-commerce continues to grow in Ecuador, especially in the niche of adults and higher income groups. According to a study of non-face-to-face transactions, e-commerce in Ecuador grew by 23% in 2022, and the pharmaceutical market is expected to grow by 7% in 2023. The pandemic was a chaotic experience, but also an opportunity to capitalize on new opportunities.

The digital gap that still exists between the online and offline world in commerce and how this gap has slowed the growth of e-commerce. Although more and more people consult and buy online, many still prefer the physical channel for convenience, to discover new products, or simply for the pleasure of going to the store. The convergence of the two worlds is possible, and companies can develop strategies to attract both online and in-store buyers.

The challenges faced by e-commerce in offering a good customer experience. 

One of the main challenges is preparing orders on time and ensuring that the customer receives their order on time. Another big challenge is offering good customer service so that they come back to buy and recommend the company. In the specific case of a pharmaceutical company, the main challenge is inventory, especially in the case of medical prescriptions, where it is not always possible to offer substitutes due to the need to respect medical guidelines. In addition, the company must ensure the cold chain and ensure that products arrive in excellent condition to the customer. And it is very important to establish strategies that make the customer loyal and prefer the company.

Stores must be constantly innovating to improve their online offering and adopt updated technologies, such as intelligent search engines or product suggestions. Daily data review is crucial to improve the customer experience.

Challenges and strategies of e-commerce currently.

 One of the main themes is the location of inventory and the online store, improving the user experience, optimizing costs, and automating customer service. Product traceability and order management are also important. The relevance of marketplaces is highlighted, although the particularities of each company and the need to evaluate the use of third parties in their online sales strategy are also important. However, this channel should not outweigh the company’s own channels for reasons of customer data security, data visualization, and having a complete view of the operation.

The own channels in e-commerce and how fast delivery services through applications can complement this strategy, but should not be the main focus, as they can generate dependence and affect long-term profitability.

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We want to thank the valuable contributions and experiences of the guest speakers:

Chiquinquirá Polo: Jr. Manager of Alternative Channels and Agreements – Farmaenlace Ecuador

Eliseo Moran: E-commerce Manager at Súper Selectos Grupo Calleja – El Salvador

Andrés Piñeros: Omnichannel Manager at Olimpica S.A – Colombia