What shopping is really like behind the mask – at the pharmacy
In the past weeks, we have been deprived of our usual freedoms and enjoyment of relaxed hours spent in colourful shops and dining out. The carefree stroll with family or friends through shopping centres or downtown that we have always taken for granted has been put to an abrupt stop by a pandemic – a severe test of the social fabric. Despite a step by step loosening of restrictions, relaxed shopping marked by time, leisure and testing of products or groceries with our own senses is currently inconceivable. In almost every country, we are experiencing the new reality of shopping on a daily and personal basis.
Change of stance and viewpoint: new habits developing during the lockdown
Our personal shopping behaviour has changed, bringing with it a change in perspective. Many customers have made use of online shopping during the pandemic, thereby accelerating fundamental changes in retail. The number of online orders in the pharmacy sector has rapidly increased, with even hard-core online-shopping refuseniks finally getting their toes wet by ordering things online. The fear of the contagion and endangering risk groups runs deep, therefore getting needed medications sent straight to your door is more tempting than ever. Simultaneously, however, as restrictions are gradually eased it is now important for brick and mortar pharmacies to communicate safety and trust to bring back customers who are thought to be lost.
The immediate availability of a medicine as a motivation to go to the local pharmacy
There are still customer needs that are best taken care of at the local pharmacy. No one will deny that sound advice and immediate help with a problem are special qualities that only the local pharmacy can provide. However, in addition to a shopping list, a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store now begins with arming yourself with a mask, gloves or disinfectant. When to go shopping is now strategically planned with questions such as
When will the line at the pharmacy be the shortest? What will the weather be like if I have to wait outside?
Suddenly, the time factor is playing an even greater role.
Among the people smiling, but masked
Whether at the pharmacy or in the supermarket, we are slowly becoming accustomed to long lines and masked customers who use their shopping carts as protective shields. Depending on the mood and the atmosphere of the customers and employees, resentment may erupt when the recommended safety distance is disrespected and someone gets too close.
The obligation to wear a mask hinders free breathing for the employees during an eight hour work day and makes communication with customers more difficult. The situation demands patience and costs extra energy on both sides. Functioning supply chains have gradually restored confidence that the supply chain is secure and excessive stockpiling and hoarding are no longer issues.
The local pharmacy as pioneer in implementing the new safety standards
The experiences of the past weeks were also critical for pharmacies. With the corona crisis came the realizations that handling a greater influx of customers is easier with a functioning team and an automated pharmacy and that purchasing behaviour has completely changed. The pharmacy as a health centre, a place for information and communication is experiencing a new challenge. If in the past the focus was geared towards the medical aspects, now pharmacy owners are concerned with social distancing rules, disinfection and protecting employees and customers. The local pharmacy has reacted quickly to the new situation and responded sensibly with transparent protective barriers, sufficient disinfectants and face masks. In this new reality, customer loyalty and service must now be addressed.
For this new situation, support can be found in the Apostore Digital Butler, a digital kiosk for contactless communication and admission control for customers waiting at pharmacies.
Because of the Corona crisis, we have to come to terms with the fact that only a limited number of people may be in the pharmacy at the same time. Pharmacies are therefore being forced to do something that limits the number of people entering. With our Digital Butler, we offer a suitable solution for pharmacies addressing that important first customer contact.
Welcome customers digitally and help the time pass quickly with information
The Digital Butler is a tool that is fit for the future, a real multi-talent, suitable for controlling access to the pharmacy or to waiting areas in public facilities. The automated process helps the people waiting to feel fairly and equally treated as well as informed. Even after the strict hygiene regulations are over, the Digital Butler has many uses. Customers can use the digital terminal to independently find information on products and services in the shop, although we currently advise forgoing the interactive application. The kiosk is easy to install and clean. Using the pre-installed software, further functions can be activated later without problem. Add-ons such as a disinfectant dispenser and function for visitor count will be available in summer.
Prudent, customer-centred solutions for navigating the crisis together
Brick and mortar pharmacies are now dealing with irrecoverable sales losses. The new regulations for hygiene and distancing have dealt a hard blow to the entire sector. Because of the effect of distancing on how people feel, the desire to shop has been toned down for the time being. Depending on the legal requirements in the country, trying on or testing products may not be allowed in the shop. The customer is faced not only with personnel in masks and bottles of disinfectant, but with visually unattractive and uninviting barriers and taped floors.
Who has the confidence to talk about shopping experiences in this situation?
In this blog, we want to illustrate the current realities of shopping, but always with a resolute view towards the future. Our society will weather and overcome these weeks of self-denial and limitations. Only later will we be able to take final stock of the situation. The certainty that we can secure the supply in pharmaceutical trade during crises using intelligent technologies and can react quickly to the needs of the market builds trust and confidence. The past weeks have proven that we are on the right path and have shown just how future-oriented our solution portfolio is for the healthcare industry. 24 hours availability, contactless shopping and a high hygienic standard by storing the products in an automated machine are exactly what the sector requires today. As a technology company, we are keeping a vigilant watch over the situation, learning from the crisis and working on new, customer-centred solutions.
Further reading recommendations
In challenging times, it is crucial to have a reliable and competent partner who controls and enforces the logistics processes in the background. This concerns both the pharmaceutical wholesale supplying pharmacies with medicines as well as the pharmacies’ business itself.
For automation solutions in pharmacies, there are different financing models available. The best way depends on the individual requirements. Bank financing, KfW subsidy, leasing, renting or hire-purchase: Get to know your options.
The KNAPP subsidiaries Apostore and adcommander are merging the online world and real pharmacies.