We’ve often used our digital bully pulpit to chastise Pharma companies both big & small for their tardiness in adopting the latest digital tools and technologies. We’ve sounded the alarm more than once about how Pharma is falling behind other industries in terms of digital communication and consumer expectations. And we’ve been as encouraged as any by the slow but steady advances that have been made in the industry over the last few years.
But what about the other end of the purchase funnel. How are pharmacies & drug stores utilizing the latest technology to educate consumers, provide value and improve patient quality of life? The answer is surprising. A quick survey of sites for the major pharmaceutical retailers in the US reveals that they are as slow or slower to adopt new technologies than their manufacturing partners. And that’s even more surprising when one considers that retail has been a major driving factor in technology innovation.
Take for example, the screenshot at the top of this article. That’s a shot of New York based Duane Reade’s mobile site seen in a Chrome browser. Forget responsive design. Duane Reade went to the trouble of building a dedicated m site (i.e. a site optimized for mobile use). So why bother to have it display in a desktop based browser. Is the company simply adding a link to show off the fact that it has a mobile (largely text based) site? There also doesn’t seem to be any way to purchase anything from the mobile app (we tried to use the prescription service but got a “system unavailable” message). Definitely not a mobile optimized experience.
At least Duane Reade (and it’s new parent company Walgreen’s) have mobile apps. CVS, another leading drugstore chain doesn’t seem to have bothered with that.
They do have a significant Facebook presence with almost 1,000,000 fans:
But you would never know that (or anything about their other social media platforms) by looking at their website:
To be fair, even online veteran drugstore.com buries their social media links below the fold (and has no noticeable mobile presence):
But the bigger issue than these very basic UX design issues is the lack of focus on the end user. Where is the information that can improve health, compliance or patient quality of life? Pharmacies and drugstores have a real opportunity to support Pharma companies efforts in this area (especially with the relatively low costs associated with digital offerings). But for now, their offerings consist of very basic e-commerce sites that look like their stakeholders have never been exposed to Gilt, Zappos or even Amazon.
We admit we’re in uncharted waters here. Pixels and Pills doesn’t cover the Pharma retial space and none of our contributors have worked with a pharma retailer on a digital offering. But it seems like there are very basic service offerings and consumer communications tools that are jus not being offered by drugstores online.
Why not? What’s holding them back?