Digital disruption and big data are transforming the interaction and communication between businesses and consumers as well as altering their behavior at a frantic level. The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic has provided a big chance to further enhance the digital transformation of the healthcare system and provide consumers more convenient and personalized support.

Several big companies, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Amazon are investing huge resources into upgrading digital healthcare services and solutions to better satisfy patients and consumers. It's because of the increasing importance of promptly and easy access to healthcare in the decision-making process of consumers. 

Although many consumers still prefer shopping from physical drugstores, advanced technology has substantially changed the customer journey from the awareness stage to the point of purchase. It's getting more complex and involves different touchpoints between retailers and shoppers. Consequently, consumers nowadays can be divided into three big groups:

  • The brick & mortar: They prefer checking and purchasing directly from the traditional pharmacy, however, prepare themselves at home by looking at product information online and opening hours of drugstores. These customers are the major source of traffic for the retail pharmacy's website, only a few of them complete the purchase online. They feel more confident about their purchasing decisions after getting advice from the pharmacists in person.

  • The click & collect: They want to combine the convenience of online shopping and the expertise of the pharmacists. They can check the product details and order online but prefer to pick up at stores. However, some regulations are restricting the home delivery of a few medicines.

  • The home delivery: They take up the smallest percentage among the three groups. They utilize the convenience of technology to the fullest by searching, ordering products online, and choosing home delivery services. They are usually young, tech-savvy, and highly familiar with technology. Nevertheless, virtual try-on solutions and video consultation like Revieve are crucial in addressing their pain point of choosing the right products online.

In response to those trends, eCommerce and pharmacy retailers worldwide are updating their digital infrastructure and data analytics capability to fully understand customer behavior, deliver them unique and personalized online and offline healthcare experiences. 

Online prescription refill

After the acquisition of PillPack - an online pharmacy company in the USA with the license to fill prescriptions via mail-order in all 50 states, Amazon has put their first step in changing the pharmaceutical industry which is previously dominated by giant brick-and-mortar chains. A similar pattern can be seen in Asia with the partnership of Tokopedia - an eCommerce retailer in Indonesia and GoApotik - an online pharmacy aggregator. GoApotik takes care of verifying, filling prescriptions, and packing orders online. Tokopedia then delivers the orders to consumers through its distribution network. The combination of secure and reliable medication with fast and convenient delivery service has seen a positive response from end-users.

In the UK, Global Data estimates the double growth of click and collect options in the retail pharmacy sector over the next five years. Co-operative Group and Boots now provide consumers options of ordering medicines online and pick them up at the location of choice, including physical pharmacies and collection lockers. In the EU, especially Finland and Estonia, e-prescription is allowed across the borders. Customers can get their prescriptions in one country and receive the medicines in another nation. This project is hopefully implemented in all countries within the region during the coming years.  

AI-powered operations

Retail pharmacies are putting resources into Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to develop service and optimize warehouse ability.

The recent announcement of Walgreens' expanded partnership with Microsoft and Adobe is the foundation of a better-personalized shopping and healthcare experience. The strategic collaboration leverages the global customer data source of Walgreens, along with Microsoft's Dynamics 365 and Adobe's Customer Experience Management to provide users the best-matching product offers and content whenever and wherever they are. 

In terms of order fulfillment and supply chain, pharmaceutical company Merck has partnered with Aera Technology to implement AI-powered solutions for forecasting demand, monitoring warehouse, and improving product integrity. 

Virtual healthcare services

Telemedicine allows healthcare professionals and pharmacists to treat patients at a distance by using telecommunications technology. This remote health service has brought many benefits for both patients and providers, especially during COVID-19. As the healthcare staffs need to stay healthy and the exposure to the virus must be limited to the minimum level, the need for remote treatment and video consultation has skyrocketed. This solution helps reduce the risk of spreading the virus from traveling of patients to hospitals and pharmacies. 

The drugstore chain Rite Aid Corporation has worked with telehealth company InTouchHealth to offer virtual health assessment at its RediClinic Express kiosks in Rite Aid’s brick-and-mortar stores.

Moreover, mobile applications add a lot of value to end-users and pharmacy retailers. In addition to the capability of buying many health-related products online such as medicine, vitamin supplements, diet, fitness, and beauty products, those mobile apps can also connect shoppers with pharmacists through online video and help with electronic prescribing as well as home delivery services. 

The virtual healthcare services and technologies, in the post-pandemic-world are expected to be accelerated and particularly helpful in areas where the lack of accessibility to basic healthcare is a serious problem. 

Digital health diagnostic tools

Several kinds of digital diagnostic solutions are currently being developed and altering consumer experience with quick, easy, and accurate access to disease diagnosis. For instance, ResApp's technology is based on cough and breathing sounds to diagnose the respiratory tract's situation. The solution uses the microphone of mobile phone to analyze coughing sounds and then precisely diagnose respiratory-related diseases. BiliScreen is a smartphone-based app that estimates bilirubin level through a picture of a person's eyes taken by phone camera. This technology can detect the disease at levels that human eyes can't recognize. 

The Revieve AI Skincare Advisor can instantly provide detailed diagnostics and recommendations of personalized products and beauty advice, based on the selfie picture of shopper. The solution combines advanced selfie face mapping skin analysis with user data to provide automated AI-driven skincare product recommendations along with advice and education in any channels. 

To thrive in the advanced digital era, pharmaceutical and healthcare businesses must stay relevant to the change and desire of consumers. They should start upgrading technology infrastructure to deliver a more personalized customer experience and patient healthcare process that keep customers engaged through multiple touchpoints of the journey. 

 

 

 

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