Magazine article Drug Topics

Independent Pharmacies Can Deliver Advantages On-Line

Magazine article Drug Topics

Independent Pharmacies Can Deliver Advantages On-Line

Article excerpt

On-line pharmacy is getting a lot of attention these days, but, according to Mitchell Reed, vp.-- brand strategy and corporate communications for CVS.com, it's still "one step beyond the Wright Brothers." Technology is "still slow, still cumbersome," but it will improve dramatically soon, he told members of the National Community Pharmacists Association at their annual meeting last month in Las Vegas. The personal computer many find so difficult to operate now "will go away," and there will be face-to-face conversations "in real time, in real video," predicted Reed.

As things are shaping up now, CVS does not see the Internet pushing traditional pharmacies out of business. Rather, the reverse is true, Reed said. CVS believes "very strongly" that there's a trend toward convergence, in which bricks-and-- mortar pharmacies combine or partner with on-line pharmacies to present the best of both worlds--"clicks and mortar" or "bricks and clicks," if you will.

At the same NCPA Town Hall, Jinling Elliott, director of Internet market research at PC Data, cited a recent consumer survey by the firm that supported that belief. She said there's "a great opportunity" for traditional and Internet pharmacies that work together to enable consumers to place an order on-line and then pick it up at the local pharmacy or have it delivered to their household.

And that's exactly what CornerDrugstore.com will do when it gets off the ground early next year, explained Brett Johnson, president-- CEO of the on-line network of independent pharmacies. Working with NCPA, CornerDrugstore.com is "a new competitive weapon" with which independent pharmacies can leverage what they do best, he said.

Jerry Moore, an independent pharmacist from Alabama and president-- elect of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, held out NABP's VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) program as a way for the public to find "good" pharmacy sites that meet the 17-step criteria for registration. The next step now is to get the word out about the VIPPS seal to the general public.

Build on your base

"In many ways, your current business is yours to defend or increase," Reed told independent pharmacy members of NCPA. "Each of you has this stature [of being a trusted pharmacy brand] within the community you serve. You may not have it on a national basis, but you have it on a local basis. How you market that is critical. The Internet can't do everything, but it can extend what you've already built," he said.

"Look at ways to defend your business; keep the big guys at bay," Reed also suggested. …

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