With the increasing opportunities in the pharmacy sector enhanced by the rise in prescriptions resulting from the pandemic, online pharmacies have been experiencing unprecedented growth. According to the report by Lloyds Bank Healthcare Confidence Index Report (December 2020), the ageing UK population will require an increasing number of prescriptions, which will result in pharmacies selling higher volumes of medication and becoming more profitable.
There are a number of challenges which may affect the continued profitable growth for online pharmacies. Here are some of the main ones – and how to overcome them.
The announcement that Amazon have branched out in the US online pharmacy sector has raised some concerns among established online pharmacies. Amazon Pharmacy are offering prescription medication at heavily discounted prices which are shipped to Prime customers’ home addresses. Whilst this service is not available in the UK at the moment, it may only be a matter of time before Amazon launch their online pharmacy service in this country, which will have an impact on established UK online businesses. It is important for existing UK online pharmacies to grow their customers’ loyalty through customer service excellence, which can be achieved through competitive pricing for over-the-counter products, prompt delivery and a friendly and approachable service.
Reluctance to Buy Online
Consumers are strongly advised by the NHS to be cautious and avoid ordering medicines online, as medicines should only be taken under medical supervision. To give buyers confidence that they are purchasing from a reputable provider, UK online pharmacies should ensure their website clearly displays all the registration details and accreditation logos prominently – this will help reassure consumers about credentials and legitimacy.
Ensuring Uninterrupted Supply
At peak times, such as winter and spring, the demand for certain products reaches an all-time high. Keeping abreast of the demand to ensure continued supply to customers can be challenging, especially as suppliers themselves will be facing a higher demand from their clients. It is therefore important for online pharmacies to analyse their stock rotation and rate of sale on a 12- to 24-month period, which will help identify insightful information which, in turn, will help predict the demand in similar periods.
Expiry date and wastage
Identifying the products which have a shorter shelf life is key in avoiding unwanted and costly wastage. A manual process can often result in items being overlooked or not accounted for, which in turns may result in products expire before they can be shipped.
This can be avoided by investing in inventory management solutions which will not only manage SKUs efficiently, but will also eliminate wastage costs and reduce overheads.
Keeping your stockroom efficient
With large inventories to manage, managing a stock room can become quite a cumbersome task, which can increase resource and time overheads.
By tidying up stock rooms regularly and removing any obsolete or redundant items, such as empty boxes, online pharmacies have the opportunity to maximise their storage space. Categorising the inventory according to the ABC rule can facilitate the location of the stock more efficiently:
A: these are high-value items which make up only a small proportion of the stock (approximately 10%) and which generate the highest levels of sales value every year.
B: these are mid-range value items which sell well and which make up approximately 35% of the inventory
C: these are the low-value items which represent around 55% of the stock and which account for the lowest sales value annually
Automating Inventory Management
The manual stock management can result in human errors, as well as significant resource overheads. It can be very time-consuming for staff to check item locations, update stock levels and ensure expiry dates are managed correctly. Investing in efficient technology, such our StockAssist Medical solution, which is specially designed to take away the pressure manual management of your stock levels, will help maximise the supply chain management process, ensuring that stocks levels are monitored accurately and that expiry-soon items are depleted first.
StockAssist Medical provides a precise overview of the inventory and includes information such as quantity by item, location (across multiple locations too!), expiry dates and tracking history… all at the touch of a button!
StockAssist Medical maximises efficiencies in stock-taking, resulting in reduced time and resource overheads.
Stock control requires careful management. Read Your Ultimate Guide to Inventory Management to find out more.