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Why pharmacy trumps retail for OTC purchases? Consumers give the lowdown

Time pressure or cost are not overriding concerns for pharmacy customers, new consumer research reveals.

A study of 86 customers from two metropolitan Queensland pharmacies has reinforced findings from previous research in highlighting the emphasis place on the feeling of trust and altruism in the pharmacy setting.

Almost all (96%) of the customers strongly agreed/agreed that trust in the advice given in a pharmacy was critical, with a similar number highlighting the importance of the altruistic approach of the pharmacy.  

In contrast, 82% disagreed that time pressure was a concern and 78% said cost wasn’t a critical concern when in the pharmacy setting.    

Crucially, 89% of the customers said they would continue to purchase OTC medicines from a pharmacy, rather than supermarket outlet.

“It is clear that when visiting a pharmacy, the key expectations by the customers are to be treated with respect, consideration, and for their views to be heard,” said the authors, from RMIT University, Victoria and Queensland University of Technology.

“It has been shown that pharmacy customers consider customer service as a greater driver for satisfaction than perceived value for money when they shop. However, the level of service provided to pharmacy customers can be directly limited by internal management and organisational factors such as communication and control processes”.

“Additionally, it has been shown that the attributes of the pharmacists and their staff are major drivers for pharmacy patronage by customers,” they added.

Aspects such as professionalism, friendliness and a caring nature will influence a customer’s decision-making process of where to shop., they said, while previous research had identified the critical role of the pharmacists’ attire in instilling confidence in their customers.  

The findings support many of the “perceptions of existing literature identifying a high level of satisfaction, confidence, sense of altruism, and trust by the public in pharmacist/pharmacies,” said the authors, from RMIT University, Victoria and Queensland University of Technology.

“These are important factors for customers buying OTCs from a pharmacy, regardless of time pressures and costs implications”.

The authors said the following considerations are important:

  • the need to provide greater differentiation with supermarkets;
  • the need to continue exploring opportunities to value-add and provide care beyond simply supplying a product;
  • the need to better integrate with other health services.

“Good communication skills and appropriate education of customers are critical in a pharmacist’s ability to build rapport and dissuade customers from purchasing inappropriate products,” they said.

“Optimal staff training and selection, as well as development of pharmacy personnel are critical to pharmacy patronage and for ensuring success of the pharmacy profession”.

The study was published in the journal Pharmacy Practice

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