A point of difference


AJP chats with the Priceline Pharmacy corporate team about how the brand competes with discount chains and its renewed focus on professional services


  • Tamalin Morton, Priceline Pharmacy General Manager
  • Cathy Seaholme, Priceline Pharmacy General Manager Retail Operations
  • Rob Tassie, Head of Industry and Corporate Affairs at Australian Pharmaceutical Industries

AJP: What’s the direction that Priceline Pharmacy is planning to take for this year to come?

TM: For us it’s very much about continuing the focus on our customers, and the key way that we do that is by leveraging the customer insights that we have.

This comes from basically our Sister Club database and the insights that we get from that are really, really fantastic in terms knowing what our customers are buying, when they’re buying it, and the frequency of their shopping.

There are lots of insights we can really leverage to make sure that we hone our offer and make it as strong and compelling for our customers as it possibly can be.

In addition to that, we’re very focused on new and exclusive products and making sure we bring the best brands to market, and that we’re first to market also.

We want to do that offering great value and we have a fantastic promotional program and, on top of that, loyalty rewards.

Another consideration is service, and that’s really critical in terms of differentiating Priceline Pharmacy. We have fantastic beauty advisors across our network of 465 stores.

The pharmacist is absolutely at the heart of everything we do, and that is critical for us – those relationships and the trust that is placed in the pharmacist.

CS: What we’re really trying to do is become the destination for health and beauty care, with the pharmacist at the centre of that offer.

We have Health Stations in almost 200 of the stores and we’d like to see them rolled out to the majority of stores.

They do everything from BMI testing to looking at the hydration of the person, to see if there’s any pre-indicators for stroke or diabetes, and then getting the pharmacist involved in that.

I think the key thing is the care proposition, because we really want the pharmacist to be front and centre.

We’ve got a forward dispensing model, we want our pharmacists actually out on the floor engaging, and I think one of the great things about the Health Station is that it actually brings them out onto the floor.

AJP: How does Priceline Pharmacy deal with the impact of price disclosure?

RT: We’ve been dealing with price disclosure for many, many years. Part of the whole proposition of Priceline Pharmacy to pharmacists is that we’re such a well-known brand loved by so many customers… we bring those customers into the door.

Then it’s about maximising once they’re in there. We make sure we maximise pharmacist services such as flu shots or the health stations – get that interaction happening – and then that also allows us to access the incentive payments that are available for some of the services, whether its clinical interventions and medication reviews.

We make sure the pharmacist is front and centre of that because we know that’s where it’s going to move to, because the margins are not going to improve in the dispensary.

We just need to keep on making sure we focus on bringing the customers in the door and once they’re in the door, how do we actually use those services to maximise them.

AJP: How does Priceline Pharmacy keep up with big box discounters such as Chemist Warehouse?

RT: I think it’s really important that we’re differentiated from discounters like Chemist Warehouse.

It’s not necessarily about keeping up, it’s about being certain of what we are and differentiating ourselves.

We’ve got our customers, we know what they want, and we need to make sure we service them.

TM: I absolutely agree, we are very different, the elements when you look at the customer database and insights that we have, the brands that we offer and the services that we offer in store, it’s a different proposition.

And we need to stay focused and true to that and to our customers and their needs.

Priceline Pharmacy General Manager Tamalin Morton (left), with Priceline Sisters Ita Buttrose and Sam Harris

CS: The other big thing that we’re really excited about is that last year we did 100,000 flu shots, and we’re targeting a 30-40% lift on that this year. That goes back to that whole care proposition and how we can bring that to life. I think that’s what we’ll win on, the real connection with the customer.

AJP: In what ways does Priceline Pharmacy plan to roll out professional services across its network?

CS: We’re really committed to professional services, [API National Dispensary Services Manager] Regina Cowie and her team look after all states in terms of face-to-face training. We’ve also just recently launched a new platform that’s linked into iTherapeutics and some training they have, to keep professional services up.

We’re also rolling out more Health Stations to more stores, and we train every single store in terms of being able to deliver the flu vaccination service. [Patients] have an online portal where they can book into that or they can pop into any of the pharmacies.

So Regina and her team are really committed – as we all are – to making sure that the services are actually spread across the whole network. What they’re most passionate about is not just handing out the script, but actually engaging and making sure patients well cared for.

We’ve got the front-of-store side, but I think how we really link that to the pharmacy becomes really critical. So we’d love to see more of the Health Stations. We’ve already had a million people using them, we’d love to see that double fairly quickly –within about 12 to 24 months.

Priceline Pharmacy's Health Stations recently hit one million digital health checks.
Priceline Pharmacy’s Health Stations recently hit one million digital health checks.

TM: We want people to keep coming back and using the Health Stations again and again, so that they can actually see the progress in their care. And the critical piece is getting the pharmacist out there and talking to them.

If they build that relationship at a local community level, [patients] can keep going back in and trialling it. The good thing is we’re seeing a lot of men using it too.

RT: Something which is often underestimated is that unless you have a need to go to a pharmacy to get a script, you don’t necessarily know what services the pharmacist can offer.

For example, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact that flu injections make, especially when the pharmacist is giving them. We make sure that every one of our stores has a trained pharmacist to do that.

Once the pharmacist is positioned as not just dispensing some pills but actually being able to do much more than that, it changes the whole perception of the care which they can actually provide.

Often first-time mums know about what a pharmacist can offer but other than that, it’s just normal people taking scripts, so we want to really broaden that.

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