Consumers choose to buy non-prescription medicines in community pharmacies due to trust in their competence, care and accurate information, according to latest research
While community pharmacies are considered trustworthy, consumers are more likely to intend to purchase non-prescription medicines from a supermarket if they perceive the retailer as competent—providing safe products and dealing with product safety issues efficiently.
However purchase intention within community pharmacy is strongly linked to their ability to provide accurate information, say researchers from the QUT Business School, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, and University of New England Business School.
Their research, published this month in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, looked at the drivers and barriers of consumer purchase intentions of non-script medicines in Australian supermarkets and community pharmacies.
They conducted in-store intercept surveys of 402 supermarket shoppers and 310 community pharmacy shoppers to find out what drives their purchases.
All participants were adults who had purchased non-script medicines to treat pain and fever, coughs and colds/flu or indigestion in their respective setting.
Results showed competence to provide safe products (0.321, p<0.01), benevolence (0.219, p<0.01) and provision of accurate information (0.192, p<0.01) were most positively associated with purchase intentions of non-script medicines in community pharmacy.
In terms of benevolence, respondents associated pharmacy staff with ‘concerns for customer wellbeing’ and an emphasis on finding ways to mitigate customer health concerns.
Meanwhile drivers for purchasing these in a supermarket were competence to provide safe products (0.243, p<0.01) and ability to efficiently handle transactions (0.159, p<0.01).
Respondents associated two barriers to purchasing non-script medicines in the supermarket.
These were physical risk, i.e. a threat to wellbeing caused by misuse or adverse effects of the medicines, and social risk, which occurs when purchasing a product in a setting that is deemed by their social group to be an inferior choice.
Only one risk element was found to be a barrier to purchasing non-script medicines in community pharmacies and this was time—the perceived time wasted in waiting to be served, searching for a product, trying to find assistance or reading dosage instructions.
“The descheduling of medicines has increased their availability through settings beyond community pharmacies,” explain the researchers, led by Associate Professor Gary Mortimer from QUT Business School, Queensland.
“With warehouse-style discount pharmacies now providing the same low prices offered by supermarkets, price appears no longer to be a salient factor influencing consumer’s choice of where to shop.”
“As suggested by the overall findings, competence plays a significant role in consumer decision making when it comes to purchasing non-prescription medicines in both supermarkets and community pharmacies.
“Competence items elucidated issues relating to product safety, therefore both supermarkets and community pharmacy should promote messages regarding the safe use of non-prescription medicines at point of sale.”
They suggest that retailers could use digital displays that provide warnings of adverse effects or usage risks once consumers scan packaging barcodes, or provide signage to encourage consumers to seek professional advice prior to consumption.
As provision of accurate information was so important for community pharmacy, the researchers also suggest that pharmacy associations invest resources into training pharmacy assistants who “are often the first point of contact for customers”.
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