Jan. 19, 2021
How COVID-19 Changed Marketing in 2021 & Beyond
Long-lasting effects of COVID-19 will be felt for years to come, forcing independent pharmacists to shift their marketing efforts and implement new strategies to retain and gain patients. With the significant changes in society’s lifestyle (working from home, travel bans, retail and restaurant closures, etc.) brought on by the pandemic, there was no question the impact – for better or worse – small business owners would face. Below are a few marketing insights learned during the pandemic and how they will influence a post-COVID-19 future. 

Digital & Online Platforms Lead the Pack
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that we can rely on digital platforms to communicate better than we thought. So why not invest more in digital experiences? According to retaildive.com, PYMNTS.com's findings indicate some digital behaviors differ based on income. Consumers who earn less than $50,000 were most likely to not shift their routines online, with 38% indicating they had made no shifts, while 34% of consumers who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 have moved routines online and plan to maintain all of their digital habits after the pandemic. For consumers earning more than $100,000, 46% said they shifted activities online and plan to maintain some of those behaviors after the pandemic ends, and 38% of the same group plan to maintain all of their shifted behaviors post-pandemic.
  • Social Media – A low-cost timely way to communicate to your patients the ways that you, your store and services are adapting to fit their needs.
  • Digital Ads – Whether using Facebook, Google or other platforms, digital ads are an effective way to target new and current patients within a specified geographical radius of your store. For a few bucks a day, you can promote specific services, discounted products or your pharmacy as a whole.
  • Video – An assessable and affordable way to connect with patients that provides a human touch when “no contact” services and social distancing is key. 

Customer Retention & Passive Marketing Becomes New Focus
For many years, the bread and butter of marketing has been converting and acquiring new customers. The pandemic forced many business owners to cut marketing budgets and shift focus on retaining the customers that were already generating profit.

Lead with empathy and sincerity. More now than ever is the time to demonstrate how well you understand your patient’s needs. With many households struggling financially, patients have placed higher ethical standards on businesses to ensure their dwindling hard-earned dollars are going to organizations that are “doing the right thing” and not attempting to capitalize on the pandemic. Since the pandemic, many marketing campaigns have moved away from aggressive “in-your-face” marketing and have opted for a more subtle tone so that consumers don’t feel pressured to spend money they don’t have. How do you reassure your patient’s that you have their best interests in mind?

One way to maintain lifelong patients is to vocalize your pharmacy’s values. Scott Holden, CEO of ThoughtSpot said, “Now more than ever, storytelling is critical for linking the value of your product/services to the challenges your customers are facing. But it must be done authentically.” Share stories that reflect what is happening in the world and support them by communicating services and/or good deeds that will connect authentically with your patients. 

Review & Refine the Way You do Business
Travel bans, social-distancing, temporary lobby/store closures and budget cuts have forced many companies to change they way they do business. Businesses that were able to adapt to the changing needs of their communities not only survived, but thrived. Did you create a pivot plan? Did you embrace digital platforms, delivery and drive-thru services when your store’s lobby was closed? Were you able to create a pandemic safety protocol for staff and patients? Did these changes recover lost profits and establish new business goals?

As you reassess your business goals and objectives, continue to highlight your store’s values. Be present and make sure those values align with your patient’s needs. As we look forward to a post-COVID-19 society, consumers will remember the brands that showed empathy, were socially responsible, adapted to meet their needs, and made a positive impact in the community during a time when so many of them were struggling.