How Pharmacies Improve Patient Loyalty With Post-Purchase

After almost three years of out-of-stock notices, staff shortages, and rising costs, patient willingness to try a new pharmacy is stronger than ever. Which means if your pharmacy offers an underwhelming post-purchase experience, it's just another reason for patients to experiment with your competitors the next time they need a prescription filled.

On the other hand, an exceptional post-purchase experience cements the happiness of patients new to your pharmacy, transforming one-off prescription fills into lifelong loyalty. That is why it’s so important for you to nail your post-purchase strategy and deliver the experience people want.

In this article, we'll introduce you to some basic principles you can focus on to improve your post-purchase experience in a way that mitigates churn.

Principle 1 — Education

For any first-time patient, there’s a learning curve to a new pharmacy.

Therefore, education is a fundamental component of any post-purchase journey. Not only does it keep patients engaged with your pharmacy, but it allows you to introduce them to new products, promotions, or programs that you’re offering. More importantly, it allows you to share patient education materials to maximize adherence to physician/pharmacist instructions, which improves patient outcomes. 

This is critical because many of the products sold by pharmacies (be they prescription or OTC) are use-case specific. By investing in education, a pharmacy can help new-to-brand buyers  understand how certain products work or should be used to maximize their positive impact.

Branded order tracking pages (versus a standard carrier tracking page) are a money-maker and a fantastic learning lab for patients. When you use a branded tracking page, first-time patients are more likely to come back and make another purchase which increases revenue. They’re also less likely to contact your pharmacists (or other customer support staff) about their therapy which lowers expenses.

Long-term, patient retention rates are stronger when branded order tracking pages are used, which leads to higher lifetime value per customer.

Principle 2 — Clear expectations

In an era of patient mistrust related to insurers, doctors, vaccines, and more, it’s critical that pharmacies double-down on transparency. Ideally, a patient should always know where their purchase is in the fulfillment journey—doing so helps them understand (and tolerate) longer-than-expected delivery timelines and increases their likelihood of becoming a repeat buyer.

This is especially true when it comes to returns. Unambiguous return and exchange policies eliminate patient uncertainty pre-purchase and strengthen their loyalty to your pharmacy post-purchase.

When will my order arrive?

Post-purchase communications related to things such as missed delivery attempts and fulfillment delays are crucial to a good experience.

Yes, a patient might be upset to know their package is delayed, but they’ll be even more upset if they don’t receive a notification and they don’t have time to find alternative means of therapy. In fact, 98% of consumers say they feel better when they receive an immediate notification that something is wrong with their purchase. 

The more proactive you can be with your post-purchase communication (particularly when that communication is related to something negative, such as a delivery delay) the more trusting patients will be of your brand. The greater that trust is, the more likely the patient is to accept whatever resolution you propose for their fulfillment issue. 

Good news or bad news, patients appreciate not needing to hunt down information through clunky carrier tracking pages, chatbots, or calling customer service reps on the phone. Failing to be proactive leads to annoyed patients and tarnished relationships that drive future purchases into the waiting arms of other pharmacies.

Principle 3 — A modern returns process

For those pharmacies with extensive online sales, be aware that the majority of new patients evaluate your return policy before they ever make a purchase. That's why no post-purchase experience is complete without a conversation about returns management.

In fact, more than 60% of online shoppers tie their buying decisions to return policies, with simple, seamless policies winning the sale almost every time. (This is why you see “free shipping, free returns” on so many homepages.)

People want returns rules and processes that are easy to understand and even easier to put into action. Therefore, pharmacies can’t afford to put their collective head in the sand when it comes to modernizing the returns experience.

While returns modernization is costly, there are things you can do to mitigate its financial impact. 

You can…

  • Make returns less likely by using data to improve your product detail pages. 
  • Deploy different eligibility rules to cut down on returns that are out-of-season or outside their return window.
  • Entice first-time patients with free return shipping for their initial purchase, but set a condensed return window (e.g., 15 days instead of 30) to encourage faster returns while delivering a great brand experience.
  • Create special return rules for high-value patients—these are individuals whose purchasing power (or frequency) make them worth the expense of things like extended return windows, home pickup, and free returns shipping.

Having said that, it's important to note none of these cost-saving measures should come at the expense of convenience—when it comes to returns, patients value convenience above all. Boxless returns, convenient return drop-off locations, home pickup—these former nice-to-haves are becoming must-haves.

Is there a direct correlation between the returns experience and the delivery experience?

The likelihood of a return is always tied to delivery in some capacity. The more accurate and transparent the delivery information, the less likely the patient is to submit a return. A patient who buys a bottle of zinc oxide sunscreen or aloe vera for their trip to Fort Lauderdale is more likely to return that purchase if it doesn’t arrive in time for the vacation. (In fact, “late shipping” is one of the most frequently cited reasons for returns.)

A few more takeaways and tips before you go...

Not every patient is going to engage with your post-purchase journey. However, the patients who do interact (e.g., those who frequently track their order, those who want SMS notifications about their package, etc.) are a very active consumer group.

Connecting them with a thoughtful, informative, and personalized post-purchase experience will lead to the repeat purchases and surging lifetime value that all pharmacies crave. That is why it’s so important for you to nail your post-purchase strategy and ensure you're delivering the experience that people want.

Don't link out

If you're still linking out to the carrier website when it comes to order tracking, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to engage with patients.

Do more than upsell

Your order tracking pages can be used for more than upselling patients—don't be afraid to use them for product education, feedback, and more.

Keeping patients informed puts you ahead of the pack

Only 1 out of 5 people who experience a shipping delay feel the pharmacy keeps them informed about the disruption and the evolving delivery timeline. That means there's an incredible opportunity here for brand differentiation and increased share of wallet if you can do a better job of communicating than your competitors.

Putting patients in control cultivates trust, trust builds loyalty

Think long and hard about how you give patients flexibility and choice in your post-purchase experience—especially when it comes to returns. If you can let people decide when, where, and how they can return or exchange their products, they're more likely to keep coming back to you the next time they need to make a health-related purchase.


About Narvar

Narvar pioneered how brands and healthcare providers engage with people in a HIPPA-compliant way beyond the “buy” button through branded order tracking, delivery notifications, returns and exchanges. Today, Narvar’s comprehensive Post-Purchase Platform empowers 1200+ of the world’s most-admired brands including Humana Pharmacy, Henry Schein, CVS, Medtronic, and Allheart to deliver transparency, build trust, and grow lifetime value. Recognized by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies of 2021, Narvar simplifies the everyday lives of consumers.

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