It’s said that of all the retail sectors, pharmacy is one of the most stable on the high street. While other sectors face head-on battles with digital disruption and low-cost rivals, the humble pharmacist continues to dispense medication, over-the-counter remedies and the odd emergency lipstick without too much interference to its centuries-old business model.
But the New Zealand pharmacy industry has been going through a shake-up recently with the arrival of Chemist Warehouse. Since 2017, the Australian discount chain has been eating into the lucrative market in and around Auckland, with seven stores now open. Already the largest chain of chemists in Australia with over 400 stores, the retailer now has plans to dominate the New Zealand market, with an aggressive business strategy of opening 70 stores in all major cities across the country. If you haven’t got one near you now, chances are you will have soon.
Of course, the success of such aggressive expansion plans relies significantly on marketing – raising awareness, encouraging footfall, increasing spend, promoting loyalty – and Chemist Warehouse have a long history of using the full range of tools in the marketing box to achieve that. But while many large retailers plough huge slices of their budgets into online and social advertising, Chemist Warehouse put a lot of their faith in a different platform: print.
As well as newspaper and magazine adverts, direct mail, door drop and seasonal catalogues, Chemist Warehouse publish a quarterly magazine, The House of Wellness. With the same look and feel of a consumer beauty magazine, the publication aims to engage the millions of Chemist Warehouse customers, driving awareness of the brand, promoting specific products, and building customer loyalty. And it works: a single issue of The House of Wellness contributed to $32m in sales for the quarter, representing an 18% uplift year on year.
“It’s really interesting that brands are looking to do these bespoke magazines,” says The House of Wellness Managing Editor Fiona Welsh. “There are more opportunities out there for brands to be able to do these sorts of things.”
A useful tool for consumers
For many brands, print is still one of the best ways to connect with their customers, giving them time to relax and take in the content and its marketing messages without any digital distractions. A recent survey by Roy Morgan Research found that catalogues and letterbox mailings have an ability to engage in a way few other media can match.
“Customers view catalogues as a useful tool,” explains Kellie Northwood, CEO of RMC. “They want information on products, range, price and availability. Interestingly, focus groups in New Zealand actually complained when they don’t receive their catalogues. It is a staggering concept – imagine if a television channel didn’t play ads and viewers rang up and complained. However, if a catalogue doesn’t arrive, people express genuine dissatisfaction with the brand.”
In print we trust
Pharmacy is one of those retail sectors in which word of mouth plays a key role. Whether it’s medication, hair and skin care, cosmetics, or any one of the many product areas pharmacies and chemists now stock, recommendations from ‘trusted’ friends and family can have a huge influence on what we buy.
New ways of using print and digital to drive engagement are being created, as well as innovative ways to use data to improve targeting. But at the heart of print is a basic human desire for the physical, a tactile object with content you can trust. And in a retail sector such as pharmacy, trust goes a long way.