Breaking Down Digital Barriers: Bringing Prescription Medicines to the Online Arena

April Davis By April Davis | 25 Feb 2019

This pet pharmacy has set out to change perceptions on how and where pet supplies can be bought.

Once upon a time, purchasing prescription medicines anywhere other than your local pharmacy was inconceivable. But, thanks to the digital revolution, filling a prescription is less restricted than it once was. Janet Lieu, the pharmacist at Pet Care Pharmacy is part of the team looking to streamline the purchase journey for time-poor pet owners that need medicine or essential supplies for their furry, feathered or scaly loved ones.

“We are a registered Australian pharmacy specialising in animal medicines,” Lieu says.

Launching in late 2018, the cross-channel pet pharmacy stocks a wide range of pet care products, including prescription medicines, vitamins and supplements, prescription foods and paraciticides. While the business model is a little unorthodox, the “passion” business was established to raise a greater level of awareness for pet owners when it comes to purchasing essential items.

Speaking to Power Retail, Lieu recaps her start-up journey and looks at the reception the cross-channel pharmacy has received so far.

Getting Started in the E-Commerce Realm

For many, the prospect of leaving a stable full-time job to pursue a side-hustle or passion project can be daunting, especially when your financial security is on the line. In Lieu’s experience, getting out of your own head is, therefore, one of the biggest hurdles that need to be overcome.

“Gaining traction is always so hard starting out. Having the mental capacity to believe you will, and can, succeed is a massive hurdle, [as well as] overcoming the fear of failure – the self-doubt you have is truly one of the hardest things to overcome.,” she says.

“We’re personally thankful for the love and support of our friends and family. Without [them], we probably wouldn’t have been able to pursue this business venture. The support of the people around you really makes a massive difference,” she continues.

But mentality aside, starting a new business venture involves a lot of thought and planning. For Pet Care Pharmacy, digital marketing efforts and the development of a strong online platform were key priorities.

“Our business model is focused on educating pet owners about pet health and pet care. We use our social media (Facebook and Instagram) alongside the blog on our website to educate and inform our customers and followers about how to look after their pets, especially here in Australia. We try to stay current and relevant and at the same time, educating and bringing awareness of pet health and pet diseases to the public,” Lieu says.

Ease of use, especially for shoppers who aren’t digital natives, and maintaining high levels of customer service have also proven fruitful since the company’s inception late last year.

“Our processes and website are very easy to use/follow and we pride ourselves on helping our customers every step of the way. A lot of our customers are middle-aged so the use of a simple platform that can be used by people with only basic computer skills is crucial to our business. We are available over the phone during business hours as well as via email out of hours – so we can offer good customer service both in-store and online.”

When it comes to marketing, Pet Care Pharmacy is currently utilising staff knowledge to handle promotional efforts in-house.

“We currently do all our marketing ourselves – we are focusing on Google AdWords, which has already seen a great return for our business. We are also reaching out to the local community to raise awareness of pet medications and how they can be purchased elsewhere – making our products more affordable and accessible to pet owners.”

Entering an Omnichannel Shopping Environment

The modern retail climate is all about capturing the attention of consumers on multiple platforms, both day and night. For Lieu, a cross-channel sales approach that shatters the traditional concept of customer experience is the best way of attracting market share.

Designed to complement Pet Care Pharmacy’s online model, Lieu says the company’s physical shop front is a nice way to personalise the shopping experience for her customers.

“Our physical shopfront is a nice touch, especially for customers that want to come in and meet our team,” she says.

The location of the store was also carefully chosen, with the pet pharmacy identifying the local community that could benefit the most from affordable products.

“Based out of Western Sydney, we see a massive need for affordable pet care due to the demographics out here, so we love that we are able to start our small business and service the local community.”

Early Performance Indicators

So far, Lieu says Pet Care Pharmacy has received plenty of positive feedback, but its kind reception from the public is yet to translate into sales at this early stage.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from the public. The concept of our business is fairly new, so a lot of what we’re currently doing is raising awareness about the types of options pet owners have. The customers we have obtained so far are very happy with our service and feedback has been very positive.

“In regards to meeting our targets – we are, unfortunately, a little behind. We are getting a delayed response from our customers because of the delay/slow process of consumers first visiting their vets to obtain a prescription for the medication and then coming to us to make a purchase.

“Our Google ads are definitely assisting with this though, as we’re targeting customers who are ready to make a purchase. We’re confident we will be on track to achieve our planned growth within the next few months.”

Future Plans

As a fresh-faced brand in the cross-channel retail market, Lieu is excited by the main challenges that lie ahead – generating brand awareness, establishing consumer loyalty and scaling its operations as the business continues to grow.

“As we are a fairly new business, plans are to keep growing and build our brand. We plan on reaching out to the community more as well as have a strong online presence. This will allow our business to grow and build a solid foundation and build our client base,” she says.

“Over the next five years, we would love to see our business flourish and be a common name in households with pets across the country. We are looking at raising awareness of prescriptions and medications for animals and want to education Australians more and more about pet health and common medical ailments in pets.”

To reach these goals, social media will be a focus for the brand.

“[Social media] plays a massive part in every industry, especially the pet industry. It has a massive impact on our business and at the same time, can bring so much awareness and really help a business gain a strong standing.”

Ultimately, Lieu is confident that her passion and dedication will help her business succeed as she continues to learn and grow alongside her brand.

“Stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion.” 

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