CARTERET, N.J. -- Pathmark here added online pharmacy services to its Web site that allow customers to submit prescription refill requests, check the status of a prescription order, and transfer prescriptions to Pathmark pharmacies.
The "Smartcare On-Line Refill Service" was added last month to offer further pharmacy innovation and convenience to customers, said Pathmark spokesman Rich Savner. The services supplement an existing automated phone ordering system for pharmacy prescriptions.
"Our Web site has become another medium for communication to our customers," Savner said. "We want to make sure that we offer them as much opportunity for convenience as possible, and the pharmacy piece of business lends itself to that."
Prescriptions are filled within hours for products that are in stock. For out-of-stock products that need to be ordered, the lag time is still within a day, Savner said.
Online pharmacy offerings can be an effective way for stores to drive traffic online and into brick-and-mortar locations, industry observers said.
"Given the explosion of online pharmacies available, this is both a good offensive and defensive move for a retailer like Pathmark," said John Hauptman, vice president, Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill. "As an offensive strategy, it helps to [position] Pathmark as a source for consumer health and wellness needs. As a defensive strategy, it helps to lure scripts from other online pharmacies that are being used by loyal Pathmark shoppers." Pathmark also has listings for in-store health events on its Web site. Whole health and pharmacy offerings online can run parallel to one another, Savner said. He declined to comment on future changes or additions to the company Web site or to its online pharmacy offering. The implementation and execution phase will be followed by an assessment period, as with any new initiative, he said.
Online pharmacy services can provide a gateway to value-added health and wellness services for a retailer, Hauptman said. One of the major reasons people surf the Web is for health and wellness info, he pointed out. Any retailer providing health and wellness information in an online environment, either through pharmacy and medical offerings or via nutrition and vitamin information, is positioned to take advantage of a huge need, he said.
In its in-store pharmacies, Pathmark features a rack offering health information to consumers. There is a natural link between health information and pharmacies, Savner said, but as the awareness and desire to get information to the customer increases, it will expand beyond pharmacy to become a storewide relationship, whether online or in-store.
"Who else other than a supermarket provides consumers with the full range of health and wellness products?" Hauptman said. "They carry everything: pharmacy, over-the-counter medicines, diagnostics, functional foods, vitamins and healthy foods, including but not limited to produce. Supermarkets can tie everything together and provide consumers with that holistic health solution."