COVID-19: Online Pharmacies Scramble to Cope with Increased Demand
As the spread of COVID-19 gains traction in virtually every nation around the world (so far, 152 countries have confirmed cases), consumers are stocking up on pantry and medicine cupboard essentials in case we experience shortages.
Despite widespread talk of an imminent global recession, some products are literally flying off the shelves. In many communities around the world, you’d be hard-pressed to find essentials like toilet paper, cleaning products, hand sanitiser and Panadol in your local supermarket.
With a rising practice of social distancing, people are increasingly turning to online shopping to avoid engaging with the public too. One industry that’s booming amid this pandemic is pharmaceuticals.
Online pharmacies experiencing higher-than-normal demand
Online retailers like Pharmacy Direct, Priceline Pharmacy, Super Pharmacy, Chemist Warehouse, Walgreens and Boots are seeing soaring increases in demand, resulting in product shortages, longer delivery wait times and an increase in customer service enquiries.
“We thank you in advance for your understanding and patience,” Pharmacy Direct said in an email to customers on Monday. “If our website says out of stock, then we do not have any at the moment. We do not know when more will be available as it is out of stock with the suppliers.”
Pharmacy Direct says they will implement quantity restrictions when new stock arrives to give everyone equal opportunity to buy them.
Providing reassurance despite shipping delays
Online pharmacies are looking for solutions to keep up with demand and look after at-risk patients, while keeping their customers informed about stock shortages and delivery wait times. In an effort to ensure elderly and high-risk patients receive the medication they need, US pharmacy Walgreens has announced that they are “waiving delivery fees for all eligible prescriptions during this evolving situation”.
Sending email and SMS notifications is a great way to stay in touch with customers, even if businesses don’t always have good news to share. Notifications offer transparency which builds trust. Customers want reassurance that after they’ve handed over their credit card details, that they will get the product they paid for. During these uncertain economic times, product shortages and delivery delays are almost expected but retailers can’t assume that their customers will expect these as their new norm.
Boosting fulfilment capacity
Increased online retail demand is also seeing an increase in fulfilment hires in some industries. Amazon FBA has announced that they are opening 100,000 new full- and part-time positions in their fulfilment centres across the US, to keep up with increased demand.
For some retailers, though, hiring more staff just might not be possible. To keep up with increased demand, automated shipping software like Starshipit is a cost-effective answer. The ability to seamlessly integrate with leading carriers around the world plus the most popular eCommerce and online platforms on the market streamlines the process, reduces hassle, and gets orders out the door faster.
COVID-19 looks like it will impact the global economy for some time yet. It’s likely that online shopping will continue to rise as more and more nations encourage social distancing or implement lockdowns. It’s in everyone’s best interests, then, for online retailers to take a long hard look at their current fulfilment processes and see if they can improve or streamline them in any way.