Buying drugs online: numbers, facts and smart decisions

In November, the number of active users of the Canadian segment of the Internet visiting medical websites has reached 5 million visitors mark according to SpyLOG. These are potential shoppers of drugs, and those who presumably trust to medical information on the Internet to a certain degree (and some of them already have experience of buying medicines via the Web). InsightExpress says that 6% of the Northern America internet part buy drugs online at least once per year. Buying drugs online: numbers, facts and smart decisions

But the potential of market is way larger: firstly, all the necessary drugs can be bought online,; secondly, online pharmacy shopping promotes savings. The main problems of online pharmacy business is the speed of delivery, the need for a prescription (for some drugs), legal issues, products quality and fraud.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (PIALP), an organization that studies the impact of the Internet on American life of medical information on the Web, local citizens are more interested in medicinal topic than in the stock prices, sports, and even information about discounts and promotions. Medical information resources attract around 55% of traffic. The focus group reps from these 55% audience have admitted they jump on the web to find information about doctors, illness, find the answer to a particular question or get more insights on this or that topic. Every second respondent noted that he/she began to pay more attention to health, following the instructions received through the web. 9% exchanged email messages with their doctors, 10% purchased drugs or received a prescription online.

So what attracts visitors to online pharmacies? 57% of users are willing to go for a medical site if they are told by their doctor about it. At the same time, only 1% had heard such advice from their doctors (the data is borrowed from Cyber Dialogue’s Cybercitizen Health with 2700 adult participants). Most people agreed that they will make a purchase if they can get right after an online medical consultation (29% would like to receive it by e-mail, 34% – over the phone) or a live consultation with pharmacist (25%). Thus, 75% would prefer to shift the experience to the online world. In part, the credibility is built through copies of diplomas, certification numbers, recommendations and testimonials, the reviews of other visitors and dozens of other aspects.

There is another category of people who are not currently willing to make purchases of medicines on the Internet. InsightExpress, specializing in marketing research on the Internet, conducted a survey among such group. 60% of users stated that they do not use network pharmacies, as they prefer to communicate with the pharmacist in person, 23% of online pharmacies is avoided for fear of disclosure and use of their personal information.

The stumbling blocks

The massive legion of customers not willing to buy meds online has a dozen of good reasons not trust online enterprises. The risk of buying counterfeit (or even hazardous) products, losing money as a result of fraudulent action, having the delivery shipped in 4 or even 5 weeks… the core issues lie on the surface. With the rapid development of the web, the number of individuals and businesses specializing on Google search results manipulations is growing exponentially. Distinguishing a diligent seller from a scammer could be tough, and not everyone is willing to take the risk. The image of an average online pharmacy is ruined. But it seems the seeds of new generation of online businesses are growing. We are talking with Samuel Johansson, the head of CHCM Pharmacy development.

My Canadian Pharmacy way

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‘We have launched our internet platform nearly 12 years, that was our first full-fledged project. The idea of opening a store was born long ago, back in 2001, but for various reasons (mainly legal) we had to either postpone the release of this or that version.’

‘The average number of orders per month falls in the range of 3,500 – 4,000, but the factor of seasonality is also there. Yes, we have increased our lineup to over 100 positions, but still, we are quite small against the background of large brick and mortar departments. But we compensate our inability to gather hundreds of positions under one roof with a more precise targeting – we research the demand and adjust our low and high level (if needed) strategies on the fly.’

Based on statistical indicators, constantly studying this sector, namely, e-commerce, Internet marketing, specialized literature, articles and taking into account the experience of already-established structures, systems implementation, advertising, product marketing, we try to predict the further development of industry and, of course, based on acquired knowledge, take steps towards the improvement and growth of not only trade in our products, but also the image of the pharmacy. We believe that the industry has all the indicators for further development. We can only work on this issue and to choose appropriate ways to achieve the goal.

Ecommerce in medicines has a number of specific characteristics and may be deprived of crucial advantages, but the strong suits are many. Thus, buying meds in general is based on the different views: the doctor’s recommendations, the advice of friends, advertising, etc. Buying medicines online, the user already knows what she wants, and the bounce/exit rate is greatly reduced. According to our website statistics, these indicators are there, but they almost surely have nothing to do with the concept of buying through the Internet, and figures themselves are negligible.

The development of meds ecommerce affects both the economic situation in the country and the very development of the web in general. The brake in this case is represented by gigantic financial investments in truly large projects. No pharmacy is capable of taking up this scale of financial injections. The discovery of a single portal for the implementation of the web of drugs requires not only large financial investments, but also a wide array of administrative decisions. Only an equal ratio of these indicators can really make the project relevance, and return in time to make a profit. But that’s a prospect of future.

Thinking that fear of buying drugs is doubtful. It’s a completely new experience and this type of fear has a slightly different nature. Most of the new trends and tendencies are adopted with caution. Consider the example of the web itself: by plunging deeper in the web technologies use, we gradually adopt them and get used to them, and the fears move to the backstage.

We try to provide as much information about the medicine and possible replacement. But we always pay attention to the fact that our recommendations are based on ‘information only’ principle. We recommend that you consult your doctor for a more accurate quote, even though we do provide consultations online. Of course, there are questions to which we answer with certainty, it may be questions about seasonal diseases such as influenza, SARS, etc. To say exactly what a group of drugs most commonly ordered and sold, is very difficult. As shown, it can be an expensive medicine, that’s hard to find in retail stores and a regular doxycycline.

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