Feeling good and looking good
He also sees synergies between medical-style services, appearance medicine and cosmetics. Selected Life Pharmacies began offering specialist beauty treatments such as dermal fillers, platelet-rich plasma therapy and Botox in 2014. Asked if these services might be perceived to clash with more practical offerings like blood testing and immunisations, Bai again emphasises the importance of customer access, and links the services to a holistic concept of health.
“One of the core philosophies, particularly in the Life Pharmacy group, is that you want to live well. Part of that is feeling good on the inside but feeling good on the outside as well.”
“I do think there's a big part to be said around feeling good, looking good inside and out. The other part just comes down to access – good professional service, a place you can trust, and you know the quality.”
New Zealand’s lack of larger department stores such as Myer and, until recently, David Jones, means it has a comparatively strong prestige cosmetics market within pharmacy. Green Cross Health pharmacies are seeing great growth in this category, Bai says, and the trusted position of pharmacies also has applications for the cosmetics market.
“A point of difference between us and a department store from an over-the-counter perspective, or a prestige perspective, is that contact with the product. They can interact with it, they can trial it. We’ve got very well-trained people who can interact with them. That part from a retail perspective is quite exciting.”
Bai feels there’s an emerging opportunity for entities such as Green Cross Health, which encompasses medical, pharmacy and community health, to tie together retail interaction with dispensary and medical, and coordinate each patient’s healthcare. A potential conduit for the flow of health information already boasts 1.2 million members – Green Cross Health’s ‘Living Rewards’ loyalty programme.
The company has been developing Living Rewards in the pharmacy division for around two years, and is still adding around 20,000 members per month into the programme. It currently allows users to exchange points for vouchers and other rewards, but Bai’s vision is that it will become a chipped “health card” carrying the user’s health details. Rewards for healthy behaviour, as well as purchases, are part of the plan.
“The Living Rewards card could potentially be the conduit for accessing all healthcare.”
This vision is almost a reality – Bai says Green Cross Health is actively figuring out how to get the health-information-enabled Living Rewards card into play now. The basics of this product will be launched into the company’s medical division in June.
Bai strongly believes that customers should only have to tell their health story once as they journey through the health system. The Living Rewards card may well represent progress in that area. However, Bai also believes in the value of conversations between the customer and pharmacy staff - developing customers’ relationship with their pharmacist is key to both their health outcomes and that of Green Cross Health.
Doctors relate to their patients through diagnoses and assessments, but pharmacists are obliged to offer their help through the kinds of conversations which arise while a prescription is being filled. A strong retail offer makes a store more welcoming and supports this aim.
“Breaking down the barriers to the consumer and getting a conversation started, I think, is a very important part of healthcare,” Bai says. “Just starting the conversation – being able to talk to the pharmacist when they can about bits and pieces in their lifestyle.”
This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 744 June / July 2016