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Pharmacy sales are increasing in both developed and developing countries, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new surge of online consumer demand for over-the-counter (nonprescription) medicine, as well as wellness products. 

Digital advertising for ecommerce pharmacy websites is still heavily regulated in most countries, making an excellent user experience on pharmacies’ digital properties critical to converting and retaining users. 

Retailers know that advanced site search can double conversion rates, and effective search is especially critical on an ecommerce pharmacy platform where shoppers likely know what they want. When search is well designed and optimized on a pharmacy site, it can be a game changer. 

Proven ideas for increasing online pharmacy sales 

To provide an engaging experience for your pharmacy website customers, you can fine-tune a number of search components and UX behaviors. The design and capabilities of your search bar, the layout and features of the search results page, your search filters and facets — you can optimize all of these for your pharmacy website. 

Let’s look at 6 online pharmacy sites that together have implemented 8 innovative tools to customize their search functionality and efficiently get users to the information they need.

1. Easyparapharmacie in France: Autocomplete or query suggestions

Autocomplete or query suggestions (also known as predictive search or autosuggest) provides users with search recommendations in real time as they type queries. These suggestions, contextually related to their queries or other queries popular on the site, are intended to speed up the search process and increase click-through rates. 

As a user enters a query in the Easyparapharmacie search bar, they are served both specific product suggestions and more-broad category suggestions and query suggestions. To help a user quickly identify the best option, the search query is bolded in the search results.

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https://www.algolia.com/doc/guides/solutions/gallery/predictive-search-suggestions/

2. Walgreens in the United States: facilitating search by symptoms and active ingredients

Online pharmacy shoppers may know the brands or commercial names of products they are looking for. When they go to a brick-and-mortar drugstore, they may describe their symptoms or cite the active ingredients they need in a drug to the pharmacist, and ask for guidance on the best product. In the same way, a pharmacy ecommerce platform should allow customers to search based on their symptoms or the active ingredient they need. Walgreens does a great job here: whether a user enters “fever” or “acetaminophen” in the Walgreens search bar, they get relevant results.

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3. Shop Apotheke in Germany: improving usability with microcopy

Microcopy is short bits of text that help website users navigate and use the interface. Microcopy improves ecommerce pharmacy website usability by ensuring that users understand different search components, as well as how to use them to find what they are looking for.  

Shop Apotheke includes microcopy in its search bar to communicate to users that the searches they are entering for symptoms, manufacturers, products, and more will yield results.

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4. Farmatodo in Colombia: ensuring search success with typo tolerance

Typo tolerance allows users to make mistakes while they’re entering queries and still get the results they want. This feature works by taking into consideration words that are similar in spelling. This functionality is extremely important in online pharmacy search experiences for two reasons. First, names of drugs and active ingredients are often very long or complex, and consumers don’t know how to spell them. Second, it’s inevitable that people using mobile devices to search for pharmacy products may enter typos.

Farmatodo employs typo tolerance in its search experience to help users quickly bring up the right results. Consider the drug rivaroxaban, sold under the brand name Xarelto, one of the top 10 drugs sold in the world. People searching for it often enter “rivoxaban”. But with typo tolerance, Farmatodo can correctly interpret these misspelled queries and return relevant results.

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5. Shop Apotheke in Germany: displaying packaging options

Some pharmacy customers need drugs provided in different types of packaging. An ecommerce pharmacy can go overboard by presenting every possible packaging option in the search results, which can decrease readability and overwhelm users. 

Shop Apotheke leverages its search solution to allow users to select any available packaging option for each result, directly on the search results page.

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6. Boots in the United Kingdom: adapting search results to seasonality and special situations

Depending on the time of the year, users’ needs may change. For instance, people may be looking for allergy pills in the spring and drugs for fighting the flu in the winter. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an onslaught of new needs. 

Boots adapts its search results to reflect users’ situation-related needs. For instance, with the advent of COVID-19, if a user enters “mask” in the Boots search bar, the results first show protective face coverings, followed by beauty and skin-care masks.

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7. Santédiscount in France: using federated search to provide comprehensive results

People shopping for drugstore products are often interested in information about the items, such as advice on whether to take a drug and reviews of how it works. With federated search, you can serve users diverse types of search results in addition to the products themselves — for example, product documentation, product use guides, and published articles about products — in an easy-to-use interface. This can yield a number of benefits for online pharmacies.

https://www.algolia.com/doc/guides/solutions/gallery/federated-search/

On the Santédiscount site, entering a few keystrokes presents a customer with a comprehensive list of relevant products, top manufacturers, useful categories, and related articles. Getting “all the facts” upfront can greatly decrease the amount of time a user must spend searching for information. Federated search can also improve customers’ perceptions about online pharmacies as they become aware of the level of thought behind the data curation. 

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8. Shop Apotheke in Germany: including merchandising in search results

Just as in brick-and-mortar pharmacies, online pharmacies can utilize the digital experience, especially search results, to promote discounted products and their own private-label items, and even to sell sponsored spots to wholesalers. Digital users expect this type of merchandising and may use it to help them spot welcome promotions and deals. 

On the Shop Apotheke site, wholesalers can pay to have their products listed in a designated position for relevant queries. In addition, Shop Apotheke can promote its house-label products as the first results. As a result of their elevated positions in search, these products substantially add to the company’s revenue.

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Design a search user experience that easily guides people to pharmacy products

When designing a search UX for your online pharmacy, you must consider every step of your users’ journey and exploration process. To provide a level of service that users expect, consider teaming up with a search-as-a-service partner that can provide all the industry-standard capabilities you need in a flexible and customizable way. 

Read our eBook Searchandising: 9 best practices for better conversion rates to learn how you can optimize your online pharmacy search experience for your users today.

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