Retail Drugstore Digital Opportunities in 2021

April 16, 2021

We can all agree that the 2020 pandemic has severely impacted a lot of industries globally most especially the retail space. According to this report, it is estimated that the total loss in 2020 for APAC retailers would be at USD757bn range. And there is no surprise that PH retail businesses that relied heavily on the traditional brick and mortar store were not spared. We’ve seen downsizing of operations from the quick service restaurant, casual dining and retail apparel brands.


Even the drugstore-pharmacy sector which is heavily reliant on the traditional distribution model was affected due to the limited mobility of consumers across the country.

There is also an increasing number of healthcare consumers that are relying on online channels for product research, education materials for disease management and product orders.

Needless to say, there is a need to have a “digital-first” business model because of this new shift in consumer behavior. And it is encouraging to see that the local retail drugstore industry is slowly adopting to this shift. A couple of weeks ago, we organized an online webinar that was attended by more than 300 independent drugstores nationwide and we found out that more than 70% of the participants said that they are currently selling healthcare products online or planning to do so in the next 1-2 months. We also shared a number of digital trends that they can capitalize on and I’d like to share with you 3 of those in this article.


Opportunity 1: Annual Size of the Prize from Google Search: USD411M.


Yes, if done right, Google Search alone can generate millions of sales for the local drugstore players. Based on the data that we gathered from Google Adwords and SEMRush, there are more than 3M monthly searches for keywords related to “medicine” and “vitamins”. This number does not include search terms related to branded medicines, symptoms, disease management, among others. And there’s still an upward trend based on Google’s tool. Search volume will continue to increase as the population shift towards online channels.

In our agency, one of our core services is SEO and we’ve successfully demonstrated this across our clients especially under the healthcare space. One of our pharma clients now gets the top 1 to 4 search results for more than 700 health and wellness related keywords. Of course, we didn’t do this over night. We had to use different tactics such as regular content production (written and video formats), meta/title tag optimization, fixing of URLs, site speed optimization, updating of past content, etc. which allowed us to deliver more than 700,000 monthly web sessions for our client. Having said, brands across different industries should really start investing on search marketing tactics for their owned digital assets.


Opportunity 2: Medicine subscription for Patient Compliance.


One of the issues in the local healthcare scene is patient compliance or adherence (and this has been a continuing concern of our pharma clients). Basically, patient compliance is defined as the degree to which a patient correctly follows medical advice especially when it comes to medication prescribed by a patient’s doctor. The low adherence rates can be linked to a number of reasons — limited access to health care facilities and educational materials, lack of financial resources, high cost of medication and busy work schedules that prevent patients from buying their prescription medicines on time. And there’s one successful player that comes in my mind whenever there are discussions around this topic.

I have been monitoring this online pharmacy in the US ( since its launch way back in 2013 (by the way, Amazon acquired this company for USD750M last 2018!). I was really amazed by the way they changed medicine subscription. From the user interface and experience of their online assets, integration of healthcare insurance, customer reminders, one tap ordering, logistics up to the packaging of individual molecules into 1 sachet. They addressed all of their patients’ concerns! It is good that there are efforts to address patient compliance from one of the local big-chain drug stores but it is still a long way to go before we can see a fully integrated digital pharmacy platform in the Philippines.



Opportunity 3: Rise of telehealth and electronic prescriptions.


Given this pandemic, hospitals were forced to use online channels to reach their patients. And naturally, issuance of electronic prescriptions for personal health, vitamins and maintenance medicines went up.


Source: Global Web Index Digital Healthcare (2020)


Using one of our research tools, SEMRush, we looked at the traffic growth of two telehealth players in the Philippines, KonsultaMD and Medgate. What we saw was an average month on month web traffic increase of 10% for KonsultaMD and an average month on month web traffic increase of 32% for Medgate.

Source: SEMRush


Needless to say, patients locally are getting used to online consultations and with the capability of providing e-prescriptions after an online consultation, this should eventually lead to an online order of medicines. And this is where local drugstores can enter — forming strategic partnerships with these telehealth players will help close the entire online journey for patients – from search, online consultation, online purchase and subscription.



To recap, drugstores should start investing in search marketing, develop an online store that will allow your patients to easily re-order their medicines and look out for strategic partnerships with telehealth players. If you want to access the rest of the drug store trends, you can download the video recording of our online webinar.


About the author.


Mon Cayabyab is a successful entrepreneur who has close to 20 years of experience in sales, account management, digital marketing, and business development in well-known organizations within the telecommunications, banking, insurance, fintech and advertising industries. He is currently the CEO of Xiklab Digital, the biggest and fully-independent world-class Filipino Digital Marketing Agency. He is also the Co-Founder and Partner of the fastest growing digital rewards company in the Philippines which has more than 250 partner brands across the country.

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