Drugstores Miss Online Opportunities Credit: Online prescription services image via Shutterstock

The nation's pharmacies are missing out when it comes to currying customer loyalty. At a time when drugstores should be reveling in their prospects — more than three-fifths of consumers say they would not cut their pharmacy spending regardless of the economy — most consumers have no loyal relationship with any one chain or mass retail pharmacy, a new survey shows.

In fact, three fifths of the surveyed consumers would not recommend a particular pharmacy brand to their family and friends, according to Empathica, a provider of customer experience management solutions, whose survey gathered perceptions of retail pharmacies in the U.S.

Much of this customer disengagement can be attributed to a slow adoption of technology by pharmacies, Empathica found. Online prescription drug sales are expected to grow at a faster rate than in-store sales, yet 40 percent of pharmacies do not have an online presence. For those that are online, only half of their customers are aware of their Web offering, and less than 20 percent have received information or offers promoting the services.

"Three in four customers still place and fill their prescription orders in-store,” said Dr. Gary Edwards, Empathica's chief customer officer. "This highlights both the lack of online pharmacy services and a low level of awareness among customers about existing services. There is no doubt that consumers are performing an increasing number of activities online. Pharmacies need to get there and take advantage of digital rewards and online marketing to attract and retain customers."

Surprisingly, it is the older generation that takes advantage of online prescription services most often. Thirty-six percent of consumers who manage prescriptions online are Baby Boomers, while Gen Y makes up just 20 percent.

As core pharmacy services become commoditized, another area for improvement is loyalty programs and targeted promotions, Empathica says. Only 40 percent of customers are highly committed subscribers to loyalty programs at their primary pharmacy. This is even lower in a mass retail setting, with just 32 percent of customers responding that they "always subscribe to loyalty programs."

In terms of promotions targeted at in-store consumers, there is an even bigger opportunity, with only 30 percent of consumers indicating that they are always aware of valuable coupons at pharmacies and mass retailers.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.