January 31, 2017

Using Retail to Create a Positive Experience in Healthcare Facilities

Every single person has a healthcare ‘journey’ that starts with birth and continues our entire lives. While the specific ‘needs’ during that journey are often dictated by the reason the person visits the hospital there are a number of overlapping themes on that journey.

The key to creating a positive experience in healthcare facilities is to experience the ‘journey’ through the patient’s eyes; a consumer-centric perspective. The common areas, wayfinding, and retail program are a big part of that overall journey.

For today’s hospitals, it’s about so much more than the gift shop when it comes to retail. The focus on experience means moving towards a retail strategy that encompasses retail and services that align with the programs and clinics in which the hospital specializes.

Here are a few ways hospitals can enhance overall experience through retail:

Increase Value by Partnering With Brands

More and more healthcare organizations are bringing in established, recognized brands. By doing this the facility is providing patients, visitors and staff with brands they already use and know.

Instead of convincing people to do business with an unknown entity , bringing the right retail partners delivers greater value. – This approach helps increase retail sales as those brands are already trusted.

The truth is, there’s a certain comfort level when you see a familiar brand. Being at the hospital as a patient or visitor can be a stressful situation. While taking a walk downstairs and finding your favourite cup of coffee and cookie from your favourite place may not seem like that big of a deal, in the midst of a healthcare crisis that cup of coffee can feel like a lifeline.

This is particularly important as our customers come from all walks of lives, cultures and even languages, so a familiar brand can be reassuring.

Personalize the Experience

As we’ve seen across all retail – consumers are increasingly looking for personalization. Adding personalization to your retail strategy helps drive consumer loyalty.

From specialty stores to health food markets, there are no longer a required set of “musts” when it comes to what a hospital should offer for a retail experience. Rather Hospitals should be looking more closely at their client base and what their needs are. Some institutions are offering retail spaces that cater to cancer patients (selling wigs, scarves, etc.) or providing access to more hands-on services, like massage therapy and acupuncture.

Delivering a personalized retail experience starts with really understanding what people who cross the threshold into the hospital are looking for, and how to best meet their needs.

In a 2015 study of consumers 58% of those surveyed indicated that they are comfortable with retailers gathering personal information on their shopping interests and behaviours in return for a more personalized experience. The goal needs to be to deliver a valuable, personalized experience so people see the benefit of providing their personal information.

Ultimately, personalization paves the way for a better customer service and creating an overall customer experience. But like any other retailer, it’s important to know who you are targeting as different generations have different expectations. What you may choose to offer for retail in a children’s hospital will likely differ from a general hospital.

Align Operations Across Touchpoints

When consumers are using your services and retail, one thing they will be looking for is consistency. Every interaction and touchpoint should be focused on deepening the customer relationship.

What that looks like depends on the touchpoint, but one thing that every retailer needs to know is their numbers. This isn’t how much money they are making, but numbers related to how long most people spend in their location, what the average spend is or how long associates spend helping each customer.

By understanding these key metrics, your hospital is in a better position to plan retail operations and increase business. Consistently, studies of consumer behaviour have shown there is a high correlation between the interaction the employee and customer have and the average sales per shopper.

Additionally, the more quality interactions an employee has, the higher the shopping spend gets.

These principles can be applied through all touchpoints with hospital retailers, and by doing so consumers build trust with the institution by being provided a consistent experience no matter which shop they may visit.

Food Services of the Future

Another key trend is in food service and this should definitely be considered as part of an overall retail strategy.

Different types of cuisine and healthy eating are driving major shifts in the retail food within hospitals. Plus, new technology is changing the traditional cafeteria model.

People no longer are willing to settle for standard hospital food as a patient, visitor or employee. Hospital food services are now taking cues from their retail counterparts and understand that they need to expand menu options and deliver a variety of options as part of the overall experience.

There are many innovative ways healthcare is taking on this challenge such as sourcing food locally and offering food education and nutrition programs and/or cooking classes to support people dealing with certain illnesses.

New trends are emerging as well from meals on demand (like hotel room service), the ability for staff to pre-order customized meals and pick them up and much more.

All of these trends are leveraging the significant value food service can add to overall customer experience and the bottom line while banishing the stereotype of blah and bland hospital food for good.

Improve Your Experience: Consult an Expert

Implementing these trends can be time and resource intensive for hospitals and their staff, as well as challenging. To minimize confusion, waste, and risk during the transition, it is best to work with an expert team that can not only give expert advice but also provide innovative ways to help design and implement these changes.

The right partner will have the experience and people to assess a hospital’s needs and goals and be able to customize a plan that provides the maximum value with the least amount of disruption for patients, staff, and guests. By letting the experts develop the strategy, hospitals can remain focused on their core competency – providing the best possible care to patients.

Whether it’s making sure someone can get their favourite cup of coffee, or offering a massage to a loved one spending their days at the hospital as a support person, there are an endless number of ideas of how you can make the hospital a more positive experience for everyone.

Hospital retail is a largely untapped market that has the opportunity to increase revenue, patient satisfaction and employee experience all with some adjustments to how you are currently running things.

LHR Consultants has considerable experience working with healthcare facilities to improve their retail. To discuss your specific needs, contact us for a free consultation at: [email protected].


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