Filling the Digital Prescription

One of Canada’s leading independent pharmacies, Pharmasave, is coming online thanks to national director Francois Robinson

Pharmasave has been busy enhancing customers’ experiences in stores and online, as it strives to stay one step ahead and deliver even more value to customers. Customers can order prescription refills and browse sales flyers online or through the Pharmasave mobile app, as well as keep track of their health and medications.

As one of Canada’s leading independent pharmacy and drugstore retailers, with more than 530 stores in nine provinces, Pharmasave is focused on building a national platform of community-based retail outlets that provide customers with exceptional service and products.

Leading the charge in business technology is national director Francois Robinson, who in the coming years sees digital health becoming a high growth area.

“It is essential that we keep our eyes on the ball and continue to evolve and improve the digital health experience for our customers,” Robinson says.

Reporting directly to the CEO of Pharmasave National, Robinson is involved in tactical and operational planning for business technology and strategic planning for the overall business. He works with multiple software vendors and helps foster innovation with the pharmacy, merchandising, and marketing teams, continually striving for improved process efficiencies for stores.

Born in South Africa, Robinson has been in Canada for nearly 20 years. He began his career in accounting and later focused on enterprise resource planning for a Vancouver-based resort company, Intrawest ULC.

Today, at Pharmasave, Robinson works hard to keep store owners abreast of the latest digital trends.

Pharmasave has built a platform on which a variety of point-of-sale and other store applications can interact consistently, making it possible to move towards a paperless inventory-ordering system. This project, which is in the beta stages, will help the company run more efficiently and even become more environmentally friendly.

The company also recently created a mobile app, and it continues to see user growth. Even more recently, it launched Pharmasave eCare, an online and mobile platform where customers can order prescription refills, keep track of medications, and sign up to receive health information and other offers. Through this program, Pharmasave has seen month-over-month growth in users and in prescription refills.

In 2015, Pharmasave launched personalized e-mail marketing campaigns based on customers’ preferences. “We monitor the number of click-throughs, unique opens, and other industry-standard measurements,” Robinson says.

Robinson continuously weighs the pros and cons of when to adopt new solutions. Sometimes, he says, it makes sense to be leading edge, while at other times it’s more prudent to lag, since there can be innovative ideas before there are markets for them.

“Either way, we cannot stay stagnant with what we have right now,” Robinson says. “We must continue to evolve the digital health component and ensure we stay current.”

5 Questions with Francois Robinson

Is there a technology, trend, or idea that’s driving your company forward?
A priority focus for Pharmasave is the continuous improvement of the customers’ store experience. In order for us to meet customer expectations and achieve our strategic goals, we must stay current in the digital health space and provide these tools for our stores.

How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
We innovate on a day-to-day basis by listening to our customers and to our stores to understand what matters to them. We continuously explore options and ideas to enhance their experiences.

How has the notion of innovation changed in the past decade?
The notion of innovation has not changed. However, there is an unprecedented change in the overall life cycle and speed at which innovative solutions are being developed. Over the past 10 years, we have seen a significant increase in the development and implementation of new technologies in all industries.

What defines an innovative company in the 21st century?
Companies must include and embrace innovation in their
strategic plan through products, services, and technology. Pharmasave strives to create a culture of innovation that is instilled and cultivated throughout the organization.

How can a company encourage innovation without breaking the bank?
We recognize the importance of understanding the total cost of ownership of an innovative solution before embarking on a new path. Having the right balance between in-house versus outsourced development and deployment is key. Keep in mind that the digital road map is part of the strategic plan that will, in turn, drive the overall investment.