El Colmadito de Plaza: The Community’s One-Stop Shop

With a storied 57-year legacy, Farmacias Plaza ranks among the market’s top five pharmacy networks. Acquired by Alivia Health in 2018, the year 2020 marked a transformative phase with organizational changes, preparing the company to tackle the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, recognizing the potential to expand beyond prescription services, Farmacias Plaza navigated hurdles in integrating a newly acquired chain. Simultaneously, they identified opportunities to boost processed prescriptions and enhance patient services. Focused on its core business, the pharmacy launched strategic programs like:

  • Salud Primero – Sharing health tips and content
  • BienVivido – Connecting with the Senior population
  • Siempre Bella – Promoting women’s well-being

The true test came in March 2020 with the pandemic lockdown in Puerto Rico. Designated as an essential service, Farmacias Plaza swiftly transformed into a one-stop shopping solution, earning the trust of its community.

Acknowledging the need for convenience, the Colmadito de Plaza was introduced in the summer of 2020, offering fresh groceries and solidifying Farmacias Plaza’s position as a supermarket competitor. This strategic addition and existing services like Plaza Delivery reinforced the pharmacy’s role as an essential community resource.

The Challenge: Transform Farmacias Plaza into a One-stop Shopping Solution

At that time, there was a lot of uncertainty and ignorance about the virus. Most people hardly wanted to leave their homes. Many patients with significant medical conditions did not want to visit their family doctors for fear of contagion. Once again, Farmacias Plaza’s pharmacists became a helping hand. According to customers’ daily needs, supplying and preparing the front of the store into a grocery store was an obvious step and had to be done with a sense of urgency.

Farmacias Plaza had to make its current and prospective clients consider it a one-stop shopping solution during this pandemic. Not only for their prescription or OTC (Over-the-Counter) medications but also for purchasing supplies they need. According to MIDA, consumers buy provisions every 8 or 9 days.

Patients expect more 1-on-1 care and use pharmacies as their one-stop-shop for everything from supplies to flu shots. An ongoing shortage of primary care providers means more people turn to pharmacists for basic care.

Farmacias Plaza had the perfect location concerning their communities; they had the trust and engagement of the customers, and now it was necessary to work on a marketing campaign that would make Colmadito de Plaza visible, its fresh products, its variety, its low prices, and its convenience—everything as a One-stop shopping Solution.

The Solution: An Integrated Trade Marketing & Issue Management Strategy

Farmacias Plaza employs four primary strategies to engage its target audience. 

The first strategy focused on trade marketing, including COVID-19 content, delivery optimization, and engaging influencers. Under the trade marketing strategy, introducing “El Colmadito Plaza” involved restructuring store planograms. This initiative included collaboration between the marketing and sales departments to ensure the availability of pandemic-related products such as masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfectant soaps. The store’s fresh product offering was expanded to include meats, milk, and dairy products.

Furthermore, the announcement of Colmadito de Plaza was bolstered by a comprehensive Social Media marketing campaign, primarily on Facebook and Instagram. Emphasizing the Colmadito de Plaza logo, the campaign highlighted front-of-store sales, product variety, and promotional offers. Additionally, a dedicated Colmadito de Plaza section was incorporated into the traditional shopper, with the shopper now alternating every 15 days and the one-pager publishing every 15 days. Outdoor signage featuring the Colmadito de Plaza logo was strategically placed at the pharmacies to enhance brand recall.

While Farmacias Plaza already offered Plaza Delivery, a strategic alliance with UVA, a mobile delivery application, was formed during the pandemic to meet evolving customer needs. This partnership expanded the reach to a younger market and allowed customers to order a variety of grocery items, OTC products, and gifts through the UVA! food delivery application, showcasing the diverse offerings of El Colmadito de Plaza.

As a pharmacy with licensed pharmacists, Farmacias Plaza positioned itself as a health education hub. The role of health experts became crucial, and educational efforts shifted to focus on product availability, the vaccination program, and the BinaxNOW Test in response to the evolving pandemic.

Lastly, recognizing the importance of uplifting content during challenging times, Farmacias Plaza collaborated with influencers to create engaging content. The content centered around themes such as “El Colmadito Recipes,” Makeup Tutorials, and Healthcare tips, aiming to connect with the audience and provide moments of happiness amidst the pandemic’s challenges.

The Results: Achieving Remarkable Growth

Farmacias Plaza has demonstrated exceptional growth, surpassing market averages by seven percentage points. According to Nielsen 2020, the pharmacy network achieved a notable growth rate of +18.4%, compared to the market’s +11.2%.

Top Categories Driving Growth:

  • The grocery department experienced an impressive +30.5% growth.
  • Other notable categories include Household, with a remarkable +45.5% growth, and Dairy, showing a substantial +59.7% growth.

Storefront Sales Surge:

Farmacias Plaza witnessed a remarkable 23% increase in sales compared to the previous year, attributed to various factors:

  • Successfully launched Colmadito de Plaza and strategic expansion in the grocery department.
  • Responsive adjustments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, driving net item purchases.
  • Implementing innovative strategies such as Latin Doctors, Tu Medicina, and Forever Crystals.
  • Strategic pricing and variety in perfumes position stores as a destination for seasonal gifting.

Grocery Dominance and Projected Growth:

  • Grocery emerged as the leading department, registering a significant +22% increase since September.
  • The strategic changes implemented in 2020 are anticipated to contribute to sustained growth, with new category management initiatives planned for 2021.

Social Media Impact:

  • Facebook achieved an outstanding 115.3% increase in reach within the target audience.
  • Instagram also experienced growth, with a 2.5% increase from June 2020 to June 2021, reflecting the effectiveness of the digital revamp.