How to Set Up an Online Pharmacy — The Complete Guide
Setting up an online pharmacy has never been easier than today. You can actually, without writing any code, set up your own Online Pharmacy by yourself, and without the help of techies.
Online pharmacies or E-Pharmacies as they are sometimes called, are a growing trend in healthcare currently catalyzed by the ongoing pandemic. More than ever before, people prefer to shop not just for groceries and other stuff online, but their medications as well. As a pharmacy owner, if you are not following this trend by harnessing this platform, your practice might become a dinosaur overnight.
In this guide, I will be sharing with you step-by-step what to do, to set up your own Online Pharmacy in Nigeria.
2. Register your Online Pharmacy with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN)
Pharmacy practice in its entirety is regulated by the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) so to be on the right side of the law, you need to register your business with the council, including Online Pharmacy.
It is required also that you have a physical store prior to setting up your online store. Moreover, you need a Superintendent Pharmacist to register on behalf of the practice with the council.
Another aspect of the regulation is to make sure that Prescription-Only Medicines (PoMs) are not sold online without a valid prescription. You might ask, how is this possible online? You can actually provide a module to upload the prescription whenever PoMs are ordered.
3. Choose and Register a Domain Name
The domain name is the address of the website and it links to the IP address. You can register a domain name for your website through one of the top registrars. Choosing a top registrar is important, especially for privacy protection and security reasons. Some come so cheaply that they do not offer privacy protection and your private information can be potentially exposed to the public.
You can consider any of these top-rated registrars:
- Google Domains.
Choosing the right domain name for your website is an important decision. You want to make sure it’s something that will stand out, so customers can find you on the internet. Dotcom domains are the most popular globally for websites. For Online stores, other trending domain endings include Dot store, Dot shop, etc. If you want to add a local flavor, you can go for a Dotcomdotng domain name.
3. Choose a Web Hosting Provider for your Site
Photo by Stephen Phillips — Hostreviews.co.uk
The right web hosting provider can make a huge difference when it comes to the performance of your website and the amount of time it takes to load. You need a host that has what you need and that will be able to provide you with the necessary bandwidth, storage space, security, and technical support.
Hosting is akin to the “land” where you build your site, while your domain name is your “address” that makes it easy to find your site.
Virtually, all registrars that provide domain name services also provide alongside, hosting services. Some of them — Namecheap for example — even offer a free domain as a cherry on top, when you buy hosting from them. They also more often than not, provide links to website builders like WordPress with which you can DIY build your Online Pharmacy.
Alternatively, website builders like WordPress, Wix, and Weebly also provide domain names and hosting services and you can buy these services from them and also build your site in-situ.
Another way of getting “free” hosting is through Software as a Service (SAAS) eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Weebly, etc.
There is a local player in Nigeria that is making waves and they are called Invotide. They offer domain and hosting services, providing an all-in-one platform to get your site started. They also offer free support to help you build the basics of the site and get it ready for you to manage subsequently.
Get a FREE domain when you buy Shared hosting!
4. Store Design and Development
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash
Here there are two options basically. If you have already bought your hosting as well as a domain, you can decide to build your online pharmacy through free, open-source website-building platforms like WordPress. Others include Microweber.org, Joomla, Wix, Weebly, etc.
On the other hand, if you are using SAAS eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, Invotide, etc, it is relatively easier to build your online pharmacy, as they are already customized for eCommerce.
Check out the video below for a more practical hands-on guide on using WordPress to create an online store.
Another key component of your online pharmacy is the incorporation of a payment gateway. Payment gateways are simply portals that enable payment to be made into your bank account through customers’ credit/debit cards. Popular payment gateway providers in Nigeria include Paystack, Flutterwave, VoguePay, etc.
You register with any of them and they provide you with an Application Programming Interface (API) that you can integrate on your site to enable seamless payment.
It is also a common practice in Nigeria to offer Payment on Delivery options either by cash or bank transfer. This mode of payment was made popular by the likes of Jumia, Konga, etc., because of customer mistrust brought about by pervasive advance fee fraud in Nigeria.
5. Other Considerations For Your Online Pharmacy
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash
Another key consideration is your choice of Logistics Service Delivery Partner. There are quite a few of them in Nigeria now who offer e-commerce friendly rates.
They include GIG Logistics, Redstar Express, DHL, CourierPlus, etc. They all have specific pros and cons, which I will cover in my subsequent blog post. Watch out!
Some of these logistics partners offer APIs that you can integrate into your online pharmacy to make shipping rate selection automated. On the other hand, where this is not possible, others provide a platform where you can easily create delivery orders and either drop them off or request a pick-up.
Building a website, and even an online store has been more or less simplified. If you can manage your own email, then you can build and run an online store, including an online pharmacy.
Embracing this trend of Online Pharmacy is a key survival instinct in this technology age. Get started NOW!
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