How to improve your website and e-commerce offerings: A pharmaceutical case study

The ability to perform business transactions electronically and having an online presence is crucial to the success of any business.

However, it seems the Australian pharmacy industry is struggling to keep up in the world of e-commerce.

Australian pharmacies and chemists generate over $11 billion in revenue annually, and with such a competitive landscape, competition between the various pharmacy chains will continue to intensify. A strong e-commerce strategy for these pharmacy chains is vital for their growth and sales.

From the perspective of someone that isn’t a regular visitor to any of the following websites, I have identified the number of usability issues and possible improvements that Chemist Warehouse, Soul Pattinson and Terry White could make to their websites. I may start becoming a regular visitor then!

Website makeover

It seems like the Soul Pattinson website needs some TLC. It looks slightly outdated compared to some of its competitors and it hasn’t even begun to set up an online store.

The website promotes its rewards programs but the only way to join is in-store – why not make it easy for the consumer with an online application? If you look at the image below, the page promoting a competition has no visuals and no link to sign up online – is that really going to encourage a customer to get involved?




Place the basket where people are more likely to look

Most e-commerce sites place the basket link around the top right of the page; however, have placed the basket or cart button underneath a product search engine so is not the focal point.




If you consider the layout of, they have chosen to follow convention and have placed the basket on the top right hand corner making it significantly clearer for the user to check out their products.




Cut the clutter and confusion

A cluttered web page looks too busy or confusing. It presents too many elements or features that compete for the user’s attention. has everything below displayed on the homepage. It is more likely to overwhelm and distract the customer from purchasing products.



terry_white_4 has categorised all their products in a search engine overload (see below), which detracts from the appeal of the product and the brand.




A web page is too cluttered if:

  • users regularly ignore the most important things on the page
  • users regularly ignore instructions on the screen
  • users do not click on important features or links
  • users leave the page more quickly than other pages
  • user feedback is negative and they describe it as frustrating, confusing or too busy
  • the page has more clutter than equivalent Web pages of your successful competitors

Remember clarity always wins over clutter.

Slow the carousel down or better yet just get rid of it

According to the StackExchange UX it has been proven that content delivered via carousels are missed by users. Few interact with them and many comment they look like adverts, which are then avoided. It certainly seems to reflect the whole blind banner business. Too many messages equals no message.

Carousels have poor usability because:

  • they move too quickly
  • the navigation icons are too smalls
  • the design lacks any user control (The user should ALWAYS be in control)
  • terry_white_price_cuts uses a carousel that changes slides so quickly you don’t even take note of the message.

chemist_warehouse_carousel slides are much slower and are easier to read, but the carousel houses so many more slides, there is no way the user would sit and watch every slide available. 

Twitter and Facebook accounts

The social media world seems very quiet when it comes to the three chemists mentioned. does have a Facebook page, but only has 559 likes for a business that has over 250 stores across Australia.

There is no trace of any links to social media on its website, which is a vital way to drive traffic to your main site where you can service a customer completely. seems to use Facebook quite frequently to promote their business with 3784 Facebook likes. Soul Pattison has a few separate accounts for the different franchises around Australia.

This can be a problem, as people won’t receive most of the promotional material from head office, it’s better to have a united Facebook page.

It’s not obligatory, but all three of these established retailers could be boosting their business with the help of social media. Why not start tweeting on Twitter?

Shopping bag and checkout

Don’t ask customers for information they have already entered. It’s time-consuming, unnecessary and frustrating.

The checkout screen below from is asking me for my billing details after I had already registered on the previous screen. The website should remember my address and pre-fill the details for me.




Stop distracting the customer from buying your products!

Have you thought about enclosing the checkout process and removing distractions so customers concentrate on paying for the products. Don’t let them leave that checkout!



Distracting! I’ll browse the perfumes and probably end up buying nothing! Free Shipping on orders over $99? Orders over $50 seems more reasonable. Consumers expect free shipping and it is a big sales incentive.

There is always so much potential to improve the overall user experience to help increase conversion rates. All the Australian online chemist retailers discussed need to start thinking like a consumer to ensure a fruitful and effective e-commerce site.

Going mobile

Chemist Warehouse is the winner with an app, but it is only to browse products and a store location. All the sites work on mobile. But geo location and m-commerce would be a smart move.

I am often asked who does e-commerce well in Australia and why, I would welcome your views?

Fi Bendall is the managing director of Bendalls Group, a team of highly trained digital specialists, i-media subject matter experts and developers.



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