eCommerce: Market Insight
Online Pharmacy Trend: Global Revenues & Key Players
During the pandemic, online pharmacies proved indispensable – but the benefits of ordering healthcare products online prevail even after the global health crisis. Here are the online pharmacies that are leading the way on the global stage.Article by Nadine Koutsou-Wehling | January 16, 2024
Online Pharmacies: Key Insights
Walgreens and CVS Lead the Market: The world's most lucrative online pharmacies are two U.S. drugstores that also maintain physical stores. Generating online revenues exceeding the US$1 billion mark, their achievements demonstrate the importance of efficient organizational resources in delivering healthcare products.
Latin American Online Pharmacies Rise Up: Online pharmacy rankings indicate Brazil's Drogaraia and Mexico's Fahorro have climbed to the top 10 from lower positions. Their profitability stems from offering affordable products to remote populations during the pandemic and into 2022.
Warehouse Automation and Expansive Networks: Leading online pharmacies share commonalities in integrating extensive physical and online networks with digital communication technology. Automated distribution ensures round-the-clock order processing, enhancing product accessibility.
Online pharmacies offer affordable products suitable for home delivery. Online stores specializing in the delivery of healthcare products are taking advantage of modern technologies to provide convenience and accessibility to consumers. The online pharmacy trend has clearly struck a chord: Our data shows that players are securing their place in global ecommerce.
To better understand how the online pharmacy market has performed, the following insight examines the dominant stores, including their global standing in recent years and emerging market trends. Finally, ECDB argues that online pharmacies are here to stay.
In Scope: What Is a Specialist Online Pharmacy?
Our ECDB Store Ranking offers a selection of specialist online stores from different global regions. A specialist store primarily sells products in one product category.
In the case of online pharmacies, it is health-related products such as medicines, hygiene products, disinfectants, skin treatment, nutritional foods and supplements, as well as other miscellaneous health products such as first aid items, condoms, and biometric monitors.
It is important to note, however, that our market data does not include prescription drugs in the online revenue analysis due to inconsistent regulations across countries. Homeopathic remedies are also out of scope.
Learn About Our ECDB Store Rankings
Which Online Pharmacies Are in the Top 10?
The chart below depicts a ranking of the top 10 specialist online pharmacies by online revenues.
By a wide margin, walgreens.com is the pharmacy with the highest online net sales worldwide, having generated a rounded US$2 billion in 2022. CVS.com is a close competitor, with online net sales of US$1.4 billion.
The Strategy: Both Walgreens and CVS are traditional brick-and-mortar drugstores with a successful online presence, offering customers a convenient and accessible delivery service for health products as defined above.
Two German Online Stores Rank Third and Fourth
Apteka.ru is a Russian pharmacy that ranked 6th in 2022, but the data may be corrupted due to Russia's war on Ukraine. Therefore, ECDB will not provide data for this company in the future. Apteka is followed by the Swedish online store apotea.se.
Swedish Innovation: Apotea uses automation in its warehouse, using machine learning algorithms to ensure efficient and round-the-clock handling of its products.
In 7th and 8th place are two Latin American online pharmacies: Brazil's drogaraia.com.br and Mexico's fahorro.com. They are followed by U.S. brick-and-mortar drugstore riteaid.com, which aims to emulate the success of Walgreens' and CVS' online platforms. Ritaid relies on digital capabilities to improve consumer access to medicines, including automated warehousing and omnichannel services.
Another Swedish online pharmacy ranks 10th on the list. Apoteket.se manages a network of both physical stores and an online platform that adds a layer of convenience to its offering. Apoteket's product range includes both own and third-party brands.
The ranking reveals a pattern of global regions for the best performing online pharmacies: North America tops the list by a wide margin, followed by Northern European countries with four online pharmacies, two of which are German and the other two Swedish.
A particularly notable trend is emerging online pharmacies from Latin America, such as Mexico's Fahorro and Brazil's Drogaraia. Read more about these two below.
Latin American Online Pharmacies Make Their Remarkable Top 10 Leap
With the leading 10 online pharmacies now identified, we look at their ranking order over the past five years.
Considering Walgreen’s outstanding online revenues in the market, it should not come as too much of a surprise that the established U.S. retailer has already been in first place among online pharmacies since 2018. The same goes for CVS in second place.
The two German competitors, Shop-Apotheke and DocMorris, have also remained more or less in the same spots, swapping places since 2018 and ending up in 3rd and 4th place in 2022.
While Apotea, Riteaid and Apoteket have been among the top 10 online pharmacies since 2018, the two Latin American stores have made an impressive leap up the list over the past five years.
Brazil’s Drogaraia was ranked 38th in the world in 2018, but it gradually climbed in the following years, reaching 23rd in 2020, 11th in 2021, and finally 7th in 2022.
Fahorro, which entered the market at 63rd place in 2019, also made significant progress, reaching 13th place in 2020 and from 9th to 8th place in the following two years.
The third U.S. store on this list, Ritaid, made some gradual progress from 10th place in 2018 and 2019 to 8th and 7th place in the following two years. Ultimately, however, the two Latin American online stores overtook Riteaid, leaving it next to last in the top 10.
Apoteket, one of the two Swedish online pharmacies in the ranking, followed a similar trend to Riteaid. Rising from 15th place in 2018 to 11th place in 2019, then 9th and 8th place in 2020 and 2021, Apoteket fell back to 10th place in 2022.
The data shows us that the online pharmacy market is not only promising for future profitability, but also highly diversified and competitive. With technological innovation, affordable offers, increased consumer demand, and trade-friendly national regulations, online pharmacies will continue to change the way we shop for healthcare products.
Online Pharmacies: Closing Thoughts
The online pharmacy market is still on the rise. Leading online stores in this sector, through their blend of physical drugstore networks and digital communication, along with distribution center automation, provide 24/7 product access. These innovations also hold promise in developing countries, extending affordable healthcare to remote areas.