Retail ecommerce is a thriving and permanent fixture across multiple sectors. Current projections indicate the ecommerce industry is going to reach $1 trillion in 2022, with healthcare ecommerce trends being one factor behind this increase.1 Estimates also illustrate that the global healthcare market is going to reach $643 billion by 2025, with an expected annual growth of 17%.2 Part of this uptick, of course, is a result of the pandemic, but there are additional factors fueling this ongoing digital migration.
According to census data, United States retail ecommerce revenue grew by 30% from 2019 to 2020.3 Because many consumers experienced social restrictions during this timeframe, a convenient and popular substitute for in-person shopping became virtually sourcing groceries, entertainment and other retail categories.
The pandemic also had a major impact on healthcare ecommerce. From 2019 to 2020, the global healthcare ecommerce market grew from $181 billion to about $311.3 billion.4 Prior to and beyond the pandemic, people are increasingly opting to shop online instead of visiting brick-and-mortar stores because of the unmistakable ease, accessibility and transparency that comes with purchasing online.
Read on for some of the specific factors driving the digital migration in healthcare ecommerce.
1 | Shifting population demographics
In 2019, 54.1 million people in the United States were 65 and older.5 This segment of the population is likely to reach 80.8 million by 2040 and 94.7 million by 2060.6 In addition, according to research from the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than 60% of United States adults have one or more chronic diseases.7
An aging population with complicated health histories pushes many adults and their caregivers to require an increasing number of over-the-counter medications, medical equipment and devices. To make the transaction and delivery easier, more are opting for online purchasing.
Older adults may have ailments that prevent them from driving, and both patients and caregivers find it saves time to order online instead of having to travel from one store to the next. A digital platform makes it easy to determine if an item is in stock. In addition, online reviews, product alternatives and suggestions, "buy it again" features and flexible return policies are features that make ecommerce more attractive.
2 | Growing demand for healthcare products
Almost 87% of adults 65 and older prefer to stay in their home and community as they age.8 As this trend continues, each household creates a new destination for routine and specialty healthcare products. This includes everything from incontinence products and first aid medications to mobility equipment and colostomy supplies.
While some of these items may be purchased at a national drug store chain or the local supermarket, certain factors might discourage shoppers.
For instance, the product type might lead some shoppers to be self-conscious about standing in the checkout line, or the product weight and bulk might make transporting it difficult. Nevertheless, the need for healthcare products remains, and this pushes more people to order online and receive deliveries at their homes.
Diagnostic equipment is an example of a retail category with steady demand and impressive advancement. With technology's advent, individuals don't necessarily need to go to their doctor's office to track basic healthcare metrics like blood pressure, diabetes and glucose measurements. Instead, consumers can use over-the-counter devices that monitor these health parameters and create a digital profile to send to their doctor.
There's also an increase in people investing in smart devices like the Apple Watch or the Fitbit to track steps, heart rates and oxygen levels. These products enable individuals to track their wellness and chart progress on mobile devices.
3 | Expanding availability of disposable income
When disposable income increases, consumers are more likely to purchase goods that fall outside of the scope of day-to-day needs.
According to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), household income grew by 5.8% in the United States during the first quarter of 2021, the largest increase since 2008.9 Part of the rise is due to the pandemic and the fiscal support the government offered households.
Over 90% of individuals in the United States have access to the Internet. Every minute, people use over 3 million gigabytes of traffic.10 Accessibility to various platforms like Amazon and other sellers makes it easier for consumers to shop for several products and compare prices through multiple venues.
If consumers are already online shopping for clothing, entertainment and food, it's more likely they'll expand their digital search to include healthcare products and services. Even prior to the pandemic, digital ecommerce was rising steadily globally at a rate of 4.5%.11 With the pandemic, ecommerce sales exploded. In the third quarter of 2021, online sales in the United States totaled $214.6 billion, representing an almost 7% surge from the previous year.12
The digital migration of retail healthcare is here to stay. Shifting demographics, increasing demand for healthcare products, and disposable income are continuously driving adoption and opportunity in this market.
By looking for more ways to address these trends and support consumer and caregiver needs, businesses can rise with the tide and keep customers coming back to fill their digital baskets. With the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence and expectation of user-friendly platforms, this digital transformation is only going to continue to drive growth.
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