Similar to goods and services in other consumer industries, online sales of healthcare products are accelerating. Retailers selling any range of these categories – from medical equipment and incontinence to infection prevention and nutrition – can help boost potential sales with a strong online presence, but it takes careful planning and design.
There's a lot at stake. According to Adobe's research, shoppers spent $1.7 trillion online in the two years following the onset of COVID-19, up from $609 billion during the prior two years.1 The company expects 2022 to be the first $1 trillion year for online sales among U.S. consumers.
Ecommerce trends show that healthcare-related sales will be a big part of that growth. Online healthcare sales suffered a slight year-over-year decrease in 2021 as healthcare companies stabilized their output in the wake of the pandemic. However, it's now set to enjoy a 17% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2025, from $346.87 billion to $643.07 billion,2 and North America currently has 53% of that market. While the top ten players dominate 22.7% of it, there are still plenty of opportunities for others to sell health and wellness products online.
Clearly, the shoppers are out there and eager to buy healthcare products. So how can online sellers connect with them and keep them engaged?
1 | Invest in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
The initial step is getting customers to view your products in the first place. Don't underestimate the importance of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising here. This includes paid search results but also advertising campaigns on targeted healthcare sites like WebMD.
Even over-the-counter pharmaceutical vendors, who are traditionally big TV advertisers, have been shifting advertising budgets to online channels and will spend almost half of their advertising budgets online in 2023.3
Advertising and posting on social media is also an important way to bring potential customers to your online store. Engaging on Instagram and Facebook can help generate traffic and consumer awareness for medical equipment and pharmaceutical sales.
2 | Educate your customers
Social content is also a good way to educate consumers on health issues directly related to your products and services.
Running posts that help them understand how and why to use targeted products is a good way to build credibility and encourage customer loyalty, which could increase site visits and back-end conversions.
3 | Optimize your interface design
Once on your sales site, customers will expect a friction-free approach to buying your products. That means you'll want to hone your online interface so that visitors can make a fast purchase.
Begin by ensuring that your site design is responsive, meaning that it displays well on a range of mobile devices in addition to desktop machines. With more than half of all U.S. website traffic now coming from mobile phones, this is non-negotiable.4
Interface optimization includes cutting page load times to best-in-class levels. McKinsey cites an ideal load time for peak conversions of no more than 2.7 seconds, adding that every 100-millisecond delay above that can reduce conversion by up to 7%.5 Google also penalizes slow-loading pages in search results, which makes it even more important to focus on site performance.
Another feature of good site design is getting the user to the product they need swiftly. That means designing menus and catalog layouts that make products easy to find.
4 | Use personalization
Personalization is an important part of reducing ecommerce friction for healthcare sales. Historically, online retailers paid for third-party cookie data that tracked users on the web to understand their behavior and interests, allowing them to show those visitors targeted products upon arrival. However, third-party cookies will soon disappear, thanks to Google, which will phase them out in 2023.6
Instead, the focus is now on first-party data. This is data that the customer explicitly provides during the onboarding phase, along with information that you gather from user behavior on the site.
Use this information, including a customer's purchase history, to better understand the kinds of products they're looking for. You can also use it to cross-sell and up-sell users after they have selected their products and populated their shopping carts.
5 | Offer robust support
Some healthcare purchases are complex interactions for customers, who will likely have technical questions.
With that in mind, reduce friction still further by responding quickly to customer questions. Chatbots are helpful for basic queries, but if you have the resources, complementing them with human agents for live chat sessions can help to reassure customers that they're making the right choice.
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6 | Innovate with payments
Having shown a visitor the most appropriate products to meet their needs, you can use innovative payment mechanisms to make the checkout process even easier. This includes offering services such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal alongside regular credit card or debit card options.
Beyond that, consider "buy now, pay later" (BNPL) options that allow your customers to spread out payments for larger purchases such as medical equipment. Half of all consumers in the U.S. have tried these services across multiple ecommerce sectors.7
According to Adobe, BNPL orders grew 528% year-over-year between October and November 2020.1 More recently, this has slowed, but still shows a healthy 53% year-over-year bump. Big tech players are facilitating these options. PayPal offers one, and Apple will offer a BNPL service called Apple Pay Later in iOS 16.
7 | Get the logistics right
When it comes to customer engagement, closing the sale is just the beginning of the process. The next step is to keep people coming back. That means taking care of them after the interaction.
Excel at logistics by providing up-to-date shipping status, preferably via a channel of their choice, such as SMS.
8 | Cover multiple channels
Also, be sure to follow up with regular communications. This can help you to push through a half-completed sale, perhaps by reminding people that they didn't check out after filling their shopping cart.
Use your personalization solution to help promote ongoing customer engagement. Send regular emails or texts suggesting likely products, and perhaps featuring promotional offers tailored to their interests. This requires a marketing automation platform that tracks and segments customers.
Taking advantage of ecommerce trends in healthcare encompasses the entire user experience, all the way through the sales lifecycle and beyond. Getting it right may require some externally sourced skills, but the potential rewards are high. As buyers flock online, it's an investment that retail providers cannot afford to forgo.
© 2022 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.