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Where do consumers turn before buying healthcare products?

Consumers are paying close attention to their personal buying journey for healthcare products. The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) projected that national health spending is going to grow at an average annual rate of 5.4% between 2019 and 2028 and reach $6.2 trillion by 2028.1

More purchasers are focusing their dollars on different aspects of healthcare, especially products like digital scales, medical devices, smartwatches, vitamins and pharmaceutical drugs. Consumers may use various sources to help select and prioritize product features and benefits leading up to the purchase, often choosing these sources based on projected reliability and past experiences. And unsurprisingly, many shoppers consult the digital space for their healthcare product information. In fact, 80% of buyers look to the internet before buying a product or service, enjoying both the accessibility and ease of purchase.

Let's look at how the consumer mindset drives choices in healthcare and their applicable sources and how retailers can target consumer needs.

Consumer mindset drives choices in healthcare

The pandemic has influenced a consumer's decision-making process. More people seek out-of-the-box healthcare avenues and find related products during their buying journey.

According to a recent McKinsey report, many consumers consider in-home alternatives instead of driving to an office for treatment, looking for an omnichannel experience and trying new brands to expand the scope of options they may consider.2

Forbes states that, before the pandemic, many consumers were procrastinating with health concerns.3 But now, telehealth accessibility allows individuals to consult with doctors virtually and ask about healthcare products. The ease of scheduling virtual health appointments and speaking with medical professionals from home has also created the same expectation for healthcare products.

Sources consumers use before buying healthcare products

Research indicates that almost 60% of consumers search for information on quality and performance during the buying stages for purchasing healthcare products.4

Some sources consumers look to before buying healthcare products include:

  • Influencers | From William Shatner to Khloe Kardashian, numerous celebrities, influencers and bloggers collaborate with brands to promote drugs, nutritional products and medical devices to their followers5
  • Social media channels | Between July and November 2020, the U.S. healthcare and pharmaceutical industries spent $198.3 million on Facebook advertising. Instagram followed, with $151.5 million in ad investments over the same period6
  • Websites | A 2021 Deloitte survey states that 55% of consumers prefer to research online and then go into the store to purchase a product.7 This process allows consumers to better understand whether a healthcare product will meet their needs
  • Doctors | The doctor-patient relationship is still important and consumers often seek an expert they can trust who isn't in a rush and provides actionable information.8 This consultation may occur during all buying journey stages

Consumers' selection and quantity of information sought will likely depend on need as consumers shift between these sources. For example, it may depend on what the purchased product treats — especially in the case of chronic conditions or illnesses.

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How retailers can target the needs of consumers

There are many tools a retailer can use to target the needs of a consumer's decision-making process:

  • Social media | Almost 70% of older adults use the internet and 42% own smartphones. Retailers need to target their campaigns via social media, online videos and similar content, as 82% of the U.S. population is on social media as of 20219
  • Website and search engine optimization | First impressions matter, and retailers will be at an advantage if consumers can quickly locate their website in the search engine results by using simple keywords. Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital in making sure certain websites populate at the top of the list
  • Direct mail | Some consumers still prefer the personal touch and according to a 2021 report, direct mail campaigns are resurging and are 27% more likely to deliver a top-ranking sales performance.10 Retailers can create buzz for products by investing in a strong lead list and targeting specific consumers by appealing to the particular demographic
  • Loyalty programs | Rewarding customers for their loyalty feels personal to the consumer. A retailer can connect with the consumer by remembering special milestones and encouraging repeat business.

Consumers want ease of purchase, reliability and transparency when buying healthcare products. They often turn to the online experience, and retailers need to prepare to make their first and best impression via a website.

However, this doesn't exclude other options such as patient advocates, family and friends for helping consumers make up their minds about healthcare product purchases. The buying journey for healthcare products can be complex and retailers need to make certain they offer a multidimensional experience.


© 2022 McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc.