Pharmacy, medical and pharmaceutical B2B Ecommerce is growing rapidly. The need to rapid repeat purchase lends itself perfectly to B2B ecommerce.
Henry Schein is the world’s largest provider of healthcare products and services to office-based medical practitioners. The company was quick to recognise their customers’ growing preference for online buying and launched its first e-commerce site in 1996. It had already moved to its second ecommerce site by 2001, before the idea was even on the horizon for most businesses in the sector.
Henry Schein has recently redesigned all five of its business to business (B2B) ecommerce sites for its wide range of customers. It says it has taken this major step because of growing online competition. The company also recognises that buyers want to improve operational efficiency and value though supply chain controls and the visibility provided by ecommerce.
For major providers like Henry Schein, the future is certainly digital, but you don’t have to be a giant in the pharmaceutical or medical sectors to realise the benefits of ecommerce. Modern Cloud-based ecommerce solutions offer fast and cost-effective opportunities for cost critical B2B sectors.
Adapting to digital
Many sales professionals originally saw ecommerce as a threat to their role as a trusted advisor to their customers. Increasingly the convenience of online research and ordering for customers allows the sales team to be more consultative and to improve customer service.
In 2015 a Forrester report highlighted that employees providing only basic ‘order processing’ for commodity products would be vulnerable as ecommerce became established in the sector. However, well-trained sales professionals with expertise and product knowledge, they predicted, would continue to add value to customer interactions.
They are proving to be correct and the role of sales professionals in this sector is now becoming a highly specialist and important role alongside digital options.
A seamless experience
There is a growing appetite for online communications in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors. However, buyers are looking for a more integrated approach. While they like innovations such as e-reps, virtual engagement, easy ordering and customer specific pricing, they also like to see or speak with their representatives as part of a multichannel approach.
An e-rep approach, for example, allows businesses to conduct virtual calls with buyers, supported with relevant features such a license restrictions, product safety information and quantity limits in ways that suit buyers.
The solution is to make sure that ecommerce is integrated with people, business systems and processes. Success will depend on understanding customer needs and tailoring your ecommerce strategy to different touch points with your buyers.
Capturing, sharing and interpreting data is essential for success. The sales force has a key role to play in making sure that data-driven decisions meet with real-world customer needs. Data will help to create better content for customers and deliver processes that match their preferences.
Channels also need to be linked and consistent. Mobile apps, virtual representatives and video portals are valuable, but if data isn’t consolidated and used effectively, the result could be incoherent for the customer. Companies perform well when they use their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as the focal point for their data, delivering a consistent set of customer metrics to improve their performance, both internally and externally.
Ecommerce is helping to deliver content to customers at the time that suits them – historically a challenge for this sector’s model for sales and customer service. Although virtual solutions can help provide immediate support they are unlikely to completely replace face-to-face services. It’s important to find the mix that works for different customers and situations.
Human interaction in this sector is being enhanced by digital technologies. Buyers can access information when they need it and through the channels they prefer. For companies that embrace technology and also take a person-centred approach there are great opportunities.
Our experts can help identify opportunities for your medical or pharmaceutical business, so please get in touch.