Month: October 2016

Elements of an E-Commerce Site

The components of setting up and managing your website well

by Kamal J. Haddad

This article will focus on the components involved in setting up and managing an e-commerce website, as well as some available options for finding the right service providers. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the elements of an online store, what their purpose is and how they work together—everything from finding the right suppliers, pricing contracts and MAP Pricing to customer service, hosting options, site security, customer reviews, social media marketing, keeping the site updated and the amount of staff time and expertise required to run it properly.

Assuming you place a high value on your time, then you need to keep that in mind when comparing your options. For the purposes of this article, I will stay away from enterprise-level e-commerce websites and focus on the small- and medium-size HME dealers who are not willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars or devote a full staff to enter the online arena. The target audience for this article is the dealer interested in using e-commerce to complement existing business. That means finding the right place to host your website, making sure your website has true e-commerce capabilities, finding the right mix of products to offer your customers, making sure your site is current and making sure your customer service is meeting or exceeding expectations.

1. Hosting

Your site should be hosted with a reputable hosting company with reliable service and the ability to handle spikes in traffic due to promotions or seasonal sales. Costs will vary from free hosting (which I do not recommend) to $10–$50/month. Keep in mind that this is typically for a main hosted website with no e-commerce capability. There are a number of service providers that offer template-style websites with decent options for specific industries, if that is what you are looking for. Because we are focusing on e-commerce, I want to discuss hosting options that include e-commerce—or, at a minimum, e-commerce options that can work within an existing company website.

2. E-Commerce

Once you move into selling online, you must find a hosting company that specializes in e-commerce and offers a shopping cart as part of their hosting service. There are many shopping carts you can use from free or “open source” providers such as Magento, but you still need to host the website somewhere. I am personally not a fan of free anything and believe you always get what you pay for. Either way, you must make sure your site is secure with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). That is the standard security technology to make sure that all data passed between the web server (your online store) and browsers remain private and integral. You must also have a store that is PCI-compliant so the credit card data you collect from online customers remains secure. It usually costs $75–$400/year for SSL. Your credit card processor will usually monitor PCI compliance. Once you determine which payment processor you are using to accept your customers’ credit cards, you will find the PCI compliance monitoring is included in your monthly fee of $15–$40/month.

3. Product Catalog

A successful e-commerce store needs to have a great selection of cash sale items and your customer or your staff must be able to research, select and finalize a purchase within your e-commerce store from a computer, tablet or smartphone. When selecting products and manufacturers, you want to include items that complement or upsell the services you offer and improve the care and lifestyle of your customers (or, as Mike Sperduti calls it, “up-caring”). Keep in mind, in a fiercely competitive online marketplace, it is critical that the prices you charge are consistent with average “street prices.” What does that mean? If you sell a walker on your website for $100 and that same item is available on Amazon for $60, you have a problem—and chances are your customers will let you know about it.

To avoid these issues, you should work with manufacturers that protect their brands online by either implementing a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) Policy or leaving enough margins for dealers that allow them to compete. Many Medtrade exhibitors, such as Core Products, Principle Business Enterprises and SP Ableware, are examples. Purchasing through a buying group contract or a reputable distributer willing to offer profitable lines is essential. In any case, online pricing is fluid and you need to keep an eye on price movement in the marketplace. Currently, there are service providers that will setup and host your e-commerce store, including a nicely stocked catalog, for as little as $100–$400/month.

4. Management

Once the site is running, you need to decide if you are stocking and shipping the orders that are placed online, or if you are sending these orders to a drop-shipper to have them fulfilled. What amount of your staff time and business space are you willing to commit? Assuming you are not going to stock and fill orders, there are options for passing that order directly from your e-commerce website to a supplier. At a minimum, someone will need to make sure pricing and stock availability is accurate, that orders get to the supplier, shipments get out quickly, tracking information gets to the customer and questions from customers are responded to in a timely fashion. Even though I am targeting e-commerce, I still want to point out that, in addition to e-commerce transactions, your business website has many components that also require attention from your company—“About Us” pages, maps and directions, “Pay Bill Online” links, etc.

A little later, I will get into hosting and cart services that work with product vendors to provide a more comprehensive service that includes preloaded catalogs as well as fully managed e-commerce services.

5. Marketing

“If you build it, they will come,” does not apply here. Whether you build a site in-house, use an outside agency to build your site or use a hybrid or fully managed service, all three are almost useless without a plan to properly train employees to drive interest and customers to the site.

You may be able to partner with a service provider to setup, build and even maintain your e-commerce website, but you need to understand this site is designed to support your in-store efforts. You should be talking about these cash-sale items in-store, in your brochures and mailings and eblasts to customers, and even asking questions when you are face-to-face or on the phone with them. This may also include posting information on blogs and social media, as well as using local directories and reviews to get your business noticed in your community and found online.

While some services such as website updates, social media and blog posting and search engine optimization (SEO) can also be outsourced, nothing is more beneficial than properly trained staff that expose your customers to the new online research and purchasing options.

The reality is that 75 percent of consumers have a smartphone, and a majority of them research and/or shop online using their mobile devices. Consumers expect a lot from you in terms of researching products and buying online at the right price. And if you don’t give them what they want, they go elsewhere. You have a huge upside in turning your expertise and patient relationship into new forms of revenue.

So, my suggestion is to find a way to get into e-commerce. If you do not have the time, staff or expertise, find a provider that can setup, host and maintain your website. It is easier, more efficient and probably more profitable if you partner with someone who can handle many of those tasks for you for as low as several hundreds of dollars per month instead of taking on the entire burden in-house.

Tasks that can be outsourced today include full catalog management, relationships with drop-ship partners, SEO services, blog posts, email marketing and social media interactions with customers, as well as fully managed e-commerce services. You do not even need to use the same provider for all of these tasks. There are companies that just do email marketing or blog posts or offer SEO services, and they do it well. You may find it efficient to handle some or many of these tasks in-house, and then work with experts on the areas in which you are unfamiliar to help you achieve your online sales goals. Whatever your final choice is, make sure you find a way to do e-commerce in some capacity so you are not left behind.

This article is the third in a four-part series. Each segment will focus on best practices for building e-commerce sales.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kamal J. Haddad, CPA, founder and CEO of Health Mobius LLC, is an entrepreneur and well-known expert in the health care technology arena. He has a proven track record generating revenue through applications that integrates the care process and patient compliance with retail sales. For more information, visit healthmobius.com.

Health Mobius

Turnkey e-Commerce service for HME providers

e-Commerce

Turnkey e-Commerce service for HME providers

Health Mobius eRetail services offer a range of turnkey e-commerce service for HME providers and DME pharmacies, so that they can focus on their core business.  Health Mobius sets up and manages an entire e-commerce platform for the provider, handling the online product catalog, payments to vendors, payment processing, shipping, customer service and sales tax processing.  The service easily integrates with providers’ existing websites, blogs and social media platforms, and helps providers to engage with customers online to earn more revenue.  To learn more about the service, and about e-commerce strategies in general, providers attending Medtrade 2016 can attend “Using Technology to Generate Retail Cash Sales: The Next Steps,” which will be presented by Health Mobius CEO Kamal Haddad from 8 a.m. to 9a.m., on Nov. 2, in room C208.

Health Mobius LLC
(855) 640-9500
www.healthmobius.com

Define the relationship between your online and in-store retail spaces to generate more sales

The objective of this series of articles is to trigger a discussion about online stores and explain the elements of e-commerce in nontechnical terms to help you identify what strategies may work for your business. In next month’s issue, I will focus on the steps involved in setting up and running an online store. We will discuss everything from finding the right suppliers to pricing contracts, MAP Pricing, customer service, server hosting options, site security, customer reviews, social media marketing, keeping the site updated and the amount of staff time and expertise required to run it properly.

For now, it is important to identify your business objectives as they relate to retail sales and identify how (not if) you can capitalize on expanding into the online sales arena. There is a good chance that you have already reacted to the current business climate by putting effort into better merchandising and improving customer service and properly training salespeople to identify additional sales opportunities—as you should. But, what are you doing online?

If you read my article last month, then you probably know that I focus on using technology and online sales methods to improve your existing HME/DME or pharmacy business so you can reach the 80 percent of the population who shops primarily online. You probably also know that only 20 percent of transactions are done purely in a retail store setting, according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper white paper. This report examined the motivations of shoppers—who use smart technology, such as tablets and smartphones—to take control of their retail shopping experiences. The report concludes that engaging consumers through new technology will yield sales and loyalty, and retailers who do not step up their game are destined to fall behind. In fact, if you do not already have a website where, at a minimum, your customer can complete a retail cash sales transaction online, you should ask yourself, “Why not?”

You probably know your customers well with respect to the services you currently offer, but what about the cash spending your customers do with other retailers? Have you thought about what you are missing out on? The reality is that competitive bidding has made it difficult to compete based on reimbursable revenue only. There are more than 10,000 people turning 65 each day, and many of them are making health care decisions not only for themselves, but for their parents as well. Despite higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, incontinence and other health concerns, as well as higher insurance deductibles, the baby boomer generation wants to remain active, they want to age in their own homes and they are spending money on many things to make their lives more comfortable. And, yes, they even pay out of pocket for these expenditures.

You spend a lot of time, money and energy acquiring a single customer. Sometimes a simple question or a follow-up phone call can dramatically increase the amount of revenue with a small amount of incremental effort. When a customer gets a new wheelchair, do you think he or she may want a cup holder or a rain poncho, too? If they purchase a walker, do you think they may want a basket or bag to go with it? The reality is, consumer buying behavior has evolved. Baby boomers want to accessorize, and many are part of an online social community where they share what they purchase with their network of friends and family. These people are your customers.

The logical progression into retail is to start thinking about the lifestyles of your customers. We tend to focus on billable or reimbursable codes for each medical diagnosis. Patients and their caregivers are thinking about lifestyle. What additional items, regardless of reimbursement, will make patients more comfortable or more independent? What about bathroom safety? Once you think in terms of lifestyle, you can make an easy transition into retail. Once you think retail, you can make the transition to in-store merchandising. Once you think in-store merchandising, you are ready to recommend and offer a catalog of products your customers want. You just need to make it available to them any time they want to access it and in a manner that enables them to complete the purchase online. They want to shop using a computer, a tablet or a smartphone.

I see many HME/DME providers who finally have a website. Many are nicely done in terms of branding and having basic information such as address, location and hours. Some even have social media links and are connected to a company blog or even an online catalog. While these are all basic essentials of putting your company information out on the web, this is not generating significant (if any) cash sales revenue. This is not e-commerce. Your customers do not want to view the products you offer, send you a request for information and wait for you to contact them about how to make a purchase. Not only is that not what they want, it is also inefficient and costly for you to generate a sale using this method. Your customers want to make a purchase online when they want, and from wherever they are. If this is not how your website is set up, all is not lost. There is e-commerce technology that can easily integrate with your existing website.

When you decide to open an online store, you can either run it as a separate business division of your existing operation, or you can do so as an enhancement to your existing operation. Each of these approaches could potentially require a different level of commitment, resources, risk and reward. Generally speaking, opening an online store as an enhancement to your in-store merchandising is less costly, less risky and in many cases it will be a more realistic approach. In my opinion, here are the objectives that you should aspire to achieve with your online store:

Generate more profit from your online store than you spend to operate it.

  • Improve patient compliance and care.
  • Keep your customers spending more with you than with websites such as Amazon or other online retailers.
  • Improve customer satisfaction and standing in your community.
  • Keep up with the spending habits of your customers.

Perspective is important. Just because you build a great e-commerce website does not mean there is guaranteed success. You must have realistic expectations based on the effort and money you are willing to invest. That is why I am not an advocate for building e-commerce websites to compete with other online retailers. What I do advocate for is building an e-commerce site to better serve your patients, and doing so profitably. They know you and trust you. You are in a great position to recommend the products they need and can actually guide them to those products. You are closer to their buying decisions than Amazon or Walmart or Walgreens—so why not capture the sale yourself?

Think of e-commerce as an extension of your in-store retail merchandising. Think of products that would improve your customers’ lifestyles. After all, you are on the front lines hearing directly from them and seeing firsthand what retail items will bring about a happier customer. If you can agree that better service and a better product offering will result in happier customers and better sales opportunities, then stay tuned. Next month I will show you what is involved in making that e-commerce leap happen.

This article is the second in a four-part series. Each segment will focus on best practices for building e-commerce sales. Read other parts of this series here.  To see this ad in the Homecare Magazine click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamal J. Haddad, CPA, founder and CEO of Health Mobius LLC, is an entrepreneur and well-known expert in the health care technology arena. He has a proven track record generating revenue through applications that integrate the care process and patient compliance with retail sales. For more information, visit healthmobius.com.

Health Mobius

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑