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Driving HME Sales via the Web

Understanding how consumers of HME behave online will help shape a winning sales strategy.

Unlike other online buyers, your customers and prospects need the products and services you provide. What they are looking for is not a wish list item like a new car, a vacation home, or a motorcycle. What they are looking for is products or services that are essential, must-haves for their ongoing safety and health. They know they need a walker; now they need to decide which model and features – hand brakes, wheels or a storage basket, etc. – they should buy. And, it’s your job to make sure that your website helps them make the right decision.

How does today’s consumer choose a provider or products and services? Ask their doctor, nurse, friends and family for suggestions? Perhaps. Chances are they’ll start their research and shopping online. Since most consumers want to start their shopping experience online, it’s important that you help them.

Regardless of how consumers make their way to your website, in order for you to successfully earn their business, you need to make sure your website caters to the needs of the growing number of online buyers as well as webinfluenced buyers. So how can we understand the behavior of both types of buyers and, work to better engage with and serve them?

Grab Online Buyers’ Attention; Convert it to Online Sales

Whether your customers or prospects are researching or purchasing online, consumers want to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. On average, you have only 3.5 seconds to catch a visitor’s attention. From the moment a consumer lands on your website all the way to the checkout, the two most important parts of e-commerce sales are to keep a consumer’s attention and build trust. Here are a few ways you can accomplish that:

  • Build trust with a well-designed, professional-looking website. Your website should make visitors comfortable doing business with you and buying your products online.
  • Make the checkout process quick and easy to use.
  • Provide your contact information so potential buyers with questions can easily call or email you.
  • Use a PCI-compliant payment system to protect consumers against fraud.
  • Prominently display security credentials near the “Proceed to Checkout” button to reassure buyers that their online purchase is secure. A Getelastic. com study shows that online sales conversions increase 4 percent to 6 percent by adding a prominent security display.
  • Use customer reviews to increase your store and product credibility by showing what other customers think about the products you sell, as well as their experience with you.

Your website is an extension of your brick-and-mortar store. The two need to complement each other and work hand-in-hand to turn your dealership into a 24/7 business and ultimately increase cash sales and profits. Your website should make it easy for customers to buy from you, even when you’re closed.

Web-influenced Buyers: Turning visitors into buyers

A growing online consumer trend in the HME Industry is web-influenced buyers. These are sales that generated by research done on your website and made in your store. Since many of the products that HME customers need may be reimbursable by Medicare or other insurance claims, more and more HME patients, or their family members, are doing their product research online before calling you for more information, filling out a request for more information, or coming into your store.

As with online buyers, you need to make it easy for consumers to find all of your products or services, including pictures and specifications. If you don’t, they’ll move on to another website rather than come to your dealership, resulting in a lost sale or a lost customer.

A Forrester study reported that a majority of customers (51 percent) want to buy from their local dealership because they want the product now – They don’t want to wait for it to arrive or pay delivery charges. According to the report, the second highest reason people shop at their local dealership (42 percent) is because they want to see the product in person before purchasing.

An equally important reason is that consumers are more likely to purchase equipment that may require future service from their local dealership.

The web-influenced trend is growing. It is estimated to grow to five times the size of e-commerce sales by 2015, at which time it will represent nearly 44 percent of total retail sales.

Simply put, it’s important that you recognize that even if you never sell a walker or CPAP machine on your website, you have the opportunity to sell them because of it. To capture this growing segment of web-influenced buyers, make sure your website:

  • Provides visitors with the information they need to make an educated purchasing decision quickly and easily.
  • Includes product descriptions, specifications, multiple photos, and other product information.
  • Puts your store’s best face forward. Give visitors an online experience that inspires confidence, shows product availability (in-store and online), and spotlights your professional, fully-trained staff.
  • Provides online forms that make it easy for customers to request CPAP and medical supplies, prescription refills, rental requests, etc.
  • Motivates buyers to drive to your dealership, not your competition’s.
  • And most importantly, provides your locations, hours of business, phone number and directions to your dealership.

Customers who start by researching on your website can be some of your best customers. According to a Forrester study, 45% of consumers who research online and buy offline will purchase additional products at your store. That means future sales for you. And, one in-store purchase could lead to another and eventually a lifelong customer.

The Bottom Line

Building trust and providing a place for customers to research your dealership and products will help you not only capture the growing number of online and web-influenced buyers, but will help you offset the effects of the government’s competitive bidding program.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Dennis Olsen is the Durable Medical Equipment Program sales manager for ARI, which creates web sites for the DME industry. For more information, call (888) 581-9830 or visit www.arinet.com.

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