2015 HME Handbook

How to Create an Effective Retail Experience

Cash sales customers are looking for options, information and a range of solutions that can help make an informed purchase. The showroom must support that.

Retail Sales

Thanks to reimbursement cuts, providers have been rapidly pushing into retail sales to the point where many of them view retail sales a business imperative. Cash sales drive new revenues that not only help compensate for the cash flow cuts, but can enable more aggressive retail-minded provider expand their revenues.

And patients are willing to pay cash. Whether it is because an item is not covered by Medicare or private payor insurance, or because patients want items that are better quality and more feature-laden than what Medicare or private payor insurance will cover, customers are willing to open up their pocket books — even for expensive items, such as power mobility or portable oxygen solutions.

But the key is that providers need to understand the “feel” of retail. Retailers in other segments — clothing, cars, electronics, sporting goods, etc. — have all learned that developing a “retail experience” will drive increased sales. When clients come to the providers’ retail location with cash sales in mind, they are expecting an experience that differs from that of a funded patient. A funded patient comes to the provider with a prescription and set expectations. A cash sales customer is looking for options, information and a range of solutions that can help make an informed purchase.

Similarly, the showroom must also feel inviting, comfortable, and in a way, empowering. Retail customers want to be able to know that they can get help, but at the same time feel like they are in charge. A smart showroom can help instill all these components of the retail experience. Here are some key considerations that providers want to keep in mind:

Location, Location, Location

If a provider is serious about retail success, determining the right location is critical — and that might necessitate a move. The goal is to have a spot customers can easily find and access. While existing clients with funding might be willing to drive to your spot, will vehicle and foot traffic find your location convenient? Additionally, demographics are important. Are there enough caregivers close by? Are there enough seniors? Is the population healthy and likely to look for life enhancing products? Is the location better than your competitors? Another crucial factor is visibility. Does the location support window displays? Can customers see it from the street? What about signage possibilities? Is there ample parking? And of course, the location must have ample space. For instance, does the provider offer power mobility?

Welcome Customers

DME can be unfamiliar territory for some clients, and it might even be a little uncomfortable. The fundamental reason why clients are coming to a provider are because they or a loved one has a medical condition that necessitates them seeking solutions that will confer a therapeutic benefit or help them improve their quality of life. In other words, they’re not picking up a six-pack of soda and a bag of chips. So, the retail showroom should be a place of comfort for the customer. Try to diminish any confusion or apprehension customers might have by simply welcoming customers as they enter. Let them know that staff are here to help guide them through the process. A friendly “How can I help you?” can turn a worried first-time buyer into a customer for life.

Address Needs

The showroom should help direct customers to what they need and ensure that they get it. This is accomplished by carefully planned organization based around consumers and their HME needs. For instance, providers can organize departments by condition, such as diabetes, mobility or oxygen therapy, and steer clients to those items by clear signage. In addition to organizing by department, providers need to think about comorbidities and how conditions can be interrelated, and organize their products accordingly. For instance, the provider can place footcare, compression, and pain management items near diabetes solutions, or put ADLs and home access items near wheelchairs and scooters.

Keep it Simple

There is a temptation to display everything product that the provider has in inventory, but that isn’t the best strategy. While it might be counter-intuitive, a provider can sometimes provide better service by keeping fewer items on the shelves. The showroom should be laid out so shoppers can peer over fixtures, spot specific products on the shelves, and maneuver easily to get to all the spaces in the store. If the showroom is small, let customers know that there is stock in the warehouse and provide brochures and other guides, such as kiosks, that help inform customers of all their product options.

Keep Things Fresh

In addition to keeping the showroom simple and uncluttered, the provider will want to keep things feeling fresh and new. Good ways to accomplish that are to rotate items out, and highlight certain items on a seasonal basis. The lets customers experience change in the showroom, which keeps things fresh and exciting. This encourages return traffic and helps establish and grow the business. Assuming that the provider has a good retail site, it must focus on product and how rotating items can keep the experience new for the customer and keep them coming back. Good ways to accomplish this are carrying impulse items that change several times a year; shifting inventory to match the season; or taking advantage of special events such as diabetes awareness month.

Always Educate

Again, a key goal is to put clients in the driver’s seat. Just like your staff, the showroom should educate patients on the benefits of your inventory to ensure they get the right product to support their needs. Offer literature, videos, kiosks and displays that focus on features and benefits and how they relate to condition. Done right, those kinds of educational displays can become a key part of the staff’s sales and service process, as well.


Points to Take Away:

  • Given that retail sales have grown so critical a revenue source for HMEs, providers must work to create a retail sales experience that eases client’s apprehension and puts them in charge.
  • A location with ample showroom space that is easy to see and access is critical.
  • Products and departments should be arranged around customer needs and conditions.
  • The showroom floor should be uncluttered, and displays should inform clients about un-displayed stock in the warehouse.
  • Rotate items on a periodic or seasonal basis and take advantage of special healthcare events to change your wares and keep things fresh.
  • A central goal is to ensure displays help do the selling by educating your customers.

Learn More:

  • Visit the HME Business Cash Sales Solutions Center at bit.ly/HMEB-re

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of HME Business.

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