Build an online empire, Mallaro says

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Think HME and have nothing in common? Think again, says The VGM Group CFO Mike Mallaro, who gets many calls from HME providers looking to do online retail. Providers should browse leading retail Web sites and apply what they see to HME, he says.

Get yourself out there

"You've got to drive traffic to your site," said Mallaro in a February interview on HME News TV. "eBay spends over 15% of their revenue on advertising, but when you talk to an HME about spending 15% of revenues on advertising, there's nobody doing that. Most of that money is spent on keyword searches on Google and Yahoo. You've got to advertise."

Get a partner

"Amazon offers a very broad array of products," said Mallaro. "One clever thing they've done is offer a lot of products by partnering with other retailers. They sell a lot of toys by partnering with Toys "R" Us. Maybe there's a product line out there that you, as a community-based HME, can't justify stocking because you can't move enough of it in the bricks-and-mortar store. With clever partnering or virtual stores you could offer a lot more products through e-commerce than you could offer in your store."

Get it together

"Not a lot of people have heard of Appliance Parts Pros," said Mallaro. "It's been rated the No.1 parts retailer for three years. They make their site very easy to search. They've done a great job with online forums and live chats. When caregivers are searching for HME, they are scared and confused. Focus on the ease of doing business (on the site) and add extra value: take your in-house expertise online through live chats or monitored forums."

Finally, use your Web site as a way to augment your bricks-and-mortar business, said Mallaro.

"A lot of this stuff should be bought in-store to make sure it's the right fit and the right situation," said Mallaro. "But, if customers can get an idea through information on your site, that can drive them into the store to get the right product for their home, situation and lifestyle."

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