Thursday, June 23, 2011

Q. Now that I have a website, do I have to keep up with the big online DME companies?

A. In short, no.

First, let's discuss price. The fact that there are a number of large companies that sell DME online who have incredible buying power does not mean that you have to sell a $50 rollator or a $100 wheelchair. You should, however, have competitively-priced, entry-level products that will enable you to start a conversation with the customer whose first criteria is price.

Once your pricing has gotten the attention of the customer, you can then highlight the advantages that you have over the big Internet retailers--some of which may not be obvious at first glance. These advantages need to be highlighted on your website, in your store and over the phone.

You can provide next-day or same-day delivery in your area. When I ran an e-commerce DME company, we would receive lots of calls from people who needed a wheelchair the next day. They thought they could save by purchasing our least expensive wheelchair, but they did not realize that the overnight shipping would cost $250.

You can provide reliable, knowledgeable in-home set up. Many times, customers would want their product to be unpacked and set up--something that UPS does not do.

Most customers do not know what is and is not covered by insurance. Sometimes they will try to purchase something that is covered, and if you are able to bill it to their insurance (something most of the online companies do not do), you will have earned a customer for life. 

You are not going to win the business of every customer that is shopping online based on price. By thinking and selling creatively, however, you will be able to build truly valuable repeat customers.

Jonathan Gordon is president of the Coribus Group. Reach him at 917-538-5665 or jon@coribusgroup.com.