Providers not sold on online shopping

Thursday, September 8, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine - Most HME providers aren't buying into the benefits of adding a shopping cart to their websites, according to a recent HME NewsPoll.

The vast majority of respondents to the poll (80%) said they don't offer online shopping on their websites. Of the providers who do, 72% said it hasn't been a good way to drive cash sales.

At a time when just about everything can be--and is--purchased online, what makes HME the exception?

"Most of the time, patients want to see/test the product before they purchase it," said one provider. "We have never sold anything through our shopping cart."

Several poll respondents echoed that sentiment: HME products are not "one size fits all," and the web doesn't allow providers to offer education, fitting or personal service. 

"We want people to call us so we can discuss their needs and make sure what they are ordering makes sense for what their needs are," explained one provider. 

There are other hurdles to being successful in online shopping, respondents said.

"We do have a shopping cart but Internet sales have been very slow," said provider Cliff Doss, CEO of Fort Smith, Ark.-based AireCore Medical Services. "There are too many web-based competitors to make this effective for most HME."

Echoes another: "Google any product that we sell. The Internet sellers represent a race to the bottom on pricing."

Another hurdle: marketing.

"For those who operate both a brick-and-mortar store and website, I think it's very challenging because marketing a successful Web store is completely different," the provider said.

The cost of adding online shopping to their websites is another concern, said respondents.

"The industry 'experts' in that area that we have tried using just do not seem to be able to make it happen and are outrageously expensive," said on provider. "Until we find a reasonable alternative, we are doing without."

Still, some respondents said it can be a beneficial tool for cash customers.

"(It's a) great outlet for customers who have no insurance or high deductibles," one provider said. "(And it's) good for us not having to chase cash."