Reporter's notebook: How to launch an online mobility store

 - 
Friday, October 21, 2016

As mobility providers consider entering the e-commerce market, Justin Racine says there’s a lot more to it than just adding a shopping cart to your company’s website. 

“You need to make sure you have resources available internally and a budget to support it,” said Racine, director of marketing & e-commerce at Geriatric Medical & Surgical Supply in Woburn, Mass. “And you have to remember it’s going to take time to build. People aren’t going to come to it just because its there; it takes a year to three years to be successful.” 

Stock smart

Racine recommends researching what the competition is selling online for cash, and using search tools to find out what people are looking to buy and which geographical area they’re looking to buy in.

“If you do your research, you can better set up your site with products that you already know there’s a demand for so you’re not aiming in the dark,” he said.

Racine also advises caution.

“With Medicare and Medicaid, you can’t really advertise or market (funded equipment),” he said. “The agencies really frown upon that so you have to be careful. If you’re getting traffic to a site that has items for retail and you’re trying to push them over to your billable website, that’s a very gray area.”

Start small

Racine’s best piece of advice: Don’t try to be a national retailer.

With companies like SpinLife.com, which guarantees to meet or beat any published competitor’s price, or AllegroMedical.com, which offers more than 62,000 products online, including wheelchairs and mobility products, providers need to differentiate themselves by offering unique products or perks like free shipping, if they want to stand out. 

“If it’s just price, that’s going to be a challenge, because everyone can drop their price,” said Racine. “You have to have something unique that is different from anyone else.”

Instead, start small and stay local, focus on current customers, and build your strategy out from there, Racine suggests.

“I think people can create a nice niche by going locally within their community and I think the people they service can provide just as good—if not better returns—than a national campaign.”