Web sites should inform--then encourage purchases

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Q. I have had an HME Web site for five years and plan to update it. What type of features do you recommend for an effective Web site?
A. Statistics show that consumers today look for extensive content and related resources to inform and assist them in assessing and managing medical conditions. Supplying them with the desired content on your site is imperative if you want to develop an online relationship, which in turn can lead to a sale. According to a study by PewInternet.org: When Americans were asked "What will you do the next time you have a medical condition?" 31% said they would first consult the Internet. Of those who surf the Web regularly, 50% said they would consult the Internet first.
With millions of consumers using the Internet to research medical conditions, designing your Web site as a 24-hour sales tool serves two purposes: It provides consumers with the information they want, and, once you've established that online rapport, off-line sales frequently follow.
When most business owners address their Web site, they tend to focus on one thing: sell, sell and sell. Nevertheless, while increasing revenue is the ultimate goal of a Web site, e-commerce sales aren't all that robust.
While the trend is growing and there are a few successful e-commerce HME Web sites, most retailers report that a very small percentage of their total sales actually occur online, according to Shop.org. The majority of retailers report that revenue generated directly from their Web sites occurs 80% of the time in a non-e-commerce fashion (phone call, e-mail or local visit to the store). That's because consumers want the item now--and that desire, in most cases, outweighs the desire to save money by shopping online. Specifically, in the HME industry, the majority of online shoppers are female caregivers who go online to shop around and determine where to send their family members for HME.


Jeremy Kauten is general manager of VGM Forbin. Reach him at 319-235-7100 or jeremyk@forbin.com.