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Buy into the hype: Consumers are retail-ready

Buy into the hype: Consumers are retail-ready Consumers are insisting on feature rich, stylish, high-quality products, and when products meet demand, retail sales occur

I read an article recently on marketing in which the author said, “So you've seen the future, or rather, the present…” I paused and thought, in the HME industry, we aren't even there yet.

We're still talking about retail as though it's something on the horizon and trying to plan our next steps as if we were entering unchartered waters.

The retail era isn't coming soon to a nearby city. It's here, now. And, there's no need for fear and trepidation. After all, the Book on Retail, has long been written—we just have to follow the guide and apply it to the HME industry. The great news is, consumers are far ahead of us, ready and wanting retail HME.

On the manufacturer and provider side, too many have been entrenched in the medical-insurer model. Thirty years ago, consumers only pursued HME based on prescription and insurance coverage. The rules have changed in 2017. Today, there are 76 million baby boomers. They're educated, with disposable income, seeking to live the highest quality of life possible. They see HME as lifestyle enhancing and gladly pay for it out-of-pocket. In this way, HME retail consumers abound; we merely need to deliver the products and services that they wish.

In a deliberate effort to stay connected to and in touch with our consumers, we at Pride participate in many consumer expos around the country each year, and we've seen a dramatic shift in consumer behavior and mindsets. Consumers have more than just accepted that they're going to pay out-of-pocket; they are eager to do so when the product is something they can get excited about. What's more, they're researching and getting excited about HME as they would any larger purchase. When they arrive at an expo, after having performed extensive research online, consumers are exceptionally savvy about what they wish. They're there, knowledgeable, and ready to buy.

Whereas consumer expos once focused solely on brand awareness and education, they've become an important part of our marketing and sales strategy—and a fantastic study for providers. Our local, attending providers come ready to take credit card payments, extend financing, and close sales. A significant number of consumers come fully intending to make a purchase or review new products and be at the top of the list for those not yet available.

This business model translates directly to HME retail showrooms. If consumers can enter a provider and have retail options presented to them, they're ready to buy! Again, the consumers exist; we need to serve them with the retail products and services that they desire.

With all that said, the deciding factor, as with any other retail channel, is most often the product offering. Consumers are looking to either meet a need or be inspired—or both. And, savvy retailers and manufacturers should look to do both. Our goal is to deliver products that address a necessity, but likewise have benefits that inspire. While many providers remain hesitant to embrace the new era of retail products, consumers have their arms and their wallets open. As we've launched retail-inspired scooters—from price points to features—we've seen phenomenal market success. Consumers are insisting on feature rich, stylish, high-quality products, and when products meet demand, retail sales occur.

Of course, products aren't the only answer. We know we need to meet our customers where they shop, in great retail locations, with inviting environments and robust e-commerce platforms. We need to be able to accept multiple forms of payment, including flexible financing programs, and we need to provide great customer service experiences and expert sales support, and we need to merchandise our showrooms and advertise.

HME retail consumers are here and ready! And, I believe the best years for HME are in our future…make that, our present!

Micah Swick is director of Pride Sales. Reach him at [email protected]


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