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Providers stay grounded in retail

Providers stay grounded in retail See and feel matters, say majority of respondents to HME Newspoll

YARMOUTH, Maine - The larger trends in retail may point to the cloud, but for HME providers, it's still all about bricks and mortar, according to a recent HME Newspoll.

A large majority of respondents to the poll (71%) say they are focusing their retail efforts in-store, not online. That's because, according to a large majority of respondents (78%), their customers prefer to buy HME in-store.

“Our elderly clients still want to touch the item before they buy it,” said Kevin Jones of Travis Medical in Oklahoma. “They are also scared of identity theft.”

Deb Swaim of Riverside Health Equipment in Illinois agrees.

“The demographics of the customers in our location prefer to see and feel the items vs. purchasing online,” she said.

Several respondents did make the distinction that a customer's preference to buy in-store vs. online depends on the type of HME. And they say they're upfront with their customers about that.

“Familiar items or items needing no customer service are sought online,” said one respondent. “We freely tell customers that if they don't need the services that we layer on the product (billing, set up, adjustment, teaching, etc.), then by all means save some money by buying online. They appreciate the advice and come back when they do need a service-intensive product.”

Because a customer's preference may depend on the product, several respondents emphasized the importance of having a presence both in-store and online.

“We use a combination,” said one respondent. “Some people want to come in and see the product and get educated on how to use it. Others have researched and know what they want—these people are more online-oriented. Also, having online retail increases our coverage area.”

The decision to buy in-store or online really comes down to whether or not a product needs service, respondents say. Some argue most HME—save supplies—does.

“Yes, plenty of people buy online but they are finding out that the retailers charge more to service products purchased online,” said one respondent. “Most DME needs servicing—that is the catch.”

Because HME providers have an increasing number of competitors from both an in-store and online perspective (think Walmart and Amazon, respectively), one of the keys to success is appropriate pricing, respondents say.

“We have been doing retail for about nine years,” said Bob Forbes of Advantage Home Oxygen in Pennsylvania. “We've always looked at Internet pricing and, more importantly, Walmart pricing, and set our prices accordingly.”


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