As healthcare marketing undergoes a digital transformation, commerce is a crucial component of that shift. To ensure your healthcare or life sciences (HLS) business is poised for growth, particularly in the B2B space, your commerce and marketing need to work together. We’ll explore why eCommerce in the healthcare sector is so important and how to create a commerce platform that meets your unique customer needs.
Current healthcare and life sciences digital trends
Digital is revolutionizing the healthcare industry. While the pandemic required providers and businesses to get on board with virtual healthcare, patients have come to expect the “on-demand” convenience, efficiency, and access. Mobile apps, wearable devices, telehealth, and other forms of digital health have opened up more touchpoints for interaction and access to care.
With this customer-centric focus, healthcare organizations are working to align marketing and IT to offer an optimal user experience. Technology systems allow marketing and IT to create a 360-degree view of their customers and then serve them relevant, personalized content or connect them with the best resources.
As with any digital communication, but especially in a regulated industry with confidential information, cybersecurity is a growing concern and a top priority. Virtual patient-provider communications and storage of personal health information require healthcare organizations to keep their technology and data protected.
What is healthcare marketing?
Marketing within the healthcare industry involves using a variety of strategies and tactics to reach customers, communicate with them, and share important information. It has the same objectives as any other marketing effort: understanding customer needs, creating awareness, generating leads, providing information, and building relationships that lead to patient acquisition or a purchase.
But healthcare marketing also has unique characteristics specific to the sector. Within healthcare marketing, content can communicate science-based educational information to help people get well or stay healthy, as well as establish credibility and trust.
These messages are targeted to a healthcare-specific audience. For a medical provider or direct B2C product, the customer is often a current patient or prospective patient. In the case of a B2B product or service, the customer may be a healthcare buyer or decision-maker. These businesses may also look to communicate with their greater communities to show how they support overall wellness.
Healthcare marketing can tap into the power of technology to facilitate a better customer experience – whether that is connecting a patient with a healthcare provider or making it easier for a buyer to find the medical products they need and make a purchase. Data helps healthcare marketers understand their customers’ needs and preferences so they can optimize that experience. When designed for healthcare, technology will ensure HIPAA compliance so that any personal information remains secure and can cater content recommendations to the individual based on what topics or products they’ve looked at in the past.
Just as digital health is transforming how patients interact with providers and monitor their health, healthcare marketing is going digital. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) obtain health-related information from the Internet, increasing from 59% just five years prior. That means search engine optimization, mobile, social media, and other digital channels are becoming even more important within healthcare marketing.
Why healthcare commerce is important
Alongside the growth in B2C digital health, B2B is experiencing an increased need for ecommerce solutions that meet buyers’ needs. While digital purchasing has steadily increased over the 2010s, B2B ecommerce grew by nearly 12% across all B2B verticals in 2020 alone.
Now, global HLS ecommerce is set to reach over $643 billion by 2025, and opportunities in the healthcare sector are even attracting the attention of tech companies like Amazon and Google. More B2B HLS companies are looking at how they can proactively connect with customers to build long-term relationships and brand loyalty, in turn improving overall market share.
To make that happen, B2B ecommerce for healthcare has to be a priority for success moving forward. And a basic solution won’t match up to heightened buyer expectations: 61% of HLS customers report that their standards for how companies interact with them are higher than ever. They make decisions based on their start-to-finish experience with a healthcare organization, and factors like trust, value, personalization, and immediacy influence those choices.
According to our 2021 B2B Buyer Report, the biggest challenges for B2B buyers when making purchases include: understanding product specifications and configurations (53%), finding product or service information that is up-to-date (48%), finding inconsistent product or service information across channels (39%), and understanding pricing (37%). HLS companies need to address these issues with a commerce platform that provides a seamless customer experience.
What does that commerce solution require?
- Alignment across marketing, IT, and commerce to create a centralized understanding of the customer and a cohesive user experience
- Convenient and efficient functionality, including single sign-on account login, easy repeat purchasing, accessible purchase history, and customer support
- Accurate, updated product and pricing information – the biggest requirement for HLS buyers and the biggest way to win customer loyalty
- Real-time engagement and personalization, based on customer data, interactions, insights, and order history
HLS businesses have unique commerce considerations, including authorization requirements, common units of measure, and more. These are some key areas to consider:
Select ship-to and authorized purchaser
HLS product delivery may require licensed or trained personnel that are authorized to purchase on site. To address this requirement, your commerce solution can capture license or authorization affiliations by ship-to location and then determine where an order can be shipped based on which products are included in the cart.
Common selling unit of measure
In our 2020 B2B Buyer Report, 57% of buyers reported difficulty comparing products and pricing. Ensuring that product information is up to date is also a top pain point, according to 48% of B2B buyers. To help simplify product comparison, your team can standardize units of measure (like price per pound, price per gallon, etc.) across your storefront and maintain updated product information.
Variable packaging materials for the same product
Life sciences products can be purchased in a variety of packaging types. Consider how your commerce solution can offer customers the ability to shop for a particular product and view the options available for packaging.
Limit drop shipments based on purchased items
Certain HLS items may only be available for shipment to pre-defined, authorized locations. Ideally, your commerce solution will be able to recognize those items in the cart and restrict the buyer from entering an unknown ship-to address.
The future of ecommerce in healthcare
These important commerce considerations are not only opportunities to improve your medical commerce experience, but they also reflect common challenges brands and businesses face today.
The solution? Incorporating technology, such as Salesforce B2B Commerce, that is designed with B2B healthcare marketing and commerce in mind. Solutions like Salesforce Digital 360 connect marketing and commerce to deliver a holistic view of your customer and improve digital customer interactions, your technology ROI, and internal processes.
The right technology and integrations help you gather, organize, and analyze data to better understand your customer and their needs. They also offer systems to manage your digital assets and content marketing, which contribute to a more personalized and responsive user experience, when implemented correctly. Ultimately, centralized technology systems can help you align your marketing and commerce teams to meet those ever-increasing customer expectations.
To find success, today’s HLS companies need to build a 360-degree view of their customer, implement technology systems that help optimize the customer experience, and then update and scale over time. Digital marketing for the healthcare industry requires a modern, integrated health commerce system – one that exceeds customer expectations and drives business growth.
If you’re looking to launch or improve your healthcare commerce solution, download our white paper on ecommerce for HLS and medical device manufacturers, or attend Salesforce Connections live on June 8, 2022 to see Merz speak about their ecommerce success.