The B2B healthcare industry has had a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Insurance, a related sector, has also seen an explosion in the take up of B2B eCommerce practices. Other heavily regulated industries, like finance, are also adapting to new B2B eCommerce practices.
eCommerce affects almost every facet of healthcare. From attracting and onboarding new customers to the supply chain and purchasing process. The health industry needs to embrace these new practices to adapt to the digital age.
Here are some eCommerce trends we’ve observed in the B2B healthcare industry.
Research and building awareness
Even before the pandemic, B2B healthcare buyers were going online for product research. It’s estimated that 94% of healthcare buyers research product features online. With 90% of buyers going online to identify suppliers they want to work with.
But when it comes to research and information, B2B companies in healthcare rely on visibility. And it is here that some SEO considerations come into play.
Google’s search quality rater guidelines mention something called “your money or your life” pages. Google defines these types of pages as “pages that could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety”. Google has very high page quality rating standards for YMYL pages. Which can present a search visibility problem for healthcare companies that want to provide content. This is a key consideration in B2C healthcare.
But for B2B companies that operate in healthcare, this is also something to think about. When creating content to help users, B2B healthcare companies need to be aware of “YMYL”. So they can appear in search and fulfil the needs of users.
Other than great, well-sourced copy, B2B companies need to consider other factors when they create content.
Medical supply brands need to build comprehensive online product catalogs. They need to provide detailed pricing and shipping options. Branded self-service portals could also be a valuable way for B2B healthcare companies to serve B2B buyers. They can provide great content for research but they also help customers to help themselves. With more B2B buyers wanting a self-service approach, this is a great opportunity for B2B healthcare companies. They could increase conversion and build better experiences for customers.
Actions that aid research and help build awareness:
- Make sure your page copy is clear, without spelling errors, well sourced and factual. This will help you be more visible in organic search
- Build comprehensive online product catalogs with detailed pricing and shipping options
- Consider creating branded self-service portals for your B2B buyers
The supply market & purchase cycles
Hospital administrators are one of many key decision makers in B2B healthcare. In countries like the U.S. and Thailand, they play a crucial role in many purchases, both large and small.
A 2013 Google survey of hospital administrators found that 71% of purchases are made to replace existing technology. And 43% of purchases were made as a request from specific users.
The typical purchase cycle for hospital administrators was around one year long. And these administrators always have to balance quality of care with the economics of their purchase. With almost half of them seeking to lower costs.
But 2013 was a long time ago! In Google’s study, 20% of typical purchases took 0-3 months. With better technology B2B companies in healthcare could actually shorten these purchase cycles for certain types of products. Better checkout processes and giving B2B users more self-directed purchasing journeys will shorten purchase cycles.
Communicating with buyers in the healthcare sector can be improved too. By utilising instant messaging support for all customers in their buying journey.
Actions to aid purchasing:
- Use instant messaging support for all customers in the purchase process
- Give B2B buyers a better checkout experience and make the process as smooth as possible
Think about the user
We often think of healthcare as being a high tech, high innovation industry. But UX/UI practices in the healthcare sector have been a few years behind the curve.
With good reason.
Implementing new technologies and processes can be difficult. Especially when you have the health of patients and the precious time of physicians to consider.
But while that consideration is valid with medical user interfaces on equipment, it is less valid in the B2C and B2B space. B2B healthcare sites that sell medical equipment, tend to have a more utilitarian style of user interface and experience. On the B2C side many consumers in Thailand may go straight to a hospital’s website, but they are unable to enter symptoms or even look for a qualified physician. Some work on website structure, site search and content, can solve this issue. These are both areas in which the healthcare sector needs to make huge improvements.
B2B buyers now prefer a more self-service approach to their purchases and consumers are demanding more information with seamless purchase journeys. So the need for the healthcare industry to improve their external facing user interfaces is clear. Improving user journeys does not only make things easier and quicker for users. It also helps consumers make better medical decisions and increases conversion rates on B2B sales platforms.
Platforms like nopCommerce offer a B2B healthcare eCommerce service that could be worth looking at if it fits your needs. Their service could help you implement a more self-service approach in your customer’s purchase journey.
Actions to help your users:
- If you have a B2C or B2B offering, give consumers useful tools to fulfil their needs e.g. a tool to help users find a qualified physician
- For customer facing websites, make sure the site structure makes sense
- Make sure your site search works well and returns relevant results
Local regulatory environments affect the B2B healthcare sector in a variety of ways. Aside from the obvious regulations that govern healthcare products. There are also factors such as data protection (GDPR in the E.U and PDPA here in Thailand) and information security that have to be considered.
But what if you are a buyer for a hospital that specialises in cancer care? Your job may involve securing nuclear radioisotope material for use in diagnosis and treatment.
There are over 40 million nuclear medicine procedures performed every year. And demand for radioisotopes in healthcare is increasing at up to 5% annually. Radioisotopes are even used to sterilize medical equipment.
Needless to say there are a lot of regulations involved in securing this sort of material. All of which have a supply chain impact, which eventually could have an impact on patient care.
While nuclear material is an extreme example, it only scratches the surface. of the types of serious legal regulation that the healthcare industry deals with on a daily basis.
This has a direct effect on the ability of some B2B healthcare companies to digitally transform or improve their eCommerce offering. And regulations can vary across the globe, which can impact cross border transactions.
Regulatory needs should inform any healthcare digital transformation journey from the start. While a lot of online improvements will not need oversight from regulators, there could be unforeseen problems. So it is better to seek input from appropriate healthcare regulators as soon as possible.
Actions to help you with industry regulators:
- At the start of any transformation project, keep local regulators in mind
- If it is possible, contact local regulators and liaise with them during the project to get feedback
- Some healthcare B2B sectors are very strictly controlled (for good reason). Keep this in mind when considering your digital transformation project
How MAQE can help
We are commerce experts. We create enterprise software that can help you to level up your digital commerce offering. Our experience in highly regulated environments, like insurance and finance, means that we know that legal compliance is a key part of any digital transformation process. Get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss your needs.