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3 minute read

Move medical device sales online to capture digitally savvy buyers

Modern customers are embracing digital technologies in every facet of their lives. Their smartphones wake them in the morning and can tell them how well they slept. They drive to work or a meeting using satnav to alert them to any delays. They communicate all day long using digital technologies, and in the evening simply instruct Alexa to add items to their grocery list. Everyone is connected and online.
Stephen Hardy, managing director at FPX looks at why manufacturers can only thrive if they offer digital experiences to customers that match those they encounter day in and day out.

For developers and producers of medical devices from apparatus and appliances through to software, there are levels of complexity that make it challenging when reaching out to today’s buyers. Think of the configurations, the product variables, pricing fluctuations, bundles and promotions that accompany the sales of these products, and the idea of marketing online can seem daunting.

It would be easy for manufacturers to tell themselves that their customers only want to interact with them through traditional direct or indirect channels, that there is no substitute for a face to face meeting, or a phone call to hammer out the details and close the deal on an order. In fact, this is no longer true.

Stephen points out that medical device manufacturers could move sales online to capture digitally savvy buyers / Picture: Getty/iStock


Digital expectations

Research recently carried out by Forrester indicates that 58% of B2B customers now expect a digital experience, and this is backed up by an earlier US study amongst hospital decision makers which found that over half go online to research equipment and vendors and that digital tools have influence throughout the buyer’s decision-making journey.

Despite the UK medical device industry enjoying rapid growth, it, like many other markets is working with customers under budget pressures. From NHS hospitals and surgeries with smaller budgets through to private facilities receiving lower numbers of patients, the onus is on lowering prices and streamlining processes.

Against this backdrop, manufacturers, particularly, of simpler disposable type products, could consider lean-selling models. Direct online sales will enable these companies to reduce the size of their sales teams and deliver limited service-support needs, allowing them to cut costs across the board. Lean selling can also work for products nearing the end of their life-cycle, as witnessed by the Medtronic spinoff NavaMed, which sells end-of-lifecycle pacemakers and defibrillators through a web-based channel.

Of course, we would argue that any medical product can be sold through an effective ecommerce model, and despite the considerable challenges involved, the returns can have a significant impact and allow manufacturers in the sector to steal a march on their competition.

Manufacturers, particularly, of simpler disposable type products, could consider lean-selling models / Picture: Getty/iStock


Meeting challenges

So, how should medical device manufacturers deal with these complexities? Some, who have already started the process and are now building their online operations, have turned to powerful ecommerce tools to help them source, manage and distribute information on product details, pricing, customer data and business logistics.

Some have invested in CRM and ERP, designed to help manage complex processes ranging from sales to manufacturing and configuration. These are reaping rewards but present some difficulties because applications of this kind often work in isolation and gaps appear between front and back office operations.

A way to overcome the challenges of isolated or siloed systems is to employ platform-agnostic solutions built specifically to work with, and bridge the gaps, between disparate technologies. Platform-agnostic Configure Price Quote (CPQ) applications, for example, can accurately deliver information and ensure that buyers have a consistent experience when researching, pricing, configuring, and ultimately buying and receiving a product or service. That means across all channels, online, direct or indirect.

It’s best for each manufacturer to consider their own unique product portfolio and challenges and set some objectives. They then need to evaluate the technology solutions that can help them extend the capabilities of existing resources while adding much-needed features and functionality to their sales and delivery processes.

For most it will be just as important to maintain solid direct sales and a partner channel whilst they improve the delivery of the digital buying experience, so an application like CPQ that can accommodate all these requirements, is very much worth considering. The underlying message to medical device companies, however, is to make sure they do take some action. Whilst it is easier to stick with traditional sales approaches, one thing is for sure, it won’t be enough to satisfy today’s digitally savvy buyers for too much longer.


[This article first appeared in the September 2017 edition of Automation Magazine]