Posted: June 1, 2012, 1:01 PM

Q: What's the e-commerce opportunity for a medical equipment manufacturer and what tools do I need?

My name is Seth Diamond and I work for a Drive Medical which is a major manufacturer of Durable Medical Equipment. Today Drive manufacturers over 5,000 products which we sell and distribute too many different ecommerce businesses around the world. I will be attending IRCE next week, which I am very excited about, but have two questions which I would love to learn from the experts. The first question pertains to how a vendor who sells and distributes our products to an e-commerce business can size up the potential selling opportunity? The second question pertains to what types of tools a vendor must have in place to effectively support the needs of an e-commerce business?

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A: The opportunity depends on your customers' buying preferences; the tools on your goals.

Sizing up the potential selling opportunity for a B2B eBusiness is both art and science.  The science is the easier part.  Most estimates are that B2B e-commerce is roughly twice the size of B2C eCommerce and surveys show that savvy B2B buyers (both corporate purchasing managers and corporate end users) increasingly prefer the 24/7/365 convenience and assisted selling sophistication of buying online.  The art revolves around defining the market opportunity specific to your medical equipment B2B eBusiness. For that, you'll need to understand the channel preferences within your existing and prospective customer base.  You can apply some science to that (e.g. perform qualitative and quantitative market research to ascertain), but the exercise will consist of equal parts assumptive market strategy and segmentation work.

 

With regard to tools needed to support an eCommerce business, you'll need various layers of platform and infrastructure software and services.  Ultimately it will depend upon your goals in the space and the sophistication of your existing system (capabilities, performance, scalability, etc.).  But at a minimum, you can count on needing product content management (known as PCM), merchandising tools (for product presentation/comparison, promotions, personalization, cross-sell/upsell), a web content management system (known as WCM), order management and transaction capability, analytics, security, and customer care (live help, email, chat, etc.).  In addition, you'll need to be able to offer customer-interactive tools such as effective site search, user-generated ratings/reviews capability, and mobile/tablet shopping ability.  These tools come in the form of on-site/licensed installs, hosted/managed platforms, and Saas (software-as-a-service) that can be mixed and matched according to your specific needs and budget. 

Andy Hoar

Senior Analyst, Forrester Research

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