April 25, 2001, 12:00 AM

Online drugstore sales to grow, but slowly

Web-influenced sales of health products will outstrip online transactions by threefold, a Jupiter report says. Drug chains could benefit by beefing up web site content.

Almost 70% of online shoppers recently surveyed by Jupiter MediaMetrix said they’ve never purchased health-related products online -- significantly more than the 40% average across other retail sectors. Shoppers accustomed to making drugstore purchases in-store perceived little benefit to buying healthcare products online, Jupiter found.

In fact, 50% of those polled believe it’s actually easier to shop offline. Nevertheless, the web will retain a growing and critical role in the sale of medicines and other health products as shoppers and online drugstores harness its real power as an information source on complex products, predicts Jupiter.

While health product sales transacted online will grow from their current $600 million to perhaps $14.4 billion by 2005, web-influenced consumer health spending will hit an expected $50.4 billion by that time, outstripping the growth of purely online sales by threefold. Among those selling health products online, the big gainers will be the multichannel sellers for which the web is but one outlet, Jupiter says.

To leverage their advantage, though, they’ll have to boost functionality at their web storefronts with detailed product data and store location information. They’ll also have to accept more health insurance plans and expand options to pick up online orders in-store, says Stacey Rich, Jupiter analyst. “Those companies that create this seamless cross-channel brand identity and flexibility will win in the long term,” Rich says.


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