February 18, 2014, 12:39 PM

Medline builds sales to smaller customers through e-commerce

The provider of medical supplies sees strong growth in sales to small clients among doctor’s offices and nursing homes as well as to large hospital networks through an e-commerce site that personalizes product content according to segments of buyers, the company said at an Oracle B2B conference last week.

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With about $6 billion a year in sales to customers ranging from tiny health care offices to giant hospital organizations, Medline Industries Inc. captures nearly 90% of its customer transactions online, either through electronic data interchange or via orders placed on its business-to-business e-commerce site, Medline.com, says Michael McMahon, vice president of e-commerce.

But now that its web site is getting more personal with customers, showing them items suited to their businesses from its catalog of 250,000 products, Medline is seeing increases in numbers of page views and search results that convert to sales, McMahon said during a presentation last week at Oracle Corp.’s Oracle B2B Commerce Summit in Chicago.

Medline relaunched its e-commerce site last spring on Oracle’s ATG Web Commerce version 10.1 e-commerce technology platform. The new site replaced one that had displayed the same web content to customers regardless of their size or field of practice. With the prior site, “the tiniest doctor’s offices to the largest 3,000-bed hospitals all got the same online experience,” McMahon said.

In comparison, the new Medline.com offers multiple ways for customers to tailor content to their preferences. Procurement managers who know exactly what they want to buy can enter a product identifier into a top-right search window, and log in with an account number to view pricing under their contract terms.

When newcomers arrive at the site, Medline displays a window asking them to select from several market segments, including Hospital, Surgery Center, Nursing Home and Physician Office, “so that we can provide you customized content.” Visitors can then link to a page featuring content, including products, news and educational materials, related to their chosen area of health care. “Last summer we had 300,000 page-view days, and now we’re at 400,000,” McMahon said. “We attribute a good portion of that to our personalization efforts.”

He adds that the more personalized shopping experience is helping Medline to generate more online business with small customers like doctor’s offices and nursing homes.

In another improvement of the new site, the site search feature begins to filter search results depending on a customer’s chosen market area. “For example, different markets have different definitions of drapes,” such as cubicle curtains used in nursing homes and surgical drapes used in hospitals, McMahon said. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the value of search results” that lead to sales, he added.

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