Think Retail: What the Medical Supply Industry Can Learn from the Marketplace Revolution

Think Retail: What the Medical Supply Industry Can Learn from the Marketplace RevolutionThink Retail: What the Medical Supply Industry Can Learn from the Marketplace Revolution
JT Garwood, CEO and Co-founder of bttn

Through years of disruption and advancement, the retail industry has evolved tremendously to meet the increased demands of a broadening consumer base. However not every industry – and most notably healthcare — has progressed with the times and buyers’ needs.

The healthcare supply chain specifically must expand beyond its antiquated roots to better serve buyers. Just as in retail, where the U.S. has seen exponential growth over the last 20 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the healthcare supply chain must, too, adopt a new model. A model with technology integration has been tested in retail to show improved efficiencies and experience for buyers.

Below are a few key lessons from the retail industry that healthcare supply chain leaders need to adopt in order to move their model forward: 

1. A Better Customer Experience

The retail space has grown exponentially through the number of brands and products on the shelf compared to 20 years ago and through the advent of Amazon. The buying process has become consumer-driven, rather than through in-person ordering with a salesman. Consumers are more inclined to choose a simplified shopping encounter like that of the Apple App Store, which has created an instantaneous, click-of-a-button shopping experience. This innovation has provided significantly more convenience and set new customer expectations. 

Healthcare companies can follow suit to reduce friction in a similar way, meeting the demand of an emerging spectrum of customers – from hospitals to individual patients – for an increasingly automated purchasing environment.

2. Automation and Cost Savings

The retail industry has redefined the shopping experience through artificial intelligence and warehouse automation, making it a prime example for what other industries can implement to drive better customer interactions. 

The healthcare supply chain, on the other hand, has been widely left out of digital transformation. By taking a more modern and flexible approach, it can improve the buying process through incorporating technology pioneered outside of healthcare.

With technology and economies of scale, prices for goods can be driven down. Those cost savings can be passed along to the customer and invested into the company to further implement technology. 

3. Price Transparency and Data Tracing

Tools that allow price transparency and data tracing create peace of mind for both the customer and organization. Large online retail marketplaces provide an easy example of structured ordering and tracking. This model creates trust and provides on-demand purchase details, along with shipment tracking information. The healthcare industry has an opportunity to take those lessons and apply them – particularly when it comes to the purchasing of medical supplies Examples like UberEats, with its well-established processes, allow for swift delivery and accessible tracking and customer services.

Buyers from the healthcare market don’t have access to the same receipt details or order history, as the process still widely involves third-party catalog shopping. This results in extra red tape, requiring buyers to contact customer support for issues that could be automated.

Incorporating consistency and transparency into the healthcare supply system will improve the purchase experience while reducing customer service costs. 

4. Commercialization and Digitization 

The retail industry created an incredibly successful model for online purchasing and engagement. The healthcare supply chain lacks that kind of proven system. 

For an example, look at vaccine patents. When vaccines (or any drug for that matter) are accessible to the public market, it allows for many companies to bring the not-so-secret formula to life, empowering commercialization. With more competition, and a better backbone of a system, the price for the vaccine or drug plummets.

Envision a future where all healthcare supplies are accessible in online marketplaces — no more needless time wasted flipping through catalogs. Through commercialization and the digitization of systems, buyers can find everything they need online.

The retail industry has undergone seismic shifts to meet changing demand. The days of department store browsing have long been in decline, as evidenced by a decrease in revenue from brick-and-mortar stores. To meet this challenge, the integration of technology has vastly improved the consumer experience. As the Amazon model illustrates, consumers’ demands and urge to shop remains, but there is a need to shift that experience.

To advance, it’s essential that the healthcare marketplace remains adaptable to meet the demands of the consumer experience and be a part of the online marketplace revolution. Leveraging the lessons from the retail industry, healthcare marketplaces can improve the buyer experience. This will enhance care and reduce spending costs across health verticals. 

About JT Garwood

JT Garwood is the CEO and Co-founder of bttn, a Seattle-based technology company transforming medical supply chain distribution through e-commerce and digital solutions. Garwood is a two-time marketplace founder, angel investor and active advisor to U.S. startups.