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Healthcare Distribution & Manufacturing Companies Will Have Another Record Year in 2021

Close Up On Hands Cleaning Credit Card Reader.

An eMarketer article reported that “US B2B Digital Healthcare Ad Spend will grow by 41.2% in 2020 to reach $848.1 million. That is the highest growth rate out of all the sectors for which we track B2B digital ad spending.” Now, I can’t say I’m surprised by this statistic. As eMarketer accurately points out, not only is there an increased demand for healthcare products (specifically PPE) within healthcare facilities, new customers have entered this vertical who have never purchased these types of products before.

Why you ask? It’s simple. If your business is distributing or supplying other businesses where customers may need to interact in person, such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, etc., then you likely have upped your PPE game in 2020 due to COVID. Hand sanitizer stations are now a staple in all public areas, and people are washing their hands like never before. A recent OH&S article states that 90% of people say they are washing their hands more frequently, more thoroughly, or longer than before, and 78% are washing their hands six times a day or more. That’s compared to just 37% who were washing up that often prior to the outbreak.

So, not only are people washing their hands more times throughout the day, they are washing them more thoroughly and with more soap (product). This in and of itself has caused product demand to increase. And this will be replicated in the coming year in some of the areas I discuss below. However, there are also more use cases to come in 2021, and here is how I see it playing out and why it’s important for B2B organizations to start planning now.

We have seen retail, restaurants, and other more public businesses begin to open and start to scale back up to normal, but they are just the beginning of what’s to come. Here are other business considerations to look at for 2021:

Sporting Events / Concerts
We have seen both collegiate and professional sporting teams have seasons this year with limited or no attendance. However, in 2021 I expect these events will start to welcome back more fans. With that comes more PPE products, specifically hand sanitizing stations located all throughout arenas. The majority of NFL teams bring in 60 to 70 thousand fans per home game; multiply that by 16 weeks for each team and you can see how much hand sanitizer will be used alone. The same holds true for concert venues. As they start to open back up, you’ll have a similar situation.

Travel / Conferences
Airports have remained open during the pandemic, but the number of travelers hasn’t been close to what we are used to. The same holds true for hotels and cruise ships. Coupled with the fact that business conferences are likely to start picking up again next year, there will be a huge requirement for additional PPE to maintain CDC guidelines.

So what does all of this mean for B2B healthcare companies? It means that not only will the type of customers you serve change, but the buying patterns and product mix is likely to change as well. The usage of certain PPE products will continue to rise in 2021 and if you’re a player in this space you should be preparing now for some of these customer demands. And what better way to prepare for this than through your digital commerce platform? Here are some ways to prepare for this influx of potential new and current customer demands:

New Customer Workflows Considerations

User Persona Identification

One great way to help potential new customers find what they are looking for through your digital commerce experience is to ask what persona or group they fall into when they land on your site. You can offer up a modal pop up window that says “Select your customer group” so site visitors can pick one of the options you present to them. If your commerce platform allows, you can then mold and shift the experience they see based upon their selection.

Key Call to Actions

This is important for all customers, of course, but with new customers, the calls to action should be clear, intuitive, and aligned with where this prospect is in the buying process. For example, if you don’t allow users to purchase products without a login, make sure your Product Experience Pages (PEP) have clear ways for potential future customers to set up an account or request more information on these pages.

Make it Easy for Them to Reach Out

Though many B2B buyers are looking to leverage self-service site features and experiences, they likely will have some questions about setting up their account. Make it easy for them by offering value-added site features like live chat or find-my-sales-rep functionality. This will help prospects get answers to questions and have conversations with your team that build trust.

Existing Customer Workflows Considerations

Future Allocation Requests

Some of your current customers’ usage is likely to pivot as they serve businesses that will need to stock more PPE products as they scale back up. To account for this, having an allocation or future usage request will not only help you plan and purchase accordingly, but will create trust and loyalty with your customers as you are giving them the opportunity to have two-way conversations around potential future inventory needs.

Key Product Information Updates

Backorders will happen; there’s no way around it. But you can leverage 3rd party technologies to provide customer updates on stock statuses for certain high-profile products. If a customer signs up for these product alerts, they will be notified when changes in inventory occur.

Auto Re-Order Functionality

Many businesses are attempting to juggle many new situations and speedbumps. With that, something as simple as remembering to order key PPE products could be a challenge, specifically if that customer needs the items on short notice. By offering customers the ability to set up auto re-ordering of certain items (set it and forget it), it will help to make their life easier. In addition, by leveraging some of the product information updates above, you could look to tie in substitute items if a customer has something on reoccurring order that is out of stock. An example of this would be “The hand sanitizer you have on auto re-order is out of stock, however, we have this replacement item which is comparable – click here to approve this short-term substitute”

There is no doubt that 2020 has accelerated many elements of digital commerce, specifically within B2B as more businesses are looking to leverage self-service features. As 2021 approaches, we can predict with high certainty that as more businesses re-open and scale back to some level of normal, the site features mentioned above will help to provide smoother customer experiences.

Remember, anything you can do to increase your relationship with your customer will help you weather the storm of what is likely to come. By implementing some of these features now, and collaborating with your customers and your employees on how these new features will help to mitigate some of the craziness to come, you will strengthen your relationship with your customer, which will result in more revenue for today and tomorrow.

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Justin Racine

Justin Racine is a Director and Lead Strategist with Perficient, and he works with clients to build and achieve their business goals through commerce-enabled technologies. Justin has over 12 years of experience within the ecommerce space, working with companies such as Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Olam International, and has spoken at over 20 global conferences on ecommerce and branding strategy. Additionally, Justin has been published twice for his thought leadership on branding and marketing in the Henry Stewart Journal of Brand Strategy, is a contributing writer for, and a frequent contributor for many leading industry publications.

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