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Digital Opportunities Abound for Healthcare Providers in Urgent Care and Telemedicine

At long last, digital disruption in the healthcare industry is upon us and accelerating at breakneck pace. The trend is driven by the very same drivers witnessed in other verticals: the consumer—specifically, a shift in the consumer’s demands for a retail-like experience and easy access to care. As consumers become more demanding, digital is enabling them to become active participants throughout their healthcare journey, including how they go about selecting their providers.

This “Yelpification” of healthcare means prospective patients are beginning their journey online—on search and review sites—to inform decisions on where to seek care. These trends are much like what we witnessed in the early part of this century in the digital transformations of the residential real estate and consumer travel verticals, which dramatically reshaped the landscape of winners and losers. Today, 70% of US consumers say online ratings sites have influenced their decision to select a physician, per Binary Fountain. Consumer behavior is also changing in their preference for care providers. Between 2008 and 2015, per a 2018 study published in JAMA, visits to retail clinics jumped 214%. These trends bode well for urgent care and telemedicine providers scrambling to fill consumer demand—but is the mere fact of being an urgent care or telemedicine provider sufficient to win? History tells us otherwise, and unfortunately for incumbents, the opportunities in clinical operations have not been overlooked by Silicon Valley.

In the US, digital health funding reached $1.6 billion in Q1 2018, according to Rock Health. Tech startups entering the market are applying the “Silicon Valley” approach, targeting the shortcomings of legacy providers burdened by their business models and unable to adjust quickly to changing consumer behaviors. Seizing digital opportunities has allowed agile, nimble tech startups to successfully disrupt incumbents. This changing landscape presents unique opportunities for incumbents too, but the big winners will be those that leverage digital as a strategic tool to establish themselves at the intersection of where patients meet their providers.

With that in mind, we set about understanding the current digital landscape and uncovered digital trends and insights into how urgent care and telemedicine providers are navigating the online landscape to better position their firms. Overall, we found:

  • Significant disparities in local providers’ online marketing strategies, suggesting very little in the way of competitive analysis on the part of providers
  • Even more surprisingly, we found national providers paying very little attention to what other national providers are doing online, with very small overlaps in strategy
  • Local providers in the past 12 to 24 months have added an emphasis on keyword visibility, while interest in this area among national providers waned during that time period, potentially suggesting more attractive areas for investment of digital resources
  • Google’s algorithm update in August 2018 dramatically impacted local providers, while national providers were largely able to sidestep the update, suggesting a knowledge gap on the part of local providers
  • National providers have focused substantial energy and expended significant resources on building backlink portfolios robust in both breadth and quality
  • In paid search, most advertisers have inconsistent keyword coverage, and many are not running ads optimally
  • Impression shares in paid search remain low among both national and local providers, suggesting divergent keyword strategies in paid search as well

We see compelling, significant opportunities and strategies for healthcare providers. Our research and observations are indicative of an online marketing effort that is largely oblivious to the importance of comprehensive short-term and long-term strategy development to better position organizations for growth while mitigating risks from online competitors. If your organization is stuck doing for doing’s sake, here’s a checklist of three action items that can help you achieve a course correction:

  1. Stop driving blindly. Assess the competitive online landscape thoroughly. We’re often too busy to take a step back to build a complete 360 view of the competitive landscape. Bring in outside expertise to help if you’re constrained by time or knowledge. Leverage Marketing is extremely well-versed in deep Digital Discovery, and we’ve done hundreds of analyses across dozens of verticals. If you’d like a redacted sample, send us a note from here and we’ll be happy to send one out to you. A view into competitor strategies, strengths, and weaknesses is key to your strategic planning—without it, you’re driving blind.
  2. Look inwards. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses within the online marketplace. How do you compare within the landscape and against major market participants? Why do your customers pick you today? The more realistic your assessment, the more effective your planning will be.
  3. Have a plan. Finally, with this understanding of the competitive landscape and how you are currently positioned, develop plans around mitigating the risks you’ve identified and taking advantage of opportunities for growth. Take a holistic approach that looks at all assets across your organization and how they can be aligned to support your efforts online and offline. Hard as it may be, work to develop a plan that clearly lays out the business case for expending resources against observed opportunities.

This process of digital discovery and planning is difficult and requires time and expertise. Resist the urge to put it off in favor of more immediate challenges. The further you push such planning out, the greater the challenges to overcome. Instead, done right and soon, the benefits of planning are significant to your organization and will serve all your stakeholders well, from your customers to your employees to your investors, for a long time to come.

The Importance of Data Personalization in Healthcare

The digital revolution, the importance of patient experiences, and changing healthcare laws are transforming the way the healthcare industry connects with its consumers. Customers have higher expectations now that technology affords greater access to individualized solutions and readily available information, and the pool of consumers has grown in large part due to the Affordable Care Act and the aging boomer population.

Now that there are more healthcare consumers with greater freedom of choice, healthcare businesses that could formerly rely on legacy relationships, proximity, and uncontested market share prominence must now pursue forward-thinking solutions to build lifelong connections with their customers. Data personalization is one such solution—to stand out and win business in a crowded marketplace, healthcare organizations should use heavily personalized data tracking to identify and attract attention from their target audiences.

Using Data to Impact Consumers’ Digital Healthcare Journey 

As healthcare consumers’ buying journey is reimagined, using data to improve their experience and care is crucial—healthcare providers that prioritize personalization could experience five times higher retention rates. Effective ways of putting data into action include:

  • Creating highly tailored ads. Gathering more insight on each consumer allows for improved ad targeting and location-based outreach. You’ll be able to attract customers’ attention at the first step of their healthcare journey, before they have a chance to consider other providers. Using highly personalized ads increases both foot traffic to physical healthcare facilities and web traffic for telehealth services.
  • Narrowing down your target audience. As long as data tracking efforts don’t violate HIPAA or other privacy regulations, analytics can help healthcare providers narrow down their target audiences based on location proximity, previous medical history, allergies, and preferred appointment times. Identifying audiences to the highest possible degree of specification enables the creation of carefully tailored ads, targeting only the market segments proven to need the specific product or service or be in the right location.

Improved ad targeting through personalized data can help healthcare organizations transition potential customers from interest to action with an emphasis on the individual patient experience.

Personalization for Long-Term Customer Satisfaction

A patient’s healthcare journey doesn’t necessarily end when they book an appointment or buy your product. Help your company use personalized data to improve customer satisfaction and increase long-term client relationships.

  • Know your customers’ lifetime value. Your company can use personalized data to determine each customer’s lifetime value, allowing for smarter and more efficient marketing spend—when you know one audience is more likely to have a long-term need of your services than another, you know reaching them is worth more of your budget.
  • Improve personalized care. Just as technology gives healthcare consumers the ability to become more informed and engaged with their care, healthcare organizations can leverage data to personalize the healthcare experience for every patient, improving long-term customer satisfaction. Instead of offering every patient the same treatment, data personalization provides the best treatment options based on an individual’s specific medical issues and personal preferences, encouraging the formation of lifelong customer relationships. 

Now and in the future, the healthcare market will be controlled by organizations who can keep up with customer expectations and stand apart from the competition by prioritizing data personalization, tailored advertising, individualized care, and a better patient experience. Leverage Marketing helps healthcare organizations identify strategies for growing and maintaining their market share with personalized data analysis and tailored, location-based advertisements.

Amazon Business Has a Bullseye on Your Back: Watch Out, B2B Manufacturers and Distributors

Amazon Business, launched in 2015, is the B2B marketplace arm of Amazon, providing business customers with the pricing, selection, and convenience of Amazon with additional features and benefits designed for businesses of all sizes.

In its first full year of operation, Amazon Business generated an eye-popping $1 billion in sales. Today, just a few short years later, it’s surpassed $10 billion and continues growing rapidly, with its eyes set squarely on the $1.2 trillion B2B e-commerce opportunity projected by 2021.

We’re only in the early innings of what promises to be a nail-biter, but we’ve already seen over 1 million businesses using Amazon Business—and not all are small businesses, either. In fact, 55 of the Fortune 100 companies, 50% of the biggest U.S. hospital systems, and 40% of the 100 most populous local governments use Amazon Business. It has proven to be of value to businesses big and small in just a few short years.

Currently, over 150,000 businesses sell products on Amazon Business. This rapid growth in sellers is empowering Amazon Business to both build catalog depth and drive prices lower, as Amazon has done successfully in its B2C business.

How Big a Threat Is Amazon Business?

Well, if the history of what Amazon accomplished in B2C is our guide, then “BIG and GETTING BIGGER” is the obvious answer.

A recent study by Applico on the electrical components segment illustrates the looming threat for B2B enterprises. The study found Amazon Business’ product catalog depth to be far beyond that of top competitors in the industry. In wiring connectors, Amazon Business had 77,764 listings compared to the four largest distributors’ 2,855. Amazon Business also had products listed from 106 of the 120 manufacturers offered by the four largest distributors, and 80% of distributors in the segment were already selling directly on Amazon Business.

Applico also found the largest distributors in the segment to be lagging Amazon Business on price competitiveness. In each instance, the exact same product offered by the four largest distributors was found on Amazon Business marketplace as well, but at a significantly lower price.

Whether you’re a manufacturer or a distributor, this new reality presents significant challenges as well as potential opportunities.

The Impact on Manufacturers and Distributors

For manufacturers, the marketplace for your products is rapidly becoming more transparent and efficient, with B2B buyers able to quickly compare product features, pricing, and customer reviews in a highly efficient and convenient manner. These benefits will be hard for buyers to resist, and in turn, will place pressure on industry margins just as they’ve done previously in the B2C business segment. For manufacturers with well-run, highly efficient businesses and strong product lines, Amazon Business presents a tremendous opportunity to grab market share from lesser competitors and better inform product road maps to drive strong future growth.

In addition, there’s a significant risk to manufacturer business models that have tended to rely on large distributor networks for global distribution of their products. Amazon has proven to be a significant disrupter of distributors, leaving manufacturers scrambling to reinvent their distribution models. In the toy industry, for instance, the recent bankruptcy of Toys R Us has left toy manufacturers struggling to maintain channel diversity as distribution continues to consolidate around fewer and fewer players.

For value-added distributors, is being a niche player with large contracts and value-added services a winning strategy in the face of the coming disruption? While custom pricing on large contracts may be a defensible strategy today, it likely won’t be an advantage for long. Amazon Business will ultimately put margin and pricing pressure on those large contracts, just as it’s doing with smaller orders today. In addition, losing smaller orders today will likely create significant margin pressure on the overall business, as smaller orders tend to have a higher margin.

As its footprint in B2B grows, there’s little question Amazon Business will continue to evolve and add value, as it has with its PRIME program and Fulfillment By Amazon service. It’s certainly not wise to underestimate Amazon’s drive toward progress. B2B businesses have the benefit of and can learn from hindsight. B2C businesses largely played defense in the past two decades and paid the ultimate price. Massive brands like Blockbuster, Circuit City, Sears, and Toys R Us have gone bankrupt, sending shock waves upstream to impacted manufacturers. Best Buy has lost 40% of its market capitalization. The lesson is clear: Repeating these same mistakes can have dire consequences on the viability of long-standing businesses.

Here’s a checklist of 3 action items that get you started in developing short and long term strategies to better position your organization for growth while mitigating risks from online competitors.

  1. Stop driving blindly. Assess the competitive landscape online thoroughly. We’re often too busy to take a step back to build a complete 360 view of the competitive landscape. Not just what Amazon is doing but what all major market participants are doing online. Bring in outside expertise to help if you’re time or knowledge constrained. Here at Leverage Marketing we’re extremely well versed at doing deep Digital Discovery and have done hundreds of them across dozens of verticals. If you’d like a redacted sample, send us a note from here and we’d be happy to send one out to you. Getting a view into competitor strategies, strengths and weaknesses are key inputs into your strategic planning without which you’re driving blind.
  2. Look Inwards. Assess your own strengths and weaknesses within the online marketplace. How do you compare within the landscape and against major market participants? Why do your customers pick you today? The more realistic your assessment the more effective your planning will be.
  3. Have a plan. Finally, with this understanding of the competitive landscape and how you are currently positioned, develop plans around mitigating the risks you’ve identified and taking advantage of opportunities for growth.  Take a holistic approach that looks at all assets you have across your organization and how they can be aligned to support your efforts online and offline. For instance, a recent study by Business Intelligence found that traditional B2C retailers continue to miss the opportunity to beat Amazon by taking full advantage of their brick and mortar presence by offering more in-store options like buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and convenient in-store returns. Ultimately, you should be able to convincingly assert why your customers will continue to do business with you in the future despite the emergence of online competitors.

This process of digital discovery and planning is difficult and requires time and expertise. Resist the urge to put it off in favor of more immediate challenges. The further you push such planning out, the greater the challenges to overcome. Wait long enough and they become insurmountable. Don’t become the next Blockbuster. Instead, done right and soon, the benefits are significant to your organization and will serve all your stakeholders well from your customers to your employees to your investors for a long time to come.

The Bottom Line

All B2B organizations need to carefully weigh the threats and opportunities Amazon Business presents and carefully develop short- and long-term strategies to position their businesses for long-term success.