Dentistry and the ease of e-commerce

Joe Earl, general manager at Dental Sky, explains why e-commerce is here to stay and the importance of striking a balance between efficiency and a personalised experience when supplying dental products to practice teams.

Rapid digitalisation has boosted the share of e-commerce in the retail market across all sectors, with its rise revolutionising the way businesses operate. Smartphone technology has driven trends; the pandemic accelerating a shift towards a preference for online shopping. When physical access to retail was limited, more of us discovered the benefits of digital purchasing.

Online shopping may have peaked during Covid-19 but, for some sectors, the shift towards e-commerce is likely to be longer lasting. For many businesses, the first touchpoint with consumers now is online, and dentistry is no exception.

The first step on any treatment journey might start with a Google search, transition to booking an appointment online and could even include a digital initial consultation. E-commerce offers patients convenient, versatile and secure ways to pay for their dentistry, too – helping to ensure continued business for practices during financially challenging times.

‘Expanded opportunities for dental teams’

This move towards a more e-commerce-centric way of delivering dentistry has other  ramifications, too. It has expanded opportunities for professionals to develop their skills and learning. The proliferation of knowledge-sharing tools and platforms that emerged during Covid-19 were so well-suited to an industry often considered isolating that digital education remains a popular option.

E-commerce also offers practices innumerable opportunities to market their services more effectively. By integrating paid and organic marketing into a business plan, dentists can use data and analytics to make data-driven decisions and improve business performance. Add digital payment systems to the mix and e-commerce can also support financial health in economically challenging times.

But, one of the most significant benefits of e-commerce within dentistry has been the options to order supplies online. A digital buying experience that offers fast delivery and great customer support ensures a practice has the products it needs at times when it needs them to provide uninterrupted quality care.

Recently recognised in the 2023 B2B Top 50: E-commerce Report as both the top scoring and the most improved UK B2B e-commerce business, Dental Sky has strategic investment in ‘speed, dynamic search and personalisation’ to thank for the success of their website.

The report noted that the online dental supply company ‘helped customers navigate easily around the site with breadcrumbs, a dynamic site search, live chat, filter and sort’. Its ‘great navigation has the power to drive conversion rates, reduce bounce rates and build customer loyalty‘ – a hugely important part of the user experience.

What are the advantages of e-commerce?

Here, Joe Earl, general manager at Dental Sky, explains why e-commerce is here to stay and the importance of striking a balance between efficiency and a personalised experience when supplying dental products to practice teams.

1. Convenient and easy to use

One of the main benefits of using e-commerce for purchasing dental supplies is flexibility. Dental teams can access online stores around the clock, freeing up time during the day that is better utilised delivering care to patients.

It is important the website is easy to use with clear directions, plenty of information and instant customer support. Features such as one-click ordering, saved shopping lists and automatic reordering make the purchasing process quick and easy.

2. Tracking orders means never running out

 An e-commerce dental supplies business should have a system in place for duplicating and tracking orders, managing inventories, and facilitating reordering to ensure dental practices never run out of supplies – paramount for optimum patient care. The last thing anyone in a practice needs is a last-minute panic to get materials.

This system needs to make everything smoother so dentists can book appointments in a timely manner. Practices should be kept informed of when their order will be delivered. This should be tied in with the tracking details from the courier with an automated tracking arrival time.

3. Ease of use ensures continued patient care

Dental practices use many different individual product lines – the variety can be complex and it is challenging to keep track. Many dental practices work with a ‘just-in-time’ inventory model and this can be catastrophic when it fails, with a big knock-on effect. So should there be any disruptions in supply chains, dentists need to know they can purchase alternatives.

An e-commerce supplier that flags up this delay on their system and offers other options is important. Helping practices to find the exact products they need that are within their budget ultimately supports patient care.

4. Good communication builds trust

Dentists need to trust that the e-commerce business will fulfil their order efficiently. A good website should facilitate good communication option at all levels and all stages of the process to build this trust. Options to ring, email or use live chat means an e-commerce business can meet everyone’s preferred choice of communication.

An efficient e-commerce site will also provide content to add value to the purchasing process, with customer experience and Trustpilot reviews. Additionally, the site should be designed to anticipate questions, offer information via videos and blogs and have an option for live chat on the site.

At every stage – whether by email, phone, practice visits, show attendance or on the website – communication must be clear, honest and as easy to access as possible. An e-commerce site should give plenty of opportunities to customers to request information and ask questions from a friendly, flexible and informative team.

5. Cost effectiveness

There is healthy competition among e-commerce dental suppliers, which give great purchasing power to dentists. This allows for easy comparison regarding price, speed of delivery and personalised service. Often, there are discounts and promotional deals, further reducing costs.

6. Improved record-keeping

E-commerce stores often provide digital records of purchase history. This makes it easier for dentists to keep track of expenses, manage their inventory, and reorder supplies as needed. Digital records are also easier to access and share with colleagues, improving in-practice communications.

7. Easy payment options

Expanded payment options are essential in making the process easy for clients. Dental hygienists and therapists, who often move from practice to practice, do not always have time to consult a practice owner with their supplies request, or can find it challenging to get a credit account, which means purchasing their own products can be challenging.

By opening up payment options to include Google Pay and Apple Pay without the need for a credit account, e-commerce supply companies can make it easier for everyone to access the products they need.

8. Support and the personal touch

Combining online sales with a dedicated account manager who can call or visit dental practices in-person can add value to the e-commerce experience. Product demonstrations, training, and support tailored to specific needs are essential in offering a personalised experience.

While it is important to be a good ordering website for customers, nobody wants to deal with a faceless corporation. Profiling the team behind the service and creating an experience that is supported by real people helps to instil trust and build personal relationships, creating buyer confidence.

A good e-commerce site will have long-established partnerships with manufacturers and communicate the benefits of using their products well.

E-commerce is increasingly important for dentists in the management of practices. It offers a range of benefits, from accessing online education to managing finances, connecting with patients and marketing their services. But, most importantly, the power of e-commerce lies in streamlining the purchasing experience that, in turn, frees up time to focus on delivering great dentistry.

And, just as e-commerce empowers patients in making their choice of practitioner, dentists can now opt for the e-commerce outlet that best suits their needs. The pandemic it seems does have one long-term positive legacy for a challenging dental environment – the rise and ease of embracing e-commerce.

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