The online healthcare market is booming: As a group, the health and beauty retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2017 Top 1000 grew by 18.3%, reflecting $9.17 billion in spending.1 This means that healthcare providers are branching into the more retail-focused world of shipping products directly to consumers.
As this practice continues to grow, the logistical challenges of in-office fulfillment become apparent: Where are the items stored? Who does the packing and shipping? How can sellers ensure that items will reach the customers in a timely manner?
Most medical offices are not equipped to handle these challenges—but it isn’t difficult to get there. If you’re thinking about setting up a fulfillment space in your medical office to sell recommended lotions, vitamins, toothpastes and medical supplies more conveniently, get started with these steps.
Learn the in-store fulfillment process.
Before you can set up your space or train your staff, you have to understand the shipping process and see how it could be implemented in your office. Make sure your online store is set up so that it can communicate in an efficient way with your brick-and-mortar store.
With a digital e-commerce system in place, there are three steps to prepare an item for shipment: picking, packing and shipping. For example, a staff member sees an online order come in, then picks the item from the shelves, packs it into the most efficient-sized box and ships it quickly and cost-effectively.
Find space for storing and processing products.
When a customer places an order through your online store, it’s important that you have what they wish to buy in stock at your office. Whether it’s blood-sugar test strips or tooth-whitening packs, find a place to store your inventory.
The area for inventory doesn’t need to be large, but it should allow for easy access, and be well organized. Install shelving in an empty closet or open corner. Then affix labels that make it easy to find items that have been ordered and need to be shipped.
Set up your shipping station.
A dedicated space will be needed for your employees to pack shipments after orders have been picked. Set up a small table and keep it clear of clutter. Nearby, have containers or cabinets well-stocked with all your shipping supplies—boxes, envelopes, scissors, tape, pens, etc.
Keep easy-to-follow instructions and a list of packing best practices accessible. Hang a poster or provide a laminated handbook that employees can refer to as they are packing orders. This will help ensure that items are always properly packed to avoid damage or shipping delays.
Train staff on their new responsibilities.
Order fulfillment calls for a different skill set than most medical office employees ordinarily use in their day-to-day routines. Make sure to brief your employees in advance on your plans to start shipping from the office. Then begin training them on the picking, packing and shipping process.
Hold a training session with the full team to introduce the concept of in-store fulfillment and its benefits. Take them through the dedicated inventory-storage and shipping stations, and talk through how to pick, pack and ship products effectively. Before you start shipping to customers, run a few trainings sessions during which employees can fulfill test orders and nail down all the steps.
It may also be helpful to set up dedicated shifts for fulfillment so that incoming orders don’t entirely disrupt how your employees work.
Once employees are up to speed on what is needed for this new venture, start selling the items you have in stock. Continually streamline the process and train employees to optimize your in-office fulfillment. With a robust shipping offering, your practice can gain a new stream of revenue from new and current customers.