When AP Martin Pharmaceutical Supplies Ltd. launched its e-commerce site, the company’s goal was to make it as easy for customers shop as Chief financial officer Martin Shen wanted pharmaceutical companies to be able to search by SKU; he wanted customers to see exactly what items were in stock; and he wanted AP Martin’s merchandisers to be able to choose what specials to feature on the company’s home page.

What Shen wanted most, though, was to distinguish AP Martin from the many other pharmaceutical wholesalers in British Columbia. The move paid off quickly, he says.

AP Martin launched its e-commerce site in November, just four months after the wholesaler opened for business in July 2014 with the intent of providing a better purchasing system for pharmacies. Almost overnight following the site launch, Shen says, he saw a change in customers’ ordering habits, as at least a third of its pharmaceutical clients began placing their orders online at

“We are a brand new, start-up company, and we knew about all the competition that was out there,” Shen says. “We decided to be ahead of the curve, and make sure our e-commerce site is just like the shopping online retailers provide.. This will put us in a position where we’re always a step ahead.”

The e-commerce site, launched on e-commerce technology from Sana Commerce, a Netherlands-based unit of ISM eCompany, is helping AP Martin increase sales of products that pharmacies order as needed outside of their automated ordering systems for replenishing frequently purchased items


AP Martin drove up online sales by featuring non-drug products on the site’s home page, such as discounted breast pumps or walkers, that do not have price points regulated by the Canadian government. Although the government determines the price for most pharmaceutical products, it allows sellers to set prices and display promotions for non-drug items.

The ability to promote products on its e-commerce site has let AP Martin to avoid overwhelming its customers with email marketing campaigns, vice president of operations Ken Lee says. It has been conservative about emailing discounted offers to pharmacies, to avoid having email campaigns “come off like spam,” he says. For now, AP Martin is focusing on increasing spending by existing customers, he adds.

Sana Commerce specializes in offering e-commerce software designed to run on top of enterprise resource planning software, or ERP, which companies use to manage things like inventory records and financial accounting. Sana Commerce integrates with AP Martin’s Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system, enabling AP Martin to show on its e-commerce site updated availability of inventory.

For its customers’ automated replenishment orders, AP Martin receives orders through what Shen calls “a micro-ERP system” from Kroll Computer Systems Inc. The Kroll system is designed to monitor pharmacies’ inventory levels and automatically trigger replenishment orders when levels hit minimum thresholds. It also integrates with the Sana Commerce technology to update AP Martin’s inventory and financial applications.


Shen estimates that, for now, the orders AP Martin receives from customers are equally divided among the Sana e-commerce site, the Kroll replenishment system and orders placed through phone and fax. But since deploying the new e-commerce, customers have been shifting more orders from phone and fax to the web site.  

Shen declined to comment on AP Martin’s sales numbers—and by what percentage they have grown since AP Martin deployed Sana—but he did say they have “picked up” since implementing the Sana e-commerce software. He also says that AP Martin’s phone and fax orders have decreased since the wholesaler deployed Sana, and that he has been staffing fewer customer service representatives to take customers’ calls.

“It’s more like shopping online, like an Amazon experience,” he says. “We’re able to put our specials, or anything we want to feature, on the home page, and that also helps drive sales. It has also allowed us to streamline the ordering process and made it more efficient for pharmacies to sort through new things to purchase.”

At some point, Shen says, he hopes to add product pictures to AP Martin’s website, helping to make the purchasing process on as easy as possible. He declines to comment on the cost to deploy Sana Commerce, but says he does not consider it overly expensive even though the cost has increased as AP Martin has updated the e-commerce software in order to handle higher order volumes.


Typical deployments of Sana Commerce integrated with ERP software from Dynamics or SAP AG take one or two months to complete, Sana Commerce says. Costs for deploying Sana on Dynamics run about $10,000 for a one-time set-up fee, plus about $25,000 per year for licensing. For running Sana on SAP, costs run about $30,000 for set-up and about $35,000 for an annual license, Sana says.

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