Higher out-of-pocket consumer spending is opening new e-commerce opportunities for web merchants, according to data in the newly published Healthcare E-Commerce Report.

It’s not the same all-out holiday spending spree that for most online shoppers begins in earnest around Thanksgiving and for some shoppers runs even up to Christmas day.

But there is a spending spree of sorts underway in the healthcare e-commerce.

E-commerce is opening more opportunities for consumers to buy a wide range of healthcare products and equipment online—and for more niche web merchants to target those consumers. The online healthcare supplies market is dominated by Amazon, the segment’s biggest web merchant.

There is a spending spree of sorts underway in the healthcare e-commerce.

Healthcare supplies that Amazon sells on Amazon.com and on Amazon’s marketplace totaled an estimated $2.10 billion in 2017, about one-third higher than estimated sales of $1.58 billion in 2016. Overall, Internet Health Management estimates that Amazon accounted for 35% of all online healthcare supplies sales, which grew overall 22% to an estimated $5.76 billion in 2017. But even without including Amazon, the remaining nine healthcare supplies merchants ranked by Internet Health Management still grew faster than the overall 16% increase among all merchants of $453.5 billion in 2017.

Those numbers and other data and analysis can be found in the newly published Healthcare E-Commerce Report, produced by Internet Health Management and Internet Retailer, both members of the Digital Commerce 360 family of e-commerce research products.

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What’s driving growth in the online sales of health equipment and supplies is an increase in consumer spending. That higher out-of-pocket consumer spending is opening new e-commerce opportunities for web merchants.

For some merchants such as Betty Mills, an online retailer that began sell office and janitorial supplies online in 2002, the company’s future is squarely settled on healthcare.

Today, the sale of healthcare equipment and supplies represents about 62% of all the company’s web sales, a figure that could grow to as much as 80% of all company web sales in a few years, says CEO Victor Hanna.

Betty Mills is typical of the web merchants that target healthcare equipment and supplies as a new source of online shoppers and sales. It now carries more than 50,000 SKUs in more than a dozen product categories that range from briefs and under pads for incontinence to test kits and specimen collection jars for laboratories and medical offices.

“We see a lot of first-time care givers that need to buy equipment and supplies,” Hanna says. The retailer’s healthcare strategy is changing as Betty Mills becomes more experienced gauging what works—and doesn’t—in selling more medical equipment and supplies online, he says.

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For example, online shoppers want much “how to” information on researching and buying healthcare supplies, a key reason Betty Mills recently launched a health and wellness forum.

The forum now has about 1,200 members that share comments, ask questions and read articles on more than a dozen men’s and women’s health topics such as bladder control and incontinence. “Lots people have questions on elderly care,” Hanna says.

Over time, Betty Mills has refined its marketing to focus more on healthcare supplies and not as much on expensive durable medical equipment. “The customer acquisition costs get expensive, which for many buyers is a one-time only purchase,” he says.

Instead, Betty Mills says it is seeing an uptick of buyers coming to its e-commerce site because they can’t always find the product or the detailed product content on Amazon.com or the Amazon marketplace.

The mix of online healthcare shoppers and buyers is about 65% business-to-consumer and 35% business-to-business, Hanna says.

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But the B2B side business is opening more opportunities for Betty Mills, particularly as more medical businesses such as nursing home replenish certain healthcare supplies on a recurring basis and now purchase more cleaning supplies.

“We are seeing good cross over and that’s generating more opportunity,” Hanna says.

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