Pharma Ecommerce: What It Takes To Win Online

Pharma Ecommerce Best Practices

A recent article in Pharma Times Online explored the things which buyers have come to expect from distributors in pharma B2B ecommerce. The article brought up a lot of great points, but we’d like to take the discussion further.

The pharma ecommerce question doesn’t end with distributors. In fact, pharma manufacturers, too, must carve out a place in the digital ecosystem. So what can pharmaceutical manufacturers do to improve their customer experience through ecommerce?

Here’s our take: 5 things you need to win in pharmaceutical ecommerce.

1. Real-time inventory/ATP displayed in the web channel

Whether you’re selling direct to pharmacies, or selling to distributors, there’s one thing your web channel must get right: inventory availability.

This is often the Achilles’ heel of pharma ecommerce. Unless the ecommerce platform includes a real-time integration to the ERP system, you simply can’t display real-time inventory availability.

It gets more complex if your business rules include ATP (available to promise) calculations. In a nutshell, ATP allows you to allocate your available inventory proportionally among customers. It helps ensure that your biggest customers never have to wait for critical product.

If your customers can’t get accurate inventory (or personalized ATP quantities) in the web store, they’ll have to pick up the phone and call Customer Service. Multiply that problem at scale, and you have a serious roadblock in your digital customer experience—one that may hamper adoption of the ecommerce platform.

NOTE: Because Corevist Commerce is built on a real-time integration to SAP, our platform displays real-time inventory/ATP data from your SAP system, right out of the box.

2. An interface that’s easy for Sales reps to use in the field

While some market segments in pharmaceuticals are demanding self-service, others are more comfortable buying from the traveling sales rep who comes to the office in person. For this segment, relationships aren’t going away. To serve the needs of this segment, a web channel solution must support existing relationships rather than attempt to replace them.

How can a pharmaceutical manufacturer meet the needs of both segments?

One way is to choose a platform that’s built with both types of users in mind. That’s the thinking behind Corevist Commerce. Our clients use our solution not only as a customer-facing experience, but also as an internal tool for sales reps to enter orders while they’re in the field.

Find out more here: Corevist Field Sales Portal.  

3. Personalized pricing for each and every customer, straight from SAP

If you offer every customer the same price, then this isn’t terribly relevant. However, for pharmaceutical manufacturers who have specific contract pricing with each customer, it’s essential that the web channel reflect that pricing—for the logged-in user.

In other words, your ecommerce solution needs to map each ecommerce user to a customer account (and display the appropriate pricing).

That’s why we built Corevist Commerce to pull contract-specific pricing straight from SAP. Our solution maps each ecommerce user to a sold-to in SAP, and this relationship determines the price which the user sees in the web channel. (Note: Our solution also honors quantity/scaled pricing discounts.)

What’s at stake if you don’t show accurate pricing? Think of it like this: If the user can’t complete the transaction online, through 100% self-service, they’re going to pick up the phone. That’s an added friction point for them, added cost of order fulfillment for you—and it means ecommerce isn’t doing its job.

4. Customer-specific picklists

One challenge which pharma manufacturers face in ecommerce: Not every customer is allowed to shop the entire catalog. Geographical restrictions, brand restrictions, regulatory restrictions—there are all kinds of rules governing who can see what product.

That’s why a pharma ecommerce solution must support personalized picklists.

We believe the most efficient way to do this is to bring the SAP business rules to the web—the very business rules that already define these restrictions. Rather than rebuilding that complexity in your ecommerce platform, you should choose a solution that includes real-time SAP integration out of the box. That way, you only have to update product permissions in one place (SAP), and those rules will function instantly in your web channel, determining which users can see which products.

5. 100% self-service account management

This piece doesn’t get a lot of airtime in the B2B ecommerce press, but it’s absolutely essential in pharma. If your users can’t manage their accounts in the web channel, something is wrong.

So what does that mean? What should your pharma ecommerce solution provide? Here’s our short list:

  • Order status for all orders
  • Shipment status, tracking numbers, and notifications
  • Order confirmation from SAP
  • Month-end statement
  • View open items & invoices
  • Pay down open invoices
  • Real-time credit status

If you choose a solution that offers all this, your buyers will be able to manage their accounts online, without picking up the phone. We find this helps make your web channel “stickier,” i.e. more valuable to the customer so they come back again and again. That’s why we include full account management functionality in Corevist Commerce. You can read about it here: Corevist Account Portal.

Moving forward: FREE case study

Want to see pharmaceutical ecommerce in real life? Download this case study on PARI Respiratory. You’ll learn how this medical manufacturer launched Corevist Commerce and satisfied everyone involved. Marketing got the attractive online catalog they wanted, dealers got easy online ordering, and PARI didn’t have to bring on any additional IT resources.

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FREE Case study: PARI Respiratory

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About Author

George Anderson

George serves as Digital Marketing Manager. A blogger and journalist with a passion for B2B ecommerce, he has written for the Magento blog, Digitalcommerce360, Supply & Demand Chain Executive, ERPgenie, and others.