Schein Confident It Has An E-Commerce Edge

Edition: September 1999 - Vol 7 Number 09
Article#: 466
Author: Repertoire

At press time, the company was preparing to roll out an enhanced version of its ArubA™ On-Line Ordering System for its medical customers.



‘If you look at the models in other industries -- such as Amazon.com -- the one thing that's obvious is that in order to get people to use these systems, you have to spend a lot of money advertising them,’ says Medical Group President Bruce Haber.



That means that the stand-alone e-commerce companies must start from scratch to promote their sites, he says. But Schein already has the customer base and three effective means of reaching them -- direct mail, telesales and a 250-person field sales force (in the Caligor Medical Supply Division).



The company enjoys another advantage as well, says Haber. Because of its experience in direct mail, it has the in-house expertise to present products via pictures and text -- just what's needed in the electronic world.



Schein customers are no strangers to electronic commerce. Its dental customers already have access to a web-based ordering system, while its medical customers have been using a CD-ROM version of ArubA. Together, they buy approximately $150 million using these vehicles. But, promises Haber, the new version of ArubA ‘will be far superior to anything currently available for ordering medical supplies.’



Support For Sales Reps

The new ArubA system will only enhance the value of the company's field sales reps, says Haber. ‘While the Internet will provide an easy way for customers to place orders, the salesperson will bring product knowledge, revenue enhancement opportunities and help in improving their customers' businesses,’ he says. ‘It's a tool to help them do what they should be doing anyway.’



The field force should help Schein differentiate its site from those of the e-commerce companies, says Haber. ‘[The e-commerce companies] have a product and a price,’ he says. ‘But if customers are interested in low prices only, we would have known that a long time ago.’



To be sure, Henry Schein has contracts with a number of e-commerce companies. ‘A customer is a customer,’ says Haber. ‘But we want to fortify our own capabilities, because we believe we have more to offer.’



As more customers get hooked on e-commerce, Schein is certain to find out whether that's true or not.