Blog 6 minutes

Guide to B2B e-commerce for the dental and medical supplies industry

Sana Editorial Team
February 22, 2023
dentist standing in a room smiling

The medical and dental supply industry is changing at a blistering rate. The last few years have impacted the industry in two ways:

  1. The demand for medical supplies has skyrocketed.
  2. The shift towards e-commerce has accelerated.

In a recent research study, we surveyed dental and medical supplies buyers on their buying preferences. We’ve used those insights to create this guide to give you a snapshot of the state of B2B medical and dental supplies
e-commerce. Read on for the most important trends in the industry and what suppliers, like you, can do to gain a competitive advantage.

B2B e-commerce in the dental and medical supplies industry

    Dental and medical supplies e-commerce trends & tips

    Our research uncovered several patterns that characterize the changes that the medical supply industry is experiencing today. Here are some of the most important of those.

    E-commerce is growing rapidly

    This trend isn’t new, but it can’t be overstated: e-commerce is exploding. It happened first with individuals in consumer goods and retail, but it’s quickly moving into the B2B world, too. Buyers are increasingly moving their orders online. And companies are increasingly developing their e-commerce capabilities to meet that demand.

    We saw clear evidence of this trend in our report. Revenues from online medical and dental supply sales grew by 12% in 2021 alone. That increase was driven by two complementary factors:

    • Demand for medical and dental supplies is increasing

    The first is an increase in demand. Partly driven by an aging population, and partly by the pandemic, demand for durable medical equipment is increasing. Data from Sana’s commissioned study has found that:

    • Just under half of the companies surveyed reported that they had increased the volume of their orders since the beginning of the pandemic.
    • 75% of companies reported spending more on medical supplies compared to a few years ago.
    • 80% of companies that increased their spending reported that they had increased their spending on supplies by 20% or more.

    dental supplies on a table


    • Online purchases are more common

    The second factor driving increases in e-commerce is a shift to buying online. This trend mirrors quite closely the trend we see in the B2C world: individual consumers become more comfortable and used to getting their goods online, and they increasingly expect the same convenient experiences at work. The trend is clear:

    • 96% of the companies we surveyed said that their procurement from e-commerce is increasing or staying the same.
    • About three-quarters of companies are buying more of their supplies online than before the pandemic.

    TIP: E-commerce is vital to keep up

    Buyers are purchasing more online. In order to ward off the competition, improve customer acquisition and keep your existing customers, medical and dental supply companies need to have the infrastructure in place to accommodate more online sales. They need to ensure that they can provide fast, convenient customer experiences that facilitate online purchases.

    Find out how you can leverage B2B e-commerce

    Online ordering is improving overall, yet order errors remain an issue

    Our research found that buyers had better ordering experiences after the pandemic compared to before it. Compared to pre-pandemic, the companies reported that:

    • Ordering has become easier
    • Ordering is more efficient
    • Customer service is better

    By those metrics, it appears that companies are having better experiences with their suppliers after the pandemic.

    There was some room for improvement. For example, order errors showed no improvement compared to previous years. And, when it came to the speed of orders, most companies reported that orders had gotten slower.

    TIP: Use an ERP-integrated e-commerce solution for the B2B use case

    Provide a better ordering experience for your customers by using an e-commerce solution that integrates directly with your ERP. Since ERP-integrated e-commerce uses your ERP logic to populate your web store's front end, all product data is reflected in the web store in real-time. This not only reduces order errors but also reduces the amount of questions your customer service or sales teams receive from customers about basic product information.

    Buyers value close relationships with suppliers

    Companies are buying more online, but they still want that human touch. Our research found that buyers continue to highly value good customer service and close relationships with their suppliers. In most cases — 84% — buyers even admitted that they were more likely to buy from a supplier they had a good relationship with, even if they could find better sale terms elsewhere.

    This suggests one of the primary challenges for suppliers navigating the shift towards e-commerce: how to provide online purchasing experiences that are effective but that also foster relationships with customers.

    TIP: Keep your customer relationships at the forefront of everything you do

    Of those surveyed. 69% reported that the quality of their relationship with suppliers was an important factor in the purchasing process: 84% of companies said that they would be more inclined to buy from a supplier that they had a great
    relationship with — even if the terms of sale were not as good as another supplier offered. While buyers are looking for quality products at a good price with good terms, the quality of relationships with suppliers is also critical.

    Common challenges in the B2B buying process in the medical supplies industry

    The top five most commonly reported challenges for medical and dental companies in the B2B buying process are:

    1. Visibility of product features
    2. Delivery and tracking of orders
    3. Relationship with supplier
    4. Returns choice
    5. Mobile ordering

    Medical and dental materials suppliers can gain a competitive advantage within the industry by resolving these issues with an e-commerce platform built specifically for the B2B use case.

    How can medical supplies providers improve their current e-commerce site?

    When asked whether suppliers’ e-commerce websites meet their expectations, almost half of the buyers (49%) said that e-commerce websites only somewhat met expectations, or not at all.

    Of the 49% of buyers for whom supplier websites didn’t meet expectations, they listed the following as the biggest problems:

    1. Inaccurate or missing stock information
    2. Lack of information about the order status
    3. Difficulty finding relevant products
    4. Unable to talk to someone and/or ask a question
    5. Specific payment or contract terms not displayed correctly

    Further, e-commerce websites appeared to not provide the personalization that buyers required. 65% of our survey respondents reported that supplier e-commerce websites are only somewhat personalized or personalized very little.

    E-commerce infrastructure is critical

    E-commerce has become critical for companies in almost every industry, and the medical supply industry is no different. Having adequate e-commerce infrastructure is critical to compete in the market.

    The right platform can give you the tools you need to excel at e-commerce. Our e-commerce platform, Sana Commerce Cloud, enables suppliers to keep web stores updated in real-time and reduce the number of order errors by using the ERP logic from your backend to populate your website.

    Regardless of which e-commerce solution you go with, make sure to put your customers and their needs first by providing an exceptional customer experience.

    Learn more about e-commerce for dental and medical suppliers