Editor's Note

The New Healthcare Retail Experience

I recently got a new phone. For most people, this would not be news. But here’s some context: This is my first smartphone (and only my third cell phone ever).

My late entry into the smartphone ranks was less by plan than by indifference. My job requires non-stop typing, reading and research, so performing those same tasks after hours on a smartphone hardly sounded like fun (and still doesn’t). But my phone contract was up and my ancient flip-phone was no longer supported by my carrier. I found myself nudged through the door of smartphone ownership.

I asked for an iPhone, because that’s what everyone has, but when AT&T named the price, my interest dulled. Then the rep offered the Nokia Lumia for free, so I went online, read several glowing tech-magazine reviews and shrugged. Fine, I’ll take the Lumia. Whatever. It’s just a phone.

The phone arrived two days later; I finally unpacked it the third day. There it was: just like on the Web, except…well, it chirped happily when I plugged it in to charge. The screen was large, the icons colorful and easy to use, even for this Microsoft novice. It’s pretty, I thought in surprise.

I showed it to officemates who, once they got over their shock at my owning a smartphone, played with it and pronounced it very cool. That weekend I was on my way to a Microsoft store to shop…not for a phone, but for my phone.

That’s how shopping has evolved: We no longer just shop for products; we also shop for accessories. And stores are no longer stores; they’re destinations.

Since this is our annual Medtrade issue, it’s a good time to think not just about how a retail model can fit into the seating & mobility landscape, but also about how that retail model has evolved and where it’ll go next.

Twenty-plus years ago, Harley-Davidson got rich by transforming their dealers’ stereotypical greasy bike shops into upscale motorcycle and lifestyle boutiques. Customers sat in gorgeous retro-styled lounges and had espressos or burgers while their Harleys got serviced.

Baby boomers drove that windfall for Harley-Davidson, and they’re now literally buying into a new industry: Ours. Baby boomers are purchasing for their parents and themselves, but they’ve become accustomed to Harley-Davidson/Starbucks/Apple retail experiences. If their experiences are good and they’re proud of their purchases, they don’t just come back: They accessorize their original purchases. They buy related items.

All of which are good indicators for this industry, particularly when traditional payors keep cutting their funding.

Of course, the model for a clinically based business is never going to be identical to the model for a business that sells coffee or phones. But mobility and accessibility providers can capture additional revenue — sales that don’t come with the possibility of a post-payment audit. Our cover feature examines the benefits and challenges of selling consumer mobility, especially consumer power chairs and scooters. Our MMBeat section is devoted this month to the new products being highlighted at Medtrade — many of which have a retail flavor. And in the theme of making one consumer purchase pay off in multiple ways, our Ops Management column suggests an idea for increasing retail revenue and making customers happier.

Not long ago, spending so much on a phone (and then buying accessories for it) would have been unthinkable. But today’s consumers have shown how much they value efficiency and convenience. Our industry can help to provide greater safety, comfort, independence and peace of mind. How much will consumers pay for that?

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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