Internet sales have changed how products are bought, and veterinary practices are not exempt from this revolution. When developing a practice’s online retail site, it is important to be realistic, ensure a good customer experience, monitor data regularly, alter and update the site monthly, and constantly market and promote the site to clientele. The goal is to encourage regular shopping. Every product should be evaluated regarding potential sales, safety, weight, and profit margin before starting negotiations with individual manufacturers for the best possible discount. Items to research for a successful venture include a warehouse of sufficient size, quality, and security; a staff dedicated to managing inventory and fulfilling orders; a delivery company providing nationwide, next-day service at a reasonable price; and an Internet development company capable of building a site with the capacity for online purchases. Key causes of failure include lack of storage, lack of finances to invest in inventory, inability to support financial and administrative management, poor site development and maintenance, and lack of marketing.

Two attributes favor Internet shopping: 1) many shoppers find it easy and convenient, and 2) most believe they will get better prices online.

Practices can compete. They can offer their own online pharmacies but, whether products are offered online or off, must adjust the prices of popular products to be competitive with nonveterinary online providers—particularly with flea, tick, and heartworm medications for which consumers commonly price-shop online. Next, inform clients that the practice’s prices are competitive and the best price may not necessarily be at a nonveterinary source; often, a veterinary hospital’s per-dose cost is cheaper or the same compared with that of nonveterinary online sources. Practices need to be bold when promoting this and consider making charts to show that the client’s best deal is through the hospital.—Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM

Internet shopping: Challenges and opportunities for practices. Barabas S. IN PRACT 35:94-97, 2013.