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Active, Not Aggressive

According to Leendert Santema, CBI expert for the medical industry, many companies in DCs have a website, but acquisition is passive. Suppliers in DCs often do not actively search for new contacts, leaving it to the buyer to contact them. Very few suppliers in DCs will contact EU buyers by email. “DC suppliers must become more active in acquisition”, says Santema. “They should, however, be careful not to be too aggressive as this is not appreciated by EU buyers”.

Direct Selling

E-business literally in the sense of selling your product directly through your own website is a less feasible option in the medical devices sector. Most products are of such a complexity in procurement and usage that a high level of pre-and after sales service is needed to satisfy the customer. Exceptions are made perhaps for consumer products of relatively low complexity, like for instance blood pressure devices for the home care market, as these require a minimum level of pre- and after sales support.

Online Payments

Online invoicing and electronic settlement techniques are of ‘medium importance’, according to the EU buyers and experts approached for this survey. Sending the bill online is convenient and appreciated, though not essential. EU buyers still require the original invoice for custom clearance. As electronic settlement techniques for large sums of money pose security risks in many DCs, many EU buyers are avoiding them. Electronic settlement techniques are expected to grow in importance. Only 18% of the ECP participants use e-business practices for payment. Advantages they observe are that e-paying produces more orders and saves time.

Product Service Delivery (PSD)

Shipment notifications and tracking and tracing are quite important in the medical industry, according to EU buyers and experts, as buyers like to know the status of their shipment. Just-in- time delivery is an important logistics service. Because of its complexity, EU buyers and experts tend to doubt whether DC suppliers can provide this service. They’re not far from the mark either. Of the exporters enrolled in the CBI’s ECP, only 27% use shipment modification, 18% use tracking and tracing and only 9% offer just-in-time service. The general intention among ECP participants, however, is to appropriate these methods more actively in the future.

Customer Service

Most digital customer service applications are appreciated by EU buyers and experts in the medical industry. DC suppliers should pay special attention to the advantages of email newsletters, as these are not yet used very widely in this sector but considered of ‘high importance’ by buyers- provided they are not general, but either sector or company specific. Buyers are interested in updates on new products. Email newsletters, they say, should neither be too long nor sent too often: a maximum of 2 pages every two months is plenty.

Online FAQ forms (frequently asked questions) are a good way of presenting general company information and are appreciated by EU buyers and experts. Voice-over IP is a cost effective means of personal contact with a company, provided you have a good dial-up line or internet connection.


Web-based collaboration, already common in the EU, is given medium to high importance by EU buyers and experts. They consider it as a good way of sharing information (e.g. product sheets). One expert points out that it should be part of the quality management system of a company. The possibility of checking online status of product that is being produced is given medium importance. Some EU buyers prefer personal contact for this purpose, as online status checking is less controllable and can be unreliable. On the whole, however, DC suppliers should realize that EU buyers are interested in web-based collaboration. Only 18% of the ECP participants currently use web-based collaboration, 9% offer online production status.

For more information: download ‘E-business in the medical and medical laboratory industry’ from

Reference : CBI News March , 2008