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How Amazon Business is shaking up the dental industry


Serving more than 1 million customers in the U.S., Amazon Business is changing the way dentists think about purchasing dental supplies.

Drive down the street and you’ll most likely see a box with an Amazon logo emblazoned on it sitting on one of your neighbor’s front steps. Since its humble beginnings in 1994, Amazon has grown to be one of the biggest e-commerce sites in the world. There are reportedly 80 million Amazon Prime members in the United States, according to Time.com.

Not a company to rest on its laurels, Amazon launched Amazon Business in 2015, a marketplace for business customers that offers business-only pricing and selection, analytics tools and free two-day shipping on qualifying orders. Those working in the education, government and healthcare industries - including dentists - can simply sign up for a free account to access hundreds of millions of products. Amazon Business now serves more than 1 million customers in the U.S. and has over 85,000 business sellers.

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“Amazon Business was started because we heard from business customers that they love the convenience of shopping online and want an experience at work that is similar to how they shop at home,” says Chris Holt, global healthcare leader at Amazon. “With the launch of Amazon Business back in 2015, we delivered an expanded marketplace that brings the selection, convenience and value of Amazon to business customers, manufacturers and sellers with new features and unique benefits tailored to the needs of businesses.”

Amazon Business has been offering healthcare products, including dental supplies, since its launch. More than 40,000 results currently populate for professional dental supplies on Amazon Business from companies like 3M, Hu-Friedy,Premier Dental, Dentsply, DenMat and Sunstar GUM. Everything from fluoride gel to xylitol mints to scalers and curettes can be purchased with just a few clicks of a button.

Many dentists are creatures of habit, so why should they switch how they procure dental supplies? According to Holt, Amazon Business provides a similar convenient experience to purchasing products on Amazon.com, with features and unique benefits tailored to the needs of businesses.

“Dental practices have access to a multi-seller marketplace where products from professional dental products to supplies needed for the office, breakroom or patient waiting area are available. Customers can compare products and prices and utilize benefits such as Business Prime Shipping to have their orders delivered with fast, free shipping,” Holt says.

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In addition, Holt says customers can set up workflow approvals within their accounts to simplify the purchasing process. Analytics tools allow dentists to help track and manage various budgets. A variety of payment solutions are available as well.

Safety is of utmost concern when it comes to purchasing any sort of medical supplies, including dental products. Dental professionals interested in purchasing dental supplies from Amazon Business must add their license to their Amazon Business account and be verified in order to be eligible to purchase items. Amazon Business is currently licensed to sell Class I and Class II medical and dental products in 47 states.

Up next: A force to be reckoned with...


A force to be reckoned with

It’s no secret that the “Amazon effect” has disrupted the retail market over the years. Amazon’s convenience and affordability has changed the way consumers purchase products, leading many brick-and-mortar stores to shutter its doors or move its inventory entirely online.

But will Amazon Business have a similar effect on the medical supply industry? Maybe so, says attorney Jim Shehan, who told Modern Healthcare that Amazon could present a “gigantic challenge” to the business model of most medical suppliers.

In its first year alone, Amazon Business generated more than $1 billion in sales. And a recent CNBC survey to participating physicians indicated that 34 percent are currently using Amazon Business to purchase medical and dental supplies.

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Forbes contributor Steve Dennis highlights the force that Amazon exerts whenever it enters a new segment of the marketplace.

“We can't - and shouldn't - ignore the profound effect that Amazon is having on just about every corner of the retail world they set their sights on,” Dennis writes. “Amazon is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla. Their entry into a market segment reshapes shopping dynamics, upsets the supply chain and exerts tremendous pricing and margin pressure. Books came first and we know how that played out. But, one by one, other categories followed and the dominoes continue to fall.”

The convenience of being able to order dental supplies with just a few clicks of a button coupled with fast delivery time could be the biggest draw for dentists, especially for those who may already be loyal users of Amazon to purchase everyday products.

“We hear from our dental customers that they want more convenience and choice, price transparency and lower cost purchasing for their businesses,” Holt says. “We’re focused on finding ways to offer the best possible purchasing experience. Dental manufacturers and sellers are looking to reach new customers and we will continue to innovate to provide them the opportunity to leverage our trusted e-commerce service to grow their businesses.”

Patients, too, may indirectly benefit from dentists purchasing supplies on Amazon Business. Holt says dental customers have provided feedback saying that simplifying purchasing and providing a marketplace of competitive prices has helped them focus more on patient needs by saving them valuable time.

“At Amazon, we’re focused on innovating on behalf of our customers, including dentists,” Holt says. “We are building Amazon Business to bring buyers and sellers together in the most efficient and effective ways possible to provide a great purchasing experience. We also have features on Amazon Business to help dental customers lower purchasing costs for their businesses and manage their budgets. It is still Day One for us, and we’re continuing to learn from our customers to deliver new features and benefits tailored to their needs.”

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Time will tell what the future of Amazon Business means for the dental supplies industry, but for now, Holt says that the e-commerce site is helping dentists to grow their businesses.

“Customer obsession is one of the most important guiding principles at Amazon and is what led us to develop Amazon Business and the features and benefits tailored to the needs of our customers, including dentists,” Holt says. “With Amazon Business, dentists have a faster and more convenient way to discover and purchase supplies online, all with spend tracking that helps them better manager their business. For dental manufacturers and sellers, Amazon Business allows them to help them grow their businesses.”

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