Vladimir Makeew CEO of Surf

    Online Healthcare Marketplace: How to Improve Time-to-Market and User Engagement

    Today, digital transformation in retail is noticeable more than ever. The global volume of e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to almost 5 trillion and is forecasted to reach 7.3 trillion by 2025. Not only do people tend to shop more food and clothes online, the popularity of booking doctor appointments and purchasing pharmacy remotely grows as well. Since 2020, the volume of online sales in the sphere of health and well-being have increased by over 250%.

    Such proliferation of e-commerce solutions clearly shows there is still a lot of potential for emerging digital platforms aimed to transform how we receive services and products in the sphere of healthсare. However, to be successful and outrun an increasing competition, a marketplace platform has to use all available instruments to optimize speed of development, product quality, and user engagement.

    With over a decade of experience developing native and cross-platform apps for clients in various industries, including retail, banking, food tech, and digital media, Surf knows firsthand what it takes to create a leading solution for a highly competitive niche. In the article, we’ll review how a marketplace concept can be applied to the current healthcare market and take a look at the best practices for delivering a digital product fitted to customers’ needs.

    How marketplace model works in healthcare

    The online marketplace model has been around for some time in grocery shopping, fashion, and consumer electronics, making it possible to refine and perfect business models and user journeys consisting of as few clicks as possible between ordering and receiving a product or a service. Meanwhile, the industry of healthcare has not seen such a wide application of the marketplace model yet and still has lots of undiscovered potential for utilizing it. Let’s take a look at the most prominent case of how the marketplace model can be used in the sphere of health and well-being.

    Wider choice

    By making it available to conveniently browse and book doctor appointments with various specialists from different clinics, the marketplace model provides patients with an easier way to find professionals suitable in terms of expertise, general approach, and working hours. A doctor search app that supports multiple payment options makes it convenient for users to connect with specialists that lack promotional effort or work in relatively unknown clinics but deliver great results.

    Convenient comparison

    The marketplace model helps customers to navigate among a multitude of offers, which are grouped together and can be filtered according to various parameters. This can be beneficial for such market segments as health insurance, where many offers have only minor differences between them and a unified view helps to compare all parameters of different plans at once.

    Flexible conditions

    The marketplace model allows to explore options, seldomly used in the industry of healthcare. For example, users setting prices for doctor consultations. By allowing a patient to determine how much they are willing to pay for an appointment with a certain health practitioner and giving doctors an option to accept or propose a counter-offer, a healthcare marketplace drives the demand and a number of appointments during seasonal downturns or other demand-affecting events.

    Easy delivery

    By aggregating available drugs from multiple pharmacies, a healthcare marketplace not only offers the widest choice possible but also simplifies collecting numerous types of medicine — by unifying orders from different drug stores into a single one, a customer can pick them up or have them delivered in a single package. 

    pharma app mockups
    Online Pharmacy App by Surf

    A marketplace can also separate a single order automatically, if, for example, some prescription medication is only available for in-store pick-up. Such “multi cart” logic was realized by Surf in an online pharmacy app, which supports multiple checkout scenarios, including delivery of some items and transferring the rest to a store for pick-up, as well as combining items from different warehouses to a single outlet.

    Such aggregation not only helps buyers with extensive orders to save time and money but also simplifies logistics for merchants, allowing them to cut shipping costs and improve delivery time. 

    Reduce costs and create an engaging experience in digital healthcare

    Learn more about Surf development services

    Improving healthcare marketplace conversion rate: tips for the better development process and customer satisfaction

    With the ever-increasing number of players in the field of mobile digital health (also called mHealth), success becomes harder to achieve, although the prize for those who achieve it gets bigger too — the number of mHealth customers grows as well. Let’s take a look at how to increase marketplace sales and reduce time to market with some of the best development practices.

    Take advantage of cross-industrial experience

    As retail giants, including Walmart, Amazon, and Walgreens, expand into healthcare, it is high time for mHealth startups to tap into e-commerce industry expertise and adopt its best solutions. These include:

    • Extensive personalization, both on a location or community scale (the demand for healthcare services differs significantly between a coastal resort and a senior community); and personal scale (offering complex checkup programs or medications on a subscription-based model for people with chronic illnesses).
    • Omnichannel strategies that include various ways of reaching potential customers, including mobile apps, web, chatbots in messengers, and even offline locations.
    • Cloud-based solutions. As shown by Amazon and CVS, which transferred their healthcare and pharmacy projects to Amazon Web Services for Health and Microsoft Azure respectively, cloud solutions have significant benefits, such as better scalability and adaptability to demand surges without a sky-high increase in infrastructure costs.

    To fully exploit the potential benefits of the above-mentioned solutions, it is important to choose a development team with expertise not only in healthcare but other industries as well. Check our article on hiring developers for healthcare app development for more insights.

    Increase user engagement with loyalty programs

    A loyalty program is a key ingredient for better customer retention in a highly-competitive field of healthcare. For example, if a customer who previously made a purchase at your marketplace decides to make another one and sees what he needs at a lower price at another store, the main thing that can make him still buy it on your platform is a loyalty program in the forms of bonus points, personal discount, cashback, and so on.

    An investment in a well-thought loyalty program can be high but it does pay off. For example, when Surf developed an app for a large grocery retailer, we introduced a grading system of bonus points based on the monthly amount of purchases, along with a dynamic system that grants users a certain number of points according to their average bill size, as well as extra bonus points for a favorite category and custom game mechanics. This multilayered approach allowed us to significantly improve users’ LTV (Lifetime Value) and Engagement Rate, resulting in a 3x increased app usage frequency after the loyalty program launch.

    An app for a large retailer by Surf

    Do not neglect the importance of UX/UI

    Investing in good visual design and user experience is crucial for a marketplace’s success. It also affects several aspects of your project.

    Improved brand image and perception. Color schemes, fonts, logo — all of it makes the initial impression on a marketplace visitor. Then, whether a good first impression is sustained is decided by UX design: intuitive navigation, quick sign-on and checkout, descriptive product cards, and so on. To implement these elements correctly, it is important to carefully study use case scenarios and work with experienced UX/UI designers.

    Surf is well familiar with a challenge of conveying a unique brand identity via an app’s interface in a highly-saturated market. Here, a holistic and smart approach always delivers results. Since our online pharmacy project consisted of three apps for various brands, we had to design each one in accordance with the respective brand colors. A lot of attention was given to products’ flypages to provide the necessary information, such as description, reviews, and availability, in a comprehensible manner.

    pharmaceutical app
    Online Pharmacy App by Surf

    Higher customer loyalty and conversion. An appealing design and great user experience foster long-term relationships with your users, which improve return on investment (ROI) and increase conversion rate — the main quantifiable metrics of an online business. If interface design and user experience satisfy customers, making it easier to complete their tasks (orders, bookings, etc.), they are likely to stay with your product.

    Reduced costs. While it may sound counterintuitive, hiring a development team with professional UX designers can be a pricier option but will save marketplace development costs later on. Conducting comprehensive research, testing, and analysis of a design prototype and an MVP provides valuable insights that help designers to adjust marketplace mechanics and interface before beginning full-scale development. Often, it means cutting off excessive elements or functionality. As a result, the developers code a product, which is better adapted to the users’ needs and won’t require resource-consuming changes shortly after release. Learn more about what factors influence a medical app cost and how they can be mitigated with pre-project activities in our dedicated article.

    Give peace of mind with secure payments

    As in any e-commerce niche, the security of payment transactions plays a paramount role in a healthcare marketplace app’s success. A single data breach can severely undermine trust in a platform. To provide a variety of secure payment options it is reasonable to use trusted payment API integrations, such as Stax, Stripe, and Helcim, instead of developing payment gateways from scratch. The platform’s security can also be improved by adhering to such practices as data encryption, SSL pinning usage, code obfuscation, and prohibition of network traffic interception in the release build. 

    Comprehensive testing is also important for discovering code vulnerabilities and security flaws early on. Having worked on multiple fintech and banking projects, the Surf team gained extensive experience in implementing various payment API integrations and code testing. Also, we always aim to provide sufficient test coverage without stretching out the development process by combining manual and automated tests. For example, during the development of an app for a large European bank, Surf automated 75% of sanity tests (that are performed by testers rather than programmers), decreasing the amount of testing hours by more than half.

    Banking App by Surf

    Speed up time-to-market with Flutter 

    To make it in the fast-paced healthcare industry, an online marketplace should use the initial momentum to seize its market niche and attract customers who prefer making orders via smartphones, tablets, and PCs. A simultaneous development of apps for each platform using native technologies is a difficult task. It requires substantial management effort to synchronize work of several development teams and achieve unified functionality, as well as extra spending, since a separate set of developers, testers, QA engineers, and project managers works on each app. Using a cross-platform technology that allows building apps for several platforms from a single codebase helps to streamline the development process and cut costs.

    Surf began using Flutter cross-platform development framework shortly after its release, in 2019. Thanks to its architecture, powerful graphic engine, and full support of Material Design and Cupertino visual styles, the technology makes it possible to develop fast and secure apps with native look and feel for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and web at once. Surf was the first development company to create a Flutter-based banking app in Europe, integrating it with the legacy bank’s services while making full use of Flutter’s easy maintainability and scalability.

    Flutter banking app
    Flutter Banking App by Surf

    Surf’s team is also a frequent contributor to Flutter’s community. In our Flutter projects, we use homegrown solutions that optimize the development process and they are freely available to others. For example, our Surf Gear is a set of libraries and tools aimed to help Flutter app developers with such tasks as implementing push notifications or screen refresh by a swipe, as well as providing instruments for code logging and integrating analytics. Our SurfGen tool is designed to automate routine tasks, generating segments of the utility code and decreasing the development time by 5-20%, depending on the project.

    Create fast and beautiful cross-platform apps easily

    Learn more about Surf’s Flutter development services

    Summing things up

    In the coming years, the marketplace model is likely to see wider adoption in the field of healthcare. Telemedicine, pharmacy, health insurance — all of these industry segments can benefit from the possibilities online marketplaces bring in connecting merchants with customers. Such expansion means tighter competition, and if you are launching an mHealth marketplace platform you will need to use the best technical and business solutions to make it to the top.

    Surf has extensive experience developing apps and digital solutions for various industries. This, combined with our open-source solutions and human-centered approach, makes us a perfect partner for marketplace platform development. From initial business analysis to product launch, we cover the full development cycle and would be glad to discuss your project in more detail.