By Dr. Greg Grillo
In dentistry, we rely on long-standing principles rooted in the past. While CAD/CAM eMax crowns haven’t been around forever, the fundamental preparation methods remain timeless. Diamond burs, handpieces, and retraction cords are still at our disposal. With one foot firmly planted in the past, we need to look to the horizon as managers and entrepreneurs.
Patients love us for quality care, but an evolving consumer mindset shapes them. The year 2020 abruptly altered everyone’s lives faster than any period in modern history. Savvy brands adapted, and they’re posting record profits and formulating expansion plans. As we focus on another gingival sulcus, it’s easy to miss where our patients keep nudging us to go.
Here are four consumer trends that big brands have already met with smart solutions available to us, too.
1. A Shift To Digital Services
Curbside grocery pick up sounded like a good idea before the pandemic, but now it’s an example of new consumer expectations.
Click-and-collect shopping soared over 60% in 2020
over the previous year. And the growing reliance on digital services drove a 12% increase in the time all of us spend on digital devices. That new engagement puts more ads, social posts, and emails directly under everyone’s noses, especially since much of that time passes on mobile devices.
What do we do?
As patients become more reliant on digital services, they look for brands that deliver efficiency and convenience. If a Millennial wants an appointment, they’d rather spend 30 seconds setting up a visit through an online scheduling app than sitting on-hold when they call our offices. We need to look at moving mundane, cumbersome tasks into the digital space. Otherwise, we risk losing valuable patients to practices that do.
Legwork Patient Portal
delivers an integrated system for serving patients in the digital arena where they can schedule an appointment, make a payment, and view upcoming appointments all in one place.
2. Increased Brand Loyalty
Big brands have vast resources at their disposal with enormous marketing budgets. But small businesses enjoy an advantage that mega corporations don’t. Consumers are more supportive than ever of local companies, and they’re committed to helping them succeed. This commitment ties into a recent survey that showed nearly
90% of consumers are more likely to support a brand
that positively impacts the world. Even more revealing, this loyalty appears strongest among Millennials and Gen Z, demographics that look for purpose-driven brands.
What do we do?
Every touchpoint patients make with our practice can reinforce our commitment to our community. Consistent social media posting gives our patients helpful insights into oral health, but it’s also a platform we can use to highlight local causes and heroes. Our email campaigns can include personalized messages about our community that tie to our brand.
gives us automation, but it also provides flexibility to customize our brand message and creativity.
3. Balancing Work and Lifestyle
Routines define our pace of life in America, but COVID-19 turned scheduling on its head. Long commutes were replaced with trips from the kitchen to the home office, and
33% of full-time U.S. workers continue to work from home
. The long-term implications remain unknown, but many people continue to reassess their work-life balance and make adjustments to their lives. Consumers now seek out time-saving alternatives for tasks that once required several hours. Efficiency in the little things provides more time for higher priorities, like family.
What do we do?
Many healthcare appointments carve a chunk out of our day. Commuting, waiting, and check-in can easily add an hour or more to a 15-minute post-op visit that’s little more than a conversation. Telehealth visits exploded during the pandemic, but
83% of people say they expect to use virtual care in the future
. Teledentistry wasn’t on our radar a year ago, but it needs to be now. While 95% of our care will remain in the operatory, virtual visits open doors that consumers want to access.
makes opening an online operatory efficient, safe, and profitable.
4. Digital Adaption By Older Consumers
COVID-19 forced reliance on technology by people of all ages. So, it’s not surprising that older consumers looked to e-commerce during the early shutdown.
Shoppers over age 65
turned out to be the demographic with the fastest growth in online spending, and they’ve continued to stay there. While they may return to traditional shopping, they’ve learned about the convenience and safety of digital services. Millennials and Gen Xers have known this, but their parents and grandparents appear to be catching up fast.
What do we do?
In 2019, digital tools may have fit one demographic better than another. Younger patients still demonstrate the fastest adoption of online services, but everyone has become more comfortable in the digital space now. However, no one tolerates a poor user experience. For example,
52% of users report that they’re less likely to engage
with a company that doesn’t provide responsive mobile design.
create mobile-first websites and incorporates tools meant to work together. From online scheduling to patient portals, the single-platform solution delivers an ideal user experience.
Patients Tell Us Where To Go Next
Patients are consumers first, and they’re riding a wave of changes that call on us to step it up in our practices. The puzzle pieces continue to grow, and integration will continue to challenge our best management skills. Whether we’re running a single practice in a small town or ten clinics across urban centers, we need to meet patient-consumer demands and move into a future that’s already here.