Hot wheels

At one time, buying a wheelchair simply required finding a company that makes them and placing an order from among the limited selection of big bulky, unattractive products.

Today, the customer has a vast array of wheelchair models to choose from, and you can buy your custom wheelchair or other medical products online.

In late 2001, Invacare revamped its Web site to meet the changing needs of a growing consumer base. Those shopping for a wheelchair can see a 3-D demo of the company’s newest products, like its super lightweight A-4 model with adjustable center of gravity feature and color choices that include wet black with twilight sparkle, electric purple and jeweled green.

Beyond showcasing Invacare’s product line, which includes everything from walkers to titanium sport chairs, since 1999 Invacare’s e-commerce initiatives have removed more than 250,000 calls from its call center, saving time and labor costs.

The site also allows customers to download printed material including price lists, owner’s manuals and service instructions, and at 1,600 downloads a day, the savings in printing, mailing and storage is about $60,000 annually.

Invacare has also seen a positive change in online sales. With the total number of online and EDI orders at more than 22 percent and sales at approximately 20 percent, or 2,000 orders per month the annual savings in processing costs is about $370,000.

Using databases and XTML programming, external health care vendors can build their own transactional Web sites with very little technology. Vendors, heath care facilities and individual consumers can also register and access parts catalogs and order online.

By August 2002, Invacare had nearly 5,000 registered customers and approximately 2,000 registered physicians, clinicians and caregivers.

With an aging population living longer than ever, Invacare is proving that it understands its customer base will be asking more from its products. How to reach: Invacare Corporation: (440) 329-6808