Pharmaceutical manufacturers lose so much revenue through B2B re‑ordering errors. So why are more not turning to technology to help with e-commerce?

It seems the pharmaceutical industry is warming up to B2B e‑commerce – a global marketplace valued at $6.64 trillion in 2020.

And according to Deloitte, leaders of pharma companies are in the midst of unprecedented change. While this was true even before COVID-19, the pandemic has spurred a focus on R&D, technological transformation and growing global market presence.

Forward-thinking companies equipped with the right tools and technologies are more likely to adapt and prosper in the new post-pandemic norm.


The percentage of pharmaceutical companies planning to increase their investment in B2B e‑commerce over the next two years.

Source: Salesforce

Yet despite 74% of pharma buyers researching their purchases online, only 11% of medical supply and pharmaceutical manufacturers currently offer a B2B e-commerce buying option. It draws into question not whether to invest in B2B e-commerce but on what technology solution?

One readily accessible and easily deployable B2B e-commerce solution is mobile computer vision on smart devices. Web or app-based reordering on smart devices is an easy way to make the ordering process leaner and more convenient for product buyers. By digitalizing the process, manual processes and ordering errors are eliminated.

In this guide, we explore the three major benefits of equipping pharmacies and hospital procurement managers with scanning-enabled native or web apps to:

  • Increase product reordering accuracy and efficiency in healthcare environments
  • Improve compliance with better product tracking and returns
  • Promote user adoption with convenient B2B reordering

Increase pharmaceutical reordering accuracy and efficiency

Pharmaceutical buyers are already buying online because of the reordering efficiency it brings.


Pharma companies earn the majority of their B2B revenue from e‑commerce.

Source: Salesforce

So pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors who are not offering a B2B e‑commerce solution are losing out on potential sales and growth. It also places immense pressure on in‑person sales teams who make several disparately located and costly pharmacy visits to assist with product reordering.

Accuracy is also essential in the world of healthcare, not only for regulatory reasons, but for supply chain visibility and consumer/patient safety. Ensuring the right products are ordered in the correct quantity is a vital part of prescription fulfilment. By providing pharmacies and hospital administrators with a tool that’s simple to use, pharmaceutical manufacturers can help with product reordering compliance.

Traditionally, and particularly in the US, distributors and manufacturers give pharmacies and hospital buyers a costly dedicated device for ordering and reordering products, whether it’s medication or vaccines.

Smart devices on the other hand are widely used and provide an accessible way to offer B2B buyers scanning‑enabled reordering. Web or native apps on smart devices are easy to deploy and simple to use. Scanning products on shelves gives buyers full visibility of stock inventory, which means your product should never be missing from the shelves.

Healthcare Consignment Stock Count Bottom Shelf

Yet, there’s no need to use dedicated devices anymore. Equipping pharmacies and hospitals with a web app or native app for use on a smart device – smartphone, tablet or laptop – reduces hardware costs and the total cost of operation by up to two-thirds.

And by adopting a bring your own device (BYOD) model, pharmacy and hospital staff can use their own familiar device.

Smartphone scanning reordering offers flexibility, speed and accuracy for the buyer through a single device. Unlike dedicated devices, a buyer can switch between tasks easily, for example checking stock levels as part of the reordering process.

Cardinal health improved their product reordering efficiency:

Stat graphic Cardinal Health

Improve compliance with better product tracking and returns

One of the biggest challenges facing pharmaceutical buyers is returns. Pharmaceutical products expire, so, in order to meet regulations they need to ensure all dispensing products in stock have valid in-dates.

Therefore, having a robust product returns process is super critical, as is the need to track pharmaceutical Lot numbers and respond to recalls, if and when they happen. Product returns are often done manually, which takes precious time away from what is already a highly pressurized working environment.

Giving buyers high-performance smartphone scanning streamlines the identification of expiration dates and tracking lots, replacing error-prone and often manual processes. At the point of receipt, buyers can scan and parse individual or multiple Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) labels in a single scan. It’s also easy to capture 1D or 2D barcodes and record text such as Lot and REF numbers.

Scanning is fast and accurate in any pharmacy or healthcare environment – even in sub-optimal conditions such as low-light and glare, or inconvenient to access top or bottom shelves. With a native app, Scandit’s MatrixScan records an entire shelf in a single scan, while Augmented Reality (AR) overlays highlight expiration dates and other useful information to ensure compliance. See how in the video below.

Promote user adoption with convenient B2B reordering

A key hurdle to overcome regarding any B2B e-commerce reordering tool is user adoption. Pharmaceutical reordering is no exception. What drives adoption is ensuring pharmacy staff and hospital procurement managers have the same B2C frictionless experience they experience in their personal lives, when ordering B2B products from manufacturers.

The key difference being B2C customers are more prone to one-off purchases, while B2B pharmaceutical customers place larger volume or more specialized orders, often as repeat business, and as part of their everyday role. This increases the importance of a frictionless experience.

3 features pharmaceutical manufacturers said were important when picking an e-commerce solution

Customer satisfaction is critical to driving user adoption, which means minimizing irritation in the buying process by removing the frustration of labor intensive bottlenecks in product reordering.

Armed with a smartphone in their pockets, pharmaceutical buyers have mobile ordering at their fingertips and can order products on the go, whether in a pharmacy or hospital environment. By adding ultra-fast scanning to a manufacturer’s website or native app, buyers can conveniently scan, search and find products anywhere using Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK integrated into a web or native app without wasting time or risking errors.

Building a shopping cart on-the-go without needing to do it on a fixed desktop, saves hundreds of hours of ordering time. The speed and ease of ordering from a mobile scanning device are likely to lead to larger basket sizes, subject to a particular product being in-stock. Otherwise, product sales risk going to a competitor.

Healthcare Stock Count Top Shelf

Scanning performance impacts revenue generation


Buyers experienced errors in online ordering at least every two weeks. When products are returned revenue is lost.

Source: The B2B Buying Process 2019 Report, SAPIO Research

A poor digital ordering process directly impacts a manufacturer’s bottom line. In the case of pharmaceuticals, it can risk regulatory compliance. Buyers are more likely to abandon online baskets, resulting in lost revenue with costly demands placed on sales teams to assist buyers with product ordering.

Consequently, manufacturers are increasingly looking to equip pharmaceutical buyers with automated solutions that perform consistently well without breaking the bank. Manufacturers need to ensure their reordering process, whether facilitated through a web or native app, is error and hassle-free.

This relies on high-performance barcode scanning to ensure product barcodes can be scanned in any condition, such as glare, varying distances and even damaged barcodes.

stat graphic ers medical

Web app or native app?

When devising the optimum B2B e-commerce solution for pharmaceutical product buyers, it’s important to consider the user’s needs, where it’s used, and what it’s used for. Here are some of the considerations:

What integration is required with other systems?

When devising the right solution, consider the integration requirements early on. For example, is there an existing ordering platform, or does the app need to integrate with back-end systems like SAP or Salesforce? Scandit can advise on the best approach.

What environment will the device be used in?

In instances where internet speeds and connections are poor, it might be better to integrate Scandit high-performance barcode scanning into a web application, as no set-up or app is needed.

Watch Scandit’s SDK for the web in action
What’s your buyer’s needs and what experience do you want to provide?

If streamlining the reordering process is the main goal, a web app is a good starting point for achieving immediate efficiency. If your buyers would benefit from enhanced features, then a Scandit-enabled native app delivers computer vision functionality to further the buying experience.

For example, with a native app you can add augmented reality overlays to deliver stock inventory, lot numbers or expiration dates. Optical character recognition software reads any alphanumeric code, regardless of text size, font or color and is ideal for tasks like reading dates.

Watch Scandit’s native SDK in action
Which devices do your buyers use?

If your buyers want to use their own devices or different devices, a web app displays a mobile-optimized version of your web or e-commerce site to deliver the best user experience on different devices. Because web apps are accessed over the internet, through a web browser, they aren’t limited to a particular device or operating system.

It’s also important that a native app works seamlessly on different models. Scandit’s SDK works on over 20,000 mobile device types and all major barcode types.

What IT resources are available?

The availability of IT resources is an important factor when determining whether to deploy a web or native app. If deploying a native app, it’s worth ensuring you have the necessary IT resources to update a native app when new releases become available and ensure your buyers have the most up-to-date version.

A leaner reordering process

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are looking for a cost-effective way of enhancing the buying experience for their customers. Scandit’s computer vision technology offers an efficient and immediate way to automate an on-the-spot product reordering process, whether in pharmacies or hospitals.

Cardinal health quote Brendan Gardner

Whether you’re considering a web app or native app, Scandit works with you to ensure you opt for the right solution that has an effective integration approach, either to an existing e-commerce platform or backend system.

If improving your B2B e-commerce platform is one of your priorities, why not contact us today to start a conversation.

Find Out How We Can Help

Why Barcode Scanning Gives B2B Customers the User Experience They Need

Learn how mobile barcode scanning offers B2B buyers the same convenient user experience they have come to expect in their B2C lives.

Boosting Manufacturing Efficiency With Mobile Tracking

See how our innovative solutions can help you bolster the efficiency and profitability of your manufacturing operations through mobile tracking.

Simplifying Order Entry with Fast, Accurate Smart Device Scanning

Cardinal Health improved scanning performance and accuracy, and reduced hardware costs by integrating Scandit’s barcode scanner SDK into their mobile order entry application.