With many trends influencing the growth of the ultrasound market, it is interesting to analyze the subsequent impact on the sales channels customers use to purchase equipment. As with most medical technology, the underlying factor of shrinking healthcare budgets is shaking up the ultrasound equipment product mix. The focus is on providing the best level of care and reducing high-cost procedures through prevention rather than cure; this is changing the way in which healthcare is provided. Not only are healthcare professionals seeking products that improve the return on investment, but also products that can be used in non-traditional applications; ultrasound equipment is now used by a greater variety of professionals than ever before. This is subsequently affecting the demand for user training and for receiving information directly from manufacturers.
IHS Markit estimated that in 2016, the sale of ultrasound equipment through direct channels accounted for 58% of global revenues. The mature markets of Western Europe, the United States and Japan are serviced mainly through direct sales subsidiaries. Faster growth is projected in emerging countries, which are mostly serviced through distributors. The direct sales proportion of global revenues is forecast to fall slightly to 57% by 2021.
The trends projected to influence the choice of channel used to sell ultrasound equipment are:
Growing demand for non-traditional ultrasound applications
Point-of-care ultrasound is one of the fastest growing applications for ultrasound, resulting in more, and more diverse, healthcare professionals using ultrasound equipment. As technology develops, the demand from other ‘non-traditional’ ultrasound professionals is increasing. Shearwave elastography technology and super high-frequency imaging is becoming increasingly popular, with oncology and musculoskeletal professionals seeking ultrasound equipment offering these features. This is expanding the customer base for ultrasound equipment. Some of these professionals would not have been previously trained to use ultrasound in their medical field. So there is increased demand for customer interaction and training from suppliers. Both direct and indirect sales channels are being influenced by an increased focus on specialist areas as a result.
Change in product mix
As the premium product features begin to be adopted by high-end products, the perceived return of investment is improving, maintaining demand for high-end ultrasound equipment. Customers who purchase high-end ultrasound equipment are much more involved in the decision-making process; they know exactly what product features they require. Direct subsidiaries are often active in a high-end product sale, even if the product is finally sold through a distributor. With increased demand for devices in non-traditional ultrasound applications, IHS Markit projects the revenues of portable compact and hand-held systems to grow the fastest. This is also opening the market up to new product launches in these product categories. Subsidiaries are likely to be established in countries that show greater uptake and have not previously been serviced directly.
Attitudes to low-cost devices are changing
Low-cost devices used to be associated with low quality. As healthcare budgets have been restricted in the last few years, purchasers have been smarter in what they can obtain for their budgets. They have opted for ‘it-will-do’ products to ensure they can still provide some level of imaging service. This has subsequently increased demand for low-cost suppliers that would not have been previously considered. There is currently less direct presence from low-cost suppliers, with most sales going through indirect channels. As demand for low-cost suppliers increases, there is the opportunity for new direct subsidiaries to be established. Expanded direct presence will further solidify their position in the market.
The IHS Markit Ultrasound Intelligence Service works with ultrasound equipment manufacturers, distributors, and experts in every region of the world to provide unparalleled insight into the global ultrasound market. In the recently published Ultrasound Distribution Channel Report, IHS Markit analyzed the 2016 ultrasound market in 32 sub-regions and identified the key trends that will influence the direct and indirect sales channels to 2021.
For more information about how IHS Markit can advance your competitive position in the ultrasound market, please visit our website at https://technology.ihs.com.