Using E-Commerce to Your Advantage to Drive Global Nutritional Supplement Sales

by Timothy R. September 05, 2014

Using E-Commerce to Your Advantage to Drive Global Nutritional Supplement SalesNutritional supplements continue to be one of the fastest-growing sectors of commerce in the world. Due to many variables with far-reaching implications including geographical location, disposable income, lifestyle, and culture, the growing push for personal health responsibility will be highly beneficial to nutritional supplement companies. Technology and connectivity are at the core of the expansion and understanding of health and nutritional supplements. The internet has changed the way the world does business and is reshaping the global economy.

Global Growth of Nutritional Supplements

According to Forbes, as recent as 2012, domestic nutritional supplement sales reached US$32 billion and if trends maintain, sales are expected to increase yearly, nearly doubling to US$60 billion by 2021. Across the globe many developing countries are also emphasizing the importance of personal health, which has led to a boom of nutritional supplement sales in different regions. South American countries such as Brazil lead the way in the southern hemisphere while China, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific markets, including Japan, are expected to have the second-largest market after North America according to Nutraceuticals World. Globally, by 2017, the nutritional supplements market is expected to reach over US$204 billion.

The Digital Road to Future Nutritional Supplement Markets

One of the leading factors driving the global growth of the nutritional supplement market is the ongoing development of direct-to-consumer internet sales. Many countries and regions across the world remain untapped, but the expansion of the internet and a growing middle-class segment with greater disposable incomes makes online sales of nutritional supplements a crucial part of future health. Internet sales of supplements can level the playing field between mass-market and private label brands. In regions such as North America and Europe, and even in Asia, internet sales are already a big driver behind industry growth.

In the US alone, while internet sales only account for around US$3 billion of yearly nutritional supplement sales, it has experienced about 13% annual growth from 2009–2014. With nearly 87% of the US population having internet access, along with a growing number of baby boomers who are looking for health and wellness products online, internet sales will continue to jump over the next several years. This opens the door for smaller companies to expand their online presence as well. No company in the US, regardless of size, accounts for more than 20% of internet sales. Growing demand by consumers will allow more and more companies to find their place in this fragmented US market.

The Emergence of Amazon and eBay Within Online Sales

Nutritional SupplementsWhile company websites can be the main source of marketing for brands to promote their products and sales, other online outlets are jumping into the fray. Adding to their already robust source of 2.25 million products, Amazon.com Inc.'s AmazonSupply.com has become the largest competitor for many business-to-business E-commerce sellers. But it's the B2C market where both Amazon and eBay can become viable outlets for nutritional supplement companies. These two outlets have experienced rapid growth over the past few years by directly connecting to consumers, and over time they will continue to experience healthy expansion. From everyday vitamins and minerals to protein supplements, probiotics, and complex formulas, both Amazon and eBay offer easy access for any consumer to find their nutritional supplement needs, while allowing brands to gain a crucial new channel that will help them reach millions of people across not only the United States, but the world.

Internet Usages Across the Globe and Untapped Markets

While most residents in developed nations have integrated internet usage into their daily lives, people in other countries are just on the cusp of discovering the massive influence the internet can have on their lives and, in particular, their health. Nations such as India, the Middle East, and South America still predominantly get their health products and supplements through pharmacists and chemists. Increased internet usage can be a viable opportunity for greater E-commerce, especially in nutritional supplement sales.

From 2005–2012 the number of internet users in India grew from 50 million to 137 million, and the number of internet users has reached 213 million as of 2014.

In South America, the desire to improve personal health has gained steam among the middle class, primarily in the beauty care and nutricosmetics categories. Nearly 43% of South Americans use the internet as of 2011, which accounts for more than 173 million people.

The biggest internet-using population in the world is the Asian-Pacific. Including Japan and China, the number of internet users is an astounding 922 million and growing, with China alone accounting for 513 million internet users.

A Buzzing Future of E-Commerce in Nutritional Supplements

As the demand for nutritional supplements increases, technology will continue to spur on global growth. New revenue channels in new markets have paved the way for companies to gain a lucrative share in spreading good health in places where for so long, choices and awareness were lacking. The internet is the all-inclusive way to reach consumers regardless of location, culture, lifestyle, race, or language. Social media can also be used as a marketing and advertising tool to connect directly to consumers to help them gain more understanding on trends in a certain market, and where the next hot items or focus will be. In a highly competitive market, it's important to understand the tools at your company's disposal in order to allow your business to flourish.

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