Disrupting Australia's medical supply chain through an online marketplace

Founder of MedCart shares how digital acceleration through the pandemic led to creation of an online markeplace for medical suppliers

In few places has the acceleration of digital adoption in the last two years been more prominent than in healthcare, where Covid drove a rapid switch to virtual delivery.

Now, retail and events entrepreneur, Phil Leahy, is wanting to take that transformation further, with the creation of an online marketplace, MedCart, that is attempting to rewrite relationships between medical suppliers and their customers. But to do so, he also needs to build a brand that will ensure those suppliers find a willing and ready audience for their products.

Leahy launched MedCart in 2021 off the back of another successful venture, Frontliners.com.au. The service debuted in the early days of the pandemic as a way of delivering encouragement and support to frontline workers around the country.

“We ended up delivering up to $3 million in products and services to 134,000 healthcare workers nationally,” Leahy told CMO. “Now we continue to do that work and assisting the volunteers and those who go out and help in national tragedy situations.”

That project caught the attention of Jason Wyatt, co-founder of online marketplace technology provider, Marketplacer, who then contacted Leahy with a new idea.

“Jason had seen what we had done with Frontliners and saw there was a need in the medical world to connect the dots,” Leahy said. “I looked at it and saw there was. Everything was done old-school, and the way the industry works is they were still sending reps out. It needed disruption.”

The result is MedCart. Leahy said it’s signed up 85 marketplace participants selling more than 35,000 items so far. The plan is to increase those numbers to 150 sellers and 40,000 products.The marketplace has achieved annual sales of close to $10 million in less than 12 months.

“We are filling out the pharmacy,” Leahy said. “We want to have everything a chemist has, but we also want to go a lot further. It is about the longtail for us.”

Phil LeahyCredit: MedCart
Phil Leahy

The company is also in the process of opening in New Zealand, and Leahy has the US and Europe in his sights.

While customer numbers are confidential, Leahy said the marketplace received a significant bump in sales in December last year thanks to the scarcity of rapid antigen tests – something Leahy had anticipated earlier in the year.

“We worked really hard in August last year and started getting RAT suppliers on board,” Leahy said. “By 1 November, we had Australia’s largest online range of RATs. I was pretty disappointed with sales in November – I thought they would have been bigger – then December hit and sales went through the roof.”

That foresight translated into media attention for MedCart as supplies elsewhere dwindled, resulting in media coverage on national news programs. However, rapid growth also caused its own problems.

“We have to rely on our wholesale partners to make sure they have the product at hand,” Leahy said. “One of the problems we learned in the tsunami of January is we had some partners who had product listed who didn’t actually have it. That was very painful for us. It took six weeks to get back on track, and we have had some reputational damage from it - we have learned a big lesson from that.”

Ongoing growth for MedCart has come through a program of paid search, and Leahy also saw significant opportunities via partner marketing programs. The company is in the process of recruiting a permanent head of marketing and data scientist.

In addition, MedCart is committed to maintaining high standards of customer service, including the introduction of 24/7 phone and video support, to ensure it remains differentiated from any other market operators that might push into MedCart’s territory.

“We don’t want to do what everyone else does and push customers away into the automation funnel, we are going back to humans and talking,” Leahy said. “We have a lot of work to do in terms of building brand and building community, but we do a lot of good. We have had that in our DNA for 15 years, before it became fashionable. We will move quickly, and we will win.”

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