How did the head of a major retail conferencing and exhibitions business pivot his operations during the COVID-19 pandemic to support frontline medical and retail staff? Discover how the MedCart marketplace is supporting the COVID-19 effort and retaining livelihoods in the process.
Two months ago Phil Leahy sat by his mother’s hospital bedside and was struck by the environment around him. He could see first-hand the dedication and hard work of professionals across every discipline. Yet he worried about the impact of a virus like COVID-19, or any other potential health outbreak for that matter, on a system that was already clearly near its limits.
Lockdown - where’s the work?
A short time later, the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared and nations around the world began locking down. As Founder and CEO of Retail Global, Phil suspended all his company’s conferencing and exhibitions. Like many other businesses, suddenly his highly skilled and productive team was hamstrung. There was a complete halt on all events, and a lack of clarity around the easing of restrictions made it difficult to plan ahead. They wanted to be productive, but the situation didn't allow for it.
A Frontliner reinvention
Phil and his team saw an opportunity to divert their resources and skills and play a meaningful part in the COVID-19 crisis. Within a matter of days, Frontliners, an initiative providing healthcare kits (from in-kind and financial donations) to frontline staff around the country, was formed.
With his team rapidly transferring their skills from retail and conferencing to relief aid work, Frontliners was able to coordinate the donation and redistribution of essential items to those at the coalface of our healthcare system. Kits comprising necessities including multivitamins, sleep aids (ear plugs), long-life food, caffeinated drinks, sanitary items and protein/snack bars were gifted to our emergency workers.
In no time at all some 20,000+ health workers were registered with Frontliner and they began to place specific product suggestions and requests.
Personal Protection Equipment shortages
As the COVID-19 crisis worsened a shortage of critically-needed protective equipment began to face countries worldwide, including Australia. Businesses wanting to help reacted quickly, repurposing their facilities and/or systems to help demand by improving supply. But this goodwill encountered two key stumbling blocks:
1/ Hospitals could only use goods that were compliant with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
2/ Friction in navigating the right channels to market
Once more Phil and his team identified an opportunity to facilitate, and a meeting with Marketplacer was organised.
Medcart - a marketplace for PPE and other frontline essentials
In a remarkably short period of time Frontliners and Marketplacer developed Medcart, a B2B and B2C marketplace providing supply and demand for personal protection equipment and other essential items. Frontliner already had the demand - over 20,000 registered members. Their team quickly set about consolidating the supply, with more than 50 sellers signing up immediately.
Vendors with items including face masks, scrubs, gloves and hand sanitisers can now establish eCommerce enabled accounts (at no cost for the first six months) listing all their items for sale. The marketplace provides information and guidelines on TGA compliance.
Results for frontline workers, SMEs and beyond
For frontline workers:
In bringing the market to a single online destination Medcart has made it exceptionally easy and fast for entire medical institutions, retail organisations or even individual workers to quickly and easily access and buy PPE and other essential items. The savings in time and money are expected to be substantial. The savings in terms of anxiety and helping protect staff from personal risk is immeasurable.
For small to medium business:
Medcart has not only helped sustain the employment of the full Retail Global team, but it has provided a clear path to market for other businesses that are repurposing in an effort to support the healthcare system and self-sustain. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease in Australia and workers begin to return to their workplaces, it is also expected that the demand for PPE and other essential items amongst small and medium businesses will also increase, requiring many employers to source these items for their employees via the Medcart site.
For further afield:
The combined Frontliner and Marketplacer teams built a project committee that delivered an entire marketplace in less than a month, a colossal achievement. It’s little surprise therefore that the initiative has already sparked interest from offshore, with parties in the US in particular keen to consider a similar adaptation.
Visit the MedCart marketplace here.
Have you identified a marketplace opportunity?
Whether you believe your existing business model is ripe for an online marketplace, or like Frontliner you’ve identified a potential opportunity, touch base with us. Our team is currently working on some of the most ambitious online marketplaces in the world, and we can offer you sound initial advice. We’d love to hear from you.