REPORT: ‘Which?-style’ mobility website helping dealers and suppliers to reach end-users

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As the Disabled Living Foundation’s most visited website, Living Made Easy is attempting to become the place to be for mobility suppliers, retailers and products. The ‘Which? website for mobility products’ is growing rapidly and AMP looks at why it is becoming increasingly popular with companies while at the same time helping end-users to source equipment easily and safely.

People don’t plan for disability or ageing. So when it comes to finding equipment for the first time to aid independent living it can be an overwhelming prospect and difficult to know where to start. Unfortunately, many end-users and their relatives view the market with a degree of scepticism and a combination of this and a lack of awareness about equipment can make it difficult for providers to help them and to draw new business.

Likewise, most end-users will not be familiar with bodies like the BHTA marking out some of the most reputable companies, meaning it can be hard to prove your reliability to understandably cynical customers. Luckily, the mobility sector is geared specifically towards finding solutions, and that’s not just limited to the end-user.

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The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) is an organisation set up to be a source of expert, impartial information and advice on all types of daily living equipment for older adults and disabled people. Since 1969 it has been guiding end-users on the equipment available, but for the last couple of years it has been implementing a new strategy to signpost individuals directly towards retailers in what appears to be a win-win model.

Users can compares products so they can secure the best deal on the product that is right for them.

DLF’s subsidiary website, Living Made Easy, is a purpose-built site featuring more than 10,000 products from over 950 suppliers and is best described as a Which?-style website for mobility aids, only without the product testing. And while it is primarily designed to make an end-user’s mobility equipment journey smoother and easier, a by-product of the site is that it can be an effective route to market for independent living aid providers.

And what sets Living Made Easy aside from other mobility comparison sites is its impartiality and the fact that product entries are written largely by OTs, explains DLF’s knowledge manager, Amanda Shiel. “It’s been written by industry experts, and we are also a member of the Information Standard. It’s a quality mark showing that the content given can be trusted. We have to have this content reviewed every two years so that it is accurate and it enables users to make informed decisions.”

“What you’ve got is a targeted audience. You know that people have a need and when they start browsing your products they are already interested and engaged in buying”

Knowing that information can be trusted is a sure-fire way of attracting customers, especially in an age where end-users and their relatives or carers are researching more and more before making purchases. And from DLF’s point of view, this makes the Living Made Easy site a good place for suppliers and dealers to be.

Shiel says the site gets around 1.2m unique users a year. She reveals that it has had 6m page views this year so far and is accelerating rapidly in terms of visitor numbers. “What you’ve got is a targeted audience. If you’re putting products out on another site you don’t know who’s visiting. You know that on Living Made Easy visitors are people who have a need and when they start browsing your products they are already interested and engaged in buying that product. Once they’ve clicked through to a retailer’s website, that’s a pretty hot lead in sales terms. You’ve got that engaged audience.”

Retailers can also improve their chances of being clicked on when on the site through DLF’s premium listing scheme. Providers can pay to have their website button made more prominent, increasing the likelihood that users will follow the link. Shiel explains: “The premium listing scheme is popular. We’re still impartial but the eye is drawn to that listing and the click-through rates do increase with that.”

Hundreds of providers have already registered themselves with DLF. But the organisation also has its own business development team that goes out to shows and exhibitions to hunt down potential suppliers. DLF’s data services team leader, Karen Hughes, says that because the Living Made Easy site is impartial it can add any supplier meeting DLF’s criteria.

“We have a field on our database that will say if a retailer is accredited, by the BHTA for example. They don’t have to be accredited. We don’t promote those companies over other companies, we just state that they are members. We give people the information and then they can do what they want with it.”

It is hoped that placing a focus on impartiality and responsibility will help end-users to trust the providers they are buying from, which in turn could create long term, loyal customers. DLF has found that a lot of people buying equipment for the first time feel fearful, useless or overwhelmed. Family members have little experience and suddenly need to become an expert, which can be daunting.

Shiel says that a lot of people muddle through, not even knowing that there’s equipment out there that can help them. Living Made Easy aims to let people know that there are solutions out there. “People often start off by buying a small aid, but we all know conditions can worsen and change, so that’s where DLF can step in and help people along the stages, giving them advice on low cost solutions right up to the bigger products.”

As well as placing dealers at the right place at the right time, DLF’s initiative is helping to arm end-users with the knowledge to question things and make more informed purchases on often expensive items which are essential for day-to-day living. This has the potential to filter out the companies who can’t provide the answers or who are not offering a service matching other industry firms. At its core, Living Made Easy is highlighting the benefits that retailers can reap by trading with clarity, honesty and responsibility while at the same time helping end-users on their mobility equipment journey.

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