This topic has been beat to death a lot here lately. But, you are the first eCommerce poster I have seen jump into the subject. This should get real interesting.
I am not a hearing aid professional. Just a hearing aid wearer. I do how ever work for a company that manufacturers and sells our products in both a brick and mortar store and via eCommerce sites. So, I have some direct experience in your business model.
Reading about you on the site, neither of you list any experience in a hearing aid or medical goods field. You mainly list engineering and business back grounds. Not anything wrong with people from those back grounds working in the hearing aid field, but I personally would hesitate to get hearing aids from someone without a background in hearing aids, either an Audiologist, or at a minimum a licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist.
Based on the pictures of your products and the mention of "A Leading German Hearing Aid Manufacturer" on your website, your products are obviously re-branded Siemens. Siemens has verbiage on their own website that they do not support the sales of their products in a non face to face environment. The exact verbiage is.
"At our sole discretion and determination, Siemens reserves the right to refuse and/or cancel orders for our hearing instruments from individuals whose businesses we believe do not or cannot themselves provide professional face-to-face in-person fitting and support to the hearing impaired consumer or take sufficient measures to ensure that the hearing impaired consumer will ultimately receive a professional face-to-face in-person fitting. Siemens will independently and unilaterally determine whether this fitting and support requirement is offered and/or provided."
Here is the link to the location of this information on their website.
So, how are you getting around this limitation from Siemens?
Your "Online Hearing Test" is nothing new. Other sites have similar "testing". The cheap home headphones purchased for $20 at the local office supply store can not be trusted to generate true frequencies or decibel level to give a true test result. The hearing testing equipment used by professionals cost a lot more than $20 and has to undergo frequent diagnostics to confirm that the frequencies and decibel levels output by the headphones are correct. So sorry, I do not trust any "Online Hearing Test" to be anywhere near accurate.
Your site does not list what happens after you sell a hearing aid. How does it get programmed to match the hearing loss of the customer? Are you leaving it up to the customer to find a local Audiologist that can support and program your brand new model of hearing aids? Are you providing software and interface for customers to program their own hearing aids? If so, is it free? Do you offer support in use and programming?
You need to tell your customers that the local Audiologist or HIS is not going to program and maintain your hearing aids for free. So those supposed saving you just gave them, they will start to evaporate real quick each time they have to pay for programing, servicing, supplies like tubes or domes, etc.
Your pricing model is very misleading. And it will end up causing many problems for the professionals that end up having to support your products after you have made your sale.
Granted, I paid a lot more money for my top of the line Beltone/ReSound hearing aids than you are charging for your top of the line hearing aids. But, I get lifetime support and programming from any Beltone Office in the world. Not having to open my wallet each time I walk in their office is a real bonus in my book. Will not have that luxury with your model.
Regarding Audiologist Profits. I am coming up on my 1 year anniversary from when I got my hearing aids last year. Over the last year I have been back to see my HIS about 20 times. (Yes, I am a problematic and demanding customer.) Each visit has been a minimum of 1 hour. And several visits were over 1 hour. But, lets just round it off to 20 hours of face time with my HIS.
Making an assumption that my HIS makes at least a decent living wage for his work. Lets say he makes $60,000 a year. That is roughly $30 bucks an hour. So, my 20 hours of visits he has earned $600. That is just his wage, does not include his receptionist, lease, equipment fees, utilities, etc. That would bring it up to closer to $1000 to support me and my hearing aids for the past year. Like I said above, I get lifetime support for my hearing aids. The way I see it, I will not be loosing money on this deal compared to what I would end up paying if I payed separately for each visit.
As much as it may sound like I am negative against your business model. I truly am not. If I were, I most likely would just have ignored this post and waited for the flaming to start. Hearing Aids are expensive. Some Entrepreneurs need to step in and help fix it and I see that you are trying. But, I do not see this model as doing anything to fix the problems. You are just taking a profit margin on the hardware and kicking the patient down the road for someone else to do the real hard work and that actually deserves the profit. Some of your eCommerce competitors have a much better model than yours already in place. So in my opinion, you have a lot of work ahead of you to distinguish yourself from the pack. It is not a crowded field you are competing in. So if you can come up with a good model, it would not be hard to make it successful.
That is all I can think to post for now. Lets see what others have to say.
My Audiogram 9/23/2010
Bone Conduction are all 20 Db or less
Diagnosis from Au = Moderately Severe rising to Mild CHL
L: 100% at 85 dB SRT 45
R: 100% at 85 dB SRT 40
I am on my First Set of Hearing Aids, which are Beltone True 17's Purchased in February of 2011.