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Omnichannel: It’s Time for Pharma to Get on Board

Jim Ruiz

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Once upon a time, legions of pharmaceutical sales representatives would bring grateful healthcare professionals (HCPs) documents bearing the latest information about medicines. Today, the world is different, and changes brought about by the industry, managed care, government regulators and technological innovation have affected how pharmaceutical companies market their products. This, in turn has morphed customer perception of the face-to-face sales call. What was once considered a welcome visit with a real value exchange is today often viewed as an interruption to the workflow in the physician’s office. Now, the primary value HCPs see in meeting with reps is acquiring drug samples, which could more easily be delivered by a courier.

Omnichannel = A Better Customer Experience
In recent years, no-call lists have grown, sales forces have halved, and HCPs have sought information through medical journals, digital content providers and peers of their choosing. They access information directly, using the channels and devices they prefer, whenever they want. Market research from Manhattan Research and Kantar Media consistently shows HCPs prefer information from the likes of Medscape, the New England Journal of Medicine and similar publishers, who provide relevant information with an engaging customer experience.

For pharmaceutical companies to serve their HCP customers in relevant, meaningful ways that build direct relationships based on a real value exchange, they need to employ omnichannel marketing, which is fast becoming the standard for providing the most impactful customer experiences across many industries. Unlike multichannel marketing, which typically involves a siloed approach to marketing within each channel, omnichannel marketing is more strategic and involves delivering a data-driven, customer-centric experience that flows seamlessly across channels and devices. In short – omnichannel is about delivering a better customer experience.

What’s Driving the Need for Omnichannel in Pharma?
For starters, physician expectations of marketing have shifted. Outside of work, physicians are consumers, and they recognize how they conduct business with companies in their personal lives has changed dramatically over the years. Changes to pharma marketing aren’t coming about as quickly in their professional lives, however. This is because when it comes to advances in marketing, pharmaceutical companies are often slow to adapt.

Companies like Amazon are pioneers in digital marketing. While Amazon didn’t invent omnichannel, they seized upon it quickly, and it’s a core component of their business model. Amazon knows every customer who purchases from them and leverages each individual’s data to provide a personalized, relevant experience. A central database underlies their marketing model, which enables the seamless experience across channels and devices that's the hallmark of omnichannel. Customers flock to Amazon because they get a consistent, reliable experience that saves time and money, and provides a high level of service. Customers are coming to expect this type of experience from all the companies they do business with.

As pharmaceutical marketers, we must begin to meet changing customer expectations by delivering omnichannel experiences. The issue isn’t that physicians recognize an omnichannel experience when they receive it, but that they have a jarring moment of recognition when they don’t. The antithesis to an omnichannel experience is a disconnected one where channels are siloed, information is repeated, little value is exchanged, and the customer is left feeling there has to be a better way. This is the disjointed type of customer experience many pharmaceutical companies continue to deliver, and it needs to change.

As pharmaceutical marketers, we must begin to meet changing customer expectations by delivering omnichannel experiences.

Creating Omnichannel Experiences: How We Get There
Omnichannel experiences don’t just happen; they require planning, development, testing, implementation and ongoing optimization. They are insight- and data-driven, dynamic and highly personalized. We must plan and develop data-driven experiences to track customer engagement at each step of the customer journey, regardless of channel or device. Automated data analysis provides customer insights and real-time business intelligence that’s used to extend the buying experience across channels and devices, continuing to evolve a dialogue with customers that enables sales and delivers relevant customer service when and where it’s needed.

Behind any omnichannel experience is a single database that provides a unified view of each customer across all channels. Advanced marketing automation technology — like the kind we use at Intouch Solutions — allows the marketer to orchestrate the seamless, data-driven customer experience that has been planned. The technology enables a consolidated view of the customer across all touch points, as well as their engagement history, so real-time business intelligence can be applied. It also provides a campaign-management layer that facilitates real-time engagement in any channel.

The creation and curation of valuable content is also critical. HCPs demand relevant, timely information that’s beneficial to them and their patients. In order to do this well, marketers must stay abreast of industry and medical news, and create content that’s meaningful for their HCP audiences and provides unique insights or practical tips that HCPs can use in their practices.

Increase Engagement, Increase Conversion
While it may all sound daunting, omnichannel marketing need not be the purview of only those with the most complex data sets, strategies, marketing automation and advanced analytics. You can distill its impact into two basic KPIs: engagement and conversions. Studies have shown that an effective omnichannel experience increases customer engagement, which increases sales and maximizes profits.

At the end of the day, we’re all digital consumers. We can see that omnichannel has become the standard customer experience in much of the consumer world. HCPs are also consumers, and the preferences and habits of HCPs and patients are becoming more acclimated to an omnichannel approach. So pharma must get on board and deliver the experiences customers want and are coming to expect from all businesses.

If you’re interested in learning more about how an omnichannel strategy can work for you, reach out to your account lead or contact us at getintouch@intouchsol.com.

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