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Branded Websites Most Effective in Driving Pharma Conversions and Adherence, Says Study

Chris Nelson

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Source: Online Marketing Effectiveness Benchmarks for the Pharmaceutical Industry (2011 Release)

Recently, comScore released their 5th annual report on online pharmaceutical marketing benchmarks. The key point that has persisted through all five annual reports is rather straightforward: Exposure to a branded pharmaceutical website remains the best way for pharma brands to see positive lift with prospects (new prescription fills) and existing patients (adherence). Visiting the brand site also has the most significant impact on brand awareness and brand favorability versus display media, with display media having a small impact on both.

ComScore doesn’t get specific as to what types of information or ads were used in the study, or what sections of the brand.com sites were visited. Below we can dig into some key takeaways and thoughts for pharma marketers.

Thinking Beyond Impressions

It may be time to rethink your media mix — or communication strategy as a whole — if you’re still relying purely on exposure and impressions as the key metric to evaluate your digital marketing. Media exposure alone struggles to move the needle because often the medium isn’t as effective in communicating brand messaging or product information. This is due to space limitations and medical, legal and regulatory restrictions.

If your goals are incremental sales, reduction of sales attrition, or patient adherence you may want to focus more on channels and partners that are effective at driving visits to your brand.com site. Focus more on cost-per-action channels as channels that continue to pay out over the long haul. These may include, for example, pay-per-click search engine marketing, cost-per-action or cost-per-acquisition programs and earned media channels, such as organic search. In our experience, these channels can drive highly relevant traffic to your brand.com in a very cost- effective manner.

One saving grace for ad exposure is the small impact on awareness, which may help with launches or short-term campaigns. In these situations, impression-driven ad buys can make sense because more "eyeballs" are exposed to the new information you’re trying to communicate. But if awareness is your goal, make sure you are set up to measure your impact on awareness! These days the amount of online inventory is limitless, but are your ad exposures reaching the right audience to increase awareness? And keep in mind, per the comScore data, visits to your brand.com site are still the best way to impact awareness (644% increase over exposure) and — of the activities measured — the only way to impact favorability with prospects.

Don’t Minimize the Importance of Adherence Communications

The comScore study also shows that existing patients who visit your site are more likely to adhere to their prescription. According to comScore, our ability as pharma marketers to impact adherence is even greater than our ability to convert new prospects (76% greater).

It is extremely commonplace for brands to experience adherence problems. The reasons for non-adherence are vast and vary across conditions. But typically when a patient makes the decision to stop or switch therapy — it’s for good (especially with chronic conditions). They move on to other product offerings.

As part of your overall contact strategy, you should have a messaging and distribution strategy for staying in touch with current patients and providing them with content, tools and services. Your existing customers are often the people you can interact with in the most cost effective and personalized manner.

Evolution of the "Brand.com"

Overall, the key comScore takeaway is telling us that exposure to brand messaging and production information and tools online works. It drives prescriptions and helps retain existing patients. The pharmaceutical brand.com is the primary vehicle for communicating brand information. But, in today’s world — what truly is a brand.com?

Look for ways to evolve your "brand.com" presence into new channels

The rise of the "Splinternet" has caused a revolution online. Social communities and mobile technology are driving smaller, more splintered webs within the Internet. While the brand.com will continue to be home base, what ways can your brand presence evolve? Will you one day have multiple brand resource centers across various niche health-focused social communities? Could prospects and patients text your brand for information? Could they watch (engage) with your brand on an Internet-capable television from ten feet away on the couch?

Pharmaceutical brands will be challenged within the coming years to evolve their thinking on the overall brand experience. The key will be to ensure that the messaging and value provided on the brand.com extends to emerging channels and technology, as they become part of patients’ daily lives.

Above All, Provide Value

Continue to look for ways to provide value to entice prospects to visit and engage with your brand. Provide valuable content, services and tools to patients. And remove barriers by letting them access this valuable content via whatever channel or device they desire.

As always, Intouch is here to help. Let us know if you’d like to talk about the right media mix, contact strategy or digital presence for your brand, using our contact us form.

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