Despite the global move towards “the more specialized/individualized/customized – the better” approach, it is hard to undermine the meaning of the intersection-based innovation. It’s what we find in the blend of the already discovered and the unknown, at the edges of the industries, economic sectors, resulting in the so-called cross-industry innovation, which usually brings the most creative and prolific breakthroughs, providing the world with interconnected, truly global solutions.

It comes as no surprise that healthcare and pharma are borrowing lessons and business models implemented within other industries: retail, hospitality, media, service providers and even banking. As different as these fields are from healthcare, they all happen to share the most basic of economic concepts: supply and demand. What are the ideas pharma could borrow from other industries to supply the new demand for better communication with customers? Let’s explore a couple of bright examples.
digital transformation

Embrace the digital

One of the first and, probably, easier steps in the endeavors towards better communication with the customer is embracing the digital – preferably, becoming digitalized at the very core of the customer relationship model. What is pharma’s stance on this? Well, when discussing pharma’s digital transformation journey, only someone ill-informed or new to the industry would not pinpoint pharma’s rather slow pace. After all, the well-known digital maturity index, calculated across industries by McKinsey, demonstrates that pharma industry is leading… second from behind.

Given the restrictive nature of the pharma industry as well as the sheer complexity of its business model, this is hardly surprising, but it is far from a lack of knowledge. Most pharma companies do recognize that digital will have a disruptive impact on healthcare sector, and different level of intensity calls for its digital disruption sound frequently and loudly during every pharma-related conference. However, only 10% of pharma companies would make that step for building their strategic decisions upon a holistic understanding of how digital will affect their business model, compared with 22% across all industries and 37% for leaders of digital disruption.

The fault seems to be lying not on pharma’s lack of awareness, but on overall reluctance towards adapting digital decisions and embracing this age of digital disruption. Many will say that this statement is not true as pharma is forced to move forward, just like the other industries are, by the digital. Yet this movement seems to remain exceptionally one-sided for pharmaceuticals.
novel approaches to how companies go to market

So, we may notice the revolutionary events in sectors of clinical trials and overall drug development, but rarely can pharma boast about how it has revolutionized its business model or how it discovered new efficient ways to satisfy its versatile audiences. In many cases, treading carefully remains the key approach, although a lot is said about new shifts. In this case, it’s the industry’s customers, its audience who take on the job of being heard, considered and therefore becoming the transforming force of those schemes. The change comes from without and it has become quite obvious how successful its drivers are.

Customer experience management

Coming back to the digital maturity index – unlike pharma, retail was rated 3rd from the top, so let’s talk about what made retail’s digital efforts count. Of course, the healthcare sector is nothing like retail, it is far more highly regulated and regulated and… surprise – regulated. However, among the many things that define Amazon’s approach to communication, the ones that stand out the most are its absolute customer centricity and omnichannel core of the business model. Coincidentally, these two points will be very important for pharma’s digital marketing over the next few years: optimizing the customer journey across multiple touchpoints (74% pharma to 70% average) and ensuring consistency of message across channels (65% pharma to 66% average).

Also, it is small, sometimes preemptive rearrangements that count more than big, loud, transformational shifts (consider indications of a perfect stay in hospitality sector, as well as industry’s 2nd  place in McKinsey’s report). It’s all the little things that make the customer experience truly indispensable. For pharma – consider cases when the rep is not able to wrap up a face-to-face visit on time and schedules a remote detailing with physician instead to continue communication, consider when the presentation demo works perfectly on any type of doctor’s screen and device, consider when after the remote detailing, physician receives the survey to evaluate his/her interaction with pharma, – these little details speak “access and convenience” to the customer – thus, providing a textbook example of customer-centricity and sustainable communication.
pharma's fundamental job

Multichannel or omnichannel campaign management

Multichannel campaigns and customer experience are closely correlated. The ability to seamlessly engage potential customers at various touchpoints goes along with making their experience better. Here again, Amazon provides a couple of interesting behaviours to follow. When retail offers a seamless experience, it means it will be equally easy to explore irs services on a smartphone during lunchbreak, on a tablet during a meeting and on a computer at home. Can pharma grant a proper display of presentation demo on any screen resolution of the physician’s device (smartphone, laptop, iPad)? Can it grant the key messages will be noticed and the customer experience – captured, analyzed and improved?

However, there’s so much more to learn from Amazon for pharma, than simply ensuring cross-platformity of presented content. The ability to engage with all insdustry stakeholders, be it doctors, healthcare professionals or even patients; via various channels, both online (conferences, email campaigns, social media engagements, KOL webinars) and offline channels of communication (pharma rep or MSL visits) would be the most powerful examples of such emulation. Moreover, the ability to offer seamless, unconspicuously great engagement experience between the online and offline schemes is now as important as ever – this part is important for teams of marketers, product managers and, of course, field force. A wholesome, five stars pharma marketing experience should work both internally and externally – towards the teams shaping it and its audiences.

Providing greater value for all

The pharma sector is highly regulated and implementing an omnichannel experience for HCPs is far more complicated, compared to a similar steeplechase in the strictly B2C world of retail business. It’s understandable that in such a regulated industry, the threat of getting huge sanctions due to overstated claims or misleading marketing messages is a no way negligeable challenge to face. There is also a need of a digital tool aimed at bringing greater value to internal as well as external stakeholders of the pharma marketing conjuncture, with thought-through workflows for sales, MSLs, KAMs teams, and ultimately, seamless experience for their customers – physicians and patients.

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