As the communication preferences of healthcare providers continue to evolve, life sciences organizations have invested heavily to explore innovative means for connecting, engaging, and partnering with their key customers. The annual Digital Pharma Innovation Week, that ran from June 21st to June 23rd, was a megaphone for more than 70 speakers from leading pharma, biotech, and digital enterprises to share cutting-edge strategies and best practices for the future of customer engagement.

From defining what omnichannel is (and isn’t) to revelations about the role of the sales rep moving forward, the various live sessions and panel discussions lifted the veil on what is waiting for customer engagement in the near future. ZoomRx customer engagement experts were on the ground at the conference and have captured the important themes and takeaways for pharma marketers below.

Multichannel vs. Omnichannel Customer Engagement

The Importance of Properly Understanding the Customer Journey

“Customer data is the primary driver behind omnichannel marketing. You need to understand the types of patients the MD sees, what kind of diagnostic tests they use, their current prescribing behavior, what messages they have heard in the past. Once you have all this customer data, then you can make a determination as to what is the right information needed in order to activate that MD.”

Growing digital sophistication means that healthcare professionals (HCPs) are increasingly expecting more personalized and engaging experiences. HCPs want answers to their specific questions, relayed in a concise and meaningful way, and through channels most convenient to them. However, rather than addressing what HCPs want to hear, pharma companies all too often prioritize the messages they want to convey through the channels they themselves are most comfortable using.

As a result, there is an ever-growing need for brands to understand how customers interact with healthcare-related content and to meet them where they are. A one-size-fits-all marketing approach fails to fulfill expectations across HCP segments, and marketing teams require a foundational understanding of various customer preferences and behaviors in mapping their journey. To enable a more complete and realistic view of the customer experience, leaders, brand teams, and sales & marketing partners must align in order to identify who their customers are and build an authentic perspective of the experiences they go through (read more on this topic HERE). Only then can a proper ecosystem of tools be optimized to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time, and through the right channel.

Shifting from Multichannel to Omnichannel

“We’re all seeking the 360-degree view, integrating the customer’s interactions and their digital fingerprints. Whether it's a phone call to the home office or a visit to the corporate website or a recent email or a new prescription, connecting data from these various touchpoints is what defines omnichannel marketing.”

While the idea of delivering meaningful content through multichannel marketing has been around for years, the life sciences industry trails verticals such as retail and consumer goods when it comes to the implementation of omnichannel marketing. Although both approaches involve engagement across multiple physical and digital channels, there are key differences in terms of their customer experience, goals, and execution.

Multichannel marketing aims to target customers as often as possible across as many channels as possible. However, the communications channels are generally siloed, with very little interaction amongst one another. As a result, multichannel strategies are formulated based on maximizing each individual channel rather than providing an interconnected experience across channels.

Omnichannel builds on this approach, leveraging insights from various engagement channels to customize and personalize the next touchpoint. This means using data to understand the customer and make informed decisions about how best to drive awareness, education, and ultimately action. Prior engagements and behaviors dictate the next message being received, and so each customer interaction has the potential to alter their future experience.

As of now, the life sciences industry is still in its nascent stages of its omnichannel journey. If these organizations are to transition from a predominantly multichannel model to an omnichannel one, two key concepts will come into play:

  1. Resources - For an omnichannel model to work, customer data must be synced across channels, which requires significant IT prowess, the right infrastructure and tech stack, and the vision necessary to execute on it.
  2. Incentives - A large part of making the transition to omnichannel is about incentives. Team will need to resist incentives that reward maximizing strategies in each individual channel for a greater, more personalized customer experience (read more HERE).

The Evolving Role of the Sales Rep

“We need to talk less about omnichannel and more about the digitally-enabled sales representative. Sales reps have this perception that digital is replacing them. Rather, what we are trying to do is enhance their ability to engage with their customers through additional data.”

There was a time when the sales representative was the primary cog in the life sciences marketing model. However, in more recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for sales reps to gain access to individual healthcare practices and institutions. In parallel, non-personal and digital communications have opened the door for a variety of alternative means for customer engagement. Taken together, factors such as these have contributed to the image of a shrinking, embattled sales force on the brink of extinction.

However, a successful customer engagement model should not be viewed as what many are calling The Death of the Sales Rep.  Rather, a successful omnichannel model should envision an entirely restructured role of the sales rep with major upside.

There is still a need for human intelligence, as opposed to artificial intelligence, when engaging with customers. Sales reps who are able to understand the customer's interests and needs on one hand and the organization's business objectives and value propositions on the other will continue to provide meaningful engagement. Thus, the recent rise of newer digital capabilities are not meant to replace the responsibilities of the sales rep but rather augment them during targeting, pre-call planning, and interaction quality.

Although much has been said about how artificial intelligence, machine learning, and next best actions will revolutionize customer engagement, a well-trained, digitally savvy sales rep will continue to be in demand. The success of omnichannel lies not in replacing human interactions with digital ones, but in combining these channels to enhance the overall engagement (read more on this topic HERE).

In Closing

Promotion in the life sciences industry requires a blend of art and science. Marketers must achieve a balance between relationship-driven personal promotion and event-triggered non-personal promotion to achieve an optimal customer experience at scale. Embracing these two mechanisms, and finding harmony between them, represents the quickest path to omnichannel success.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to find success in the customer engagement space, please leave your information below and one of our omnichannel experts will contact you.

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