Omnichannel: Getting it right
Success with omnichannel depends on having the right customer data, analytics, and software.By Feb 2, 2024 on
Achieving the best omnichannel experience for customers -- physicians and patients -- is the goal of many pharma companies. And success with omnichannel depends on having the right customer data, analytics, and software.
But customer data is never static…it’s continually changing. So, maintaining multichannel excellence is an ongoing challenge for companies. They have to constantly learn from the latest data about their customers and make iterations to maintain an optimum seamless customer experience, pulling together and coordinating all sales and marketing channels and techniques.
There are a number of issues that pharma companies face on the road to getting the omnichannel experience right. “The importance of the work that we're doing and supporting can't be overstated. And I think the speed at which we all execute is probably too slow,” says Steve Bloodworth, Senior Director, Digital Marketing Technology Adoption, at AstraZeneca.
Bloodworth believes companies should be more nimble in their omnichannel processes. “I think the way that we execute is too slow. That creates issues for us. I don't feel we're customer-centric enough. We need to be flipping that and responding to the needs of our customers and what they want from these journeys and experiences,” he adds.
Bloodworth indicates that companies should be employing people with the right skills in insights and analytics to drive the orchestrated journeys and experiences of patients, while keeping that intelligence in-house. He also thinks that companies should be more experimental and test different types of content.
“We all work in science businesses, and we've got scientists that are constantly running experiments. But I think as marketers and technologists, I question whether we're doing enough experiments. That creates challenges for us and means we're not executing as effectively as we could,” he notes.
For Bloodworth, execution is critical, and it is important to have the right people with the right skills creating forums where data is discussed in a language that business leaders understand around real business goals, so that everything is anchored around the real successes that they want to achieve.
Joaquin Martinez, Vice President, Respiratory Marketing, US Commercial, at GSK indicates that to get omnichannel right, companies have to keep in mind that brands and customers take priority. “What do we want that (customer) experience to be across all our channels in cohesion in a way that they're working together in a more efficient manner?” he asks, “rather than taking a volume-driven approach of reach and frequency, which is how the industry has looked at engagement for many years.”
Orchestrate for the customer
Martinez wants to take the experience from a brand standpoint in local markets and expand it to considering the customer experience across an entire company. “What is the orchestration across brands and portfolios? We need to make sure that we're thinking about it (the experience) from the customer lens, from who's having this experience, rather than what we want as an industry or as a brand,” he explains.
To drive the customer experience, companies must harness employees with the right skill sets.
“You might not have them in one person in one role, but you may have them across the organization. We need to combine the art and science of marketing, and that takes a little bit of understanding. You might not know everything as a marketer, but how do you bring in those skill sets to be with you to make the right decisions for that customer experience?” asks Martinez.
Aligning to goals
Martinez cautions that when trying to experiment with new ways of engaging the customer, companies must determine “How does this align to the goal and objective that we're trying to achieve as a business? That’s one challenge that we need to address internally as we continue to drive with omnichannel and try new things. But at the end of the day, how are you tying it back to the brand strategy? How are you trying to bring it back to the business strategy?”
Martinez suggests that the learnings gained from data be graded in order to prioritize next best actions. He also notes that it’s okay to fail when experimenting if one can learn from failure so that they’re successful in the future.
“In the end, getting it right is hearing from your customer that they had a frictionless interaction with your company. It doesn't have to be more complicated than to know you're getting it right when you hear positive feedback,” notes Philip Pisa, Head Digital Marketing and Innovation, at Roche. “The point about omnichannel is that you're constantly learning, you're constantly adapting and looking at your data and iterating. You’re always learning something new,” he adds.
Pisa stresses the need to get strategic information for building omnichannel from the people that are on the front lines with customers, and to experiment with content.
Improving customer experiences
Partnering with a variety of stakeholders will help the customer experience. “Ultimately, the patient is the end customer,” says Pisa. “If we look at the patient journey, and want to improve the patient experience, we have to realize that the stakeholders that touch the patient journey can be very varied. They can include the lab, technicians, nurses, pharmacies, and the physicians. You should decide which stakeholder to partner with based on the pain point that you're trying to address on the customer journey,” he says.
Improving the patient experience might be as simple as helping patients find a clinic, or connecting a physician with a professional society so that they can find certain information for the benefit of a patient, he indicates.
Darshan Joshi, Global Head of Data, Oncology Business Unit, at Takeda says, “The real goal is a much more personalized customer experience. We have to be more focused towards that personalized, harmonized, adaptive, humanized experience. But how do you create your operating model to drive that?” he questions.
Martinez believes that a pharma company’s medical and commercial groups should work together when developing an omnichannel plan or strategy to create “a brilliant customer experience which encompasses all touchpoints with that customer. So yes, medical and commercial should be working together,” he says. They should align first on strategy and then determine how to achieve their objectives, he indicates.
While it’s important that a company’s omnichannel strategy aligns to its business strategy, the omnichannel strategy also should align to the customers and their needs, according to Bloodworth. “Think about your focus on the customer. How can you flip it so that it's pulling from the customer rather than pushing out?”
Although getting it right for the customer means having access to data, Joshi is concerned that companies may have too much data. “With all of these channels, we have so much data that we have a hyper-digitization and hyper-omnichannel ideation. We need to bring the conversation back to actual customer excellence. What is the experience they are seeking? That’s where the orchestration should drive, not more promotion than messaging.”
Joshi emphasizes the need to have a strong data and analysis foundation and to understand customer preferences so that content can be orchestrated appropriately. “It’s about how we can use data to optimize our channel mix.” Data must be harnessed to understand the customer. This understanding should be orchestrated across channels, and there must be feedback to show if there is success, according to Joshi.
Data is the backbone of omnichannel, according to Pisa. “You can't do personalization at scale without that data.” He explains that data makes it possible to add personal names to email communications, to learn which articles are read by a customer on a portal, and to segment patient populations. “Having custom data available unlocks much value across the business because you can go from an idea to executing on the insights you have,” he notes.
Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) can help in the planning for and development of omnichannel by optimizing efficiency and speed. Generative AI and language models can make it possible to generate quality content at a faster rate and lower cost. This makes more time available for determining how to best distribute that content, according to Pisa. He indicates that AI has the potential to improve efficiency and personalization, and raise insights from data that can be acted upon, although the use of AI still requires some oversight at this point in its evolution.
Bloodworth adds that AI has internal potential, such as for sales rep support, by offering insights and guidance on the best physician targets that can make the most impact on sales. Martinez has found that the more successful reps were the ones who followed the recommendations that were suggested by AI. The point about using AI, he explains, is that reps can process and learn much faster with the technology, that it’s important for them to use the digital tools provided, and that others will follow once they see the successes achieved.
Essentially, getting omnichannel right is a complicated endeavor, requiring that attention be paid to a myriad of details. But a successful omnichannel experience is an impactful way to engage with healthcare providers and patients.