Pharma Europe 2023

Apr 18, 2023 - Apr 20, 2023,

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Omnichannel: How will pharma get there?

The journey from multichannel to omnichannel requires closer data co-ordination, an agile approach, new metrics and nimbler content management

The goal is clear for pharma: true omnichannel engagement.  

A complete view of digital and in-person touchpoints for each customer, paired with analytics to deliver real-time insights to marketing and field teams, promises to be transformational.

More informed prescribing decisions, better patient outcomes and longer-term HCP relationships will result. And the commercial results should follow.

The industry has already taken great strides towards this future. Post-pandemic, pharma is addressing its previously fragmented approach to managing HCP relationships. It is expanding and maturing its digital engagement footprint while ‘right-sizing’ and reorganising its field teams.

As a result, reps today are able to get in touch with more customers and prospects, while the growing use of digital engagement has also enabled pharma to collect more data, such as being able to tell when physicians engage with what types of content. 

Pharma companies are no longer assuming they know what physicians want and are instead actually finding out what they need and providing it.

But few, perhaps none, can say they have yet mastered omnichannel. A 360-degree view of the customer remains a work in progress. The seamless customer experience that physicians have come to expect in their private lives as customers in retail, finance, or hospitality, remains an aspiration.

Stuck in multi-channel
In fact, most are a long way from enjoying the benefits of truly aligned engagement.

Different business units still manage different interactions. Both data and operations remain siloed. Teams typically do not know the last time a physician engaged with someone else at the company, who it was, or what content they received. This contributes to a disjointed engagement experience in which physicians have the same conversation or receive the same information several times.

Most pharmaceutical data management strategies also remain stuck in the multi-channel era in which each person on the team deals with a single vendor and manages data collection in a silo. Data also still comes in different formats and at different frequencies, creating lag and adding complexity. 

Much still needs to be done to drive the organizational transformations required to attain true omnichannel status. 

This includes:

Enabling a single view of engagements
The unified approach to engagement is what separates omnichannel engagement from multichannel engagement, which does not integrate individual channels. 

Getting from multichannel to omnichannel requires a single view of all interactions with a physician so that anyone from the company engaging with them - from field reps to medical affairs to marketing managers – know the last time that individual talked to the company and what they talked about. 

Enabling this requires logging each interaction – the meeting at the conference, the website visit, the in-person conversation, the call to the call center, the seminar, and so on – in a single database.

Crucially, creating this single view will enable seamless handoffs between physical and digital engagement activity. “Getting more effective in the field team’s coordination with digital channels, and vice versa, is the most valuable thing that an omnichannel engagement program can do,” says Charles Rink, Principal, Global Omnichannel Lead at Axtria.

Creating a program for modular content
Omnichannel marketing programs require far more content than the more traditional approaches, as the number of channels increases, and as analytics drive content decisions. Creating modular content that, once approved, can be reused in multiple campaigns has four core advantages. 
•    With fewer reviews required, campaign planning cycles can be truncated from months to weeks. 
•    The use of modular content means that messaging is consistent across multiple channels.
•    Modules serve as templates that make it clear what content should not change – but also what content marketers have the flexibility to change if desired.  
•    Content teams are better positioned to produce content on demand if a pivot is required – and MLR teams can turn reviews around quickly since they have a lighter workload. 

Expanding and maturing reporting and data collection
Pharmaceutical companies can pull data from many internal and external sources to inform their physician engagement efforts. Manvendra Singh, Senior Director, Head of Sales Innovation, International Operations, Novo Nordisk suggests that four pieces of information are foundational to identifying customers in digital channels: “Who are you, are you a validated customer, when did you last engage, and what did you engage on? From there, you can build out next-generation analytics.” 

Sales data is traditionally a reliable data source, but it will lag activity by weeks or even months, and granularity is often an issue for hospital-, buying group- or brick-level data sources. More companies are now gathering customer experience data, such as satisfaction scores, to optimise their marketing programs.

Metrics related to the customer experience can help map how physicians progress on the journey from awareness, to familiarity, to belief in, to use of, a product.

Leverage automation, AI and analytics
Many pharma companies are evaluating the potential for artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to support omnichannel engagement. One of the most common use cases is next-best-action recommendation: Identifying when, how, and on what channel the next engagement should take place using what content. 

Some recommendations may be simple – such as sending a thank-you email after taking a meeting at a conference – but others may be more nuanced. AI could provide more nuanced recommendations based on a complete knowledge of what engagements the customer has had with the company, past behaviors, and other customer data such as affiliations, demographics and key influencers they are connected to. 

But the resulting orchestration algorithms should not try to create elaborate customer journeys with many steps. Rather they should optimize each step based on the latest information about the customer. Companies can use a combination of tools such as dynamic profiles and scores, along with next-best-action recommendations, to help field reps and digital teams provide the best experience for the customer.

Bring agility to field force planning
As customer data is collected and analyzed on a more frequent basis, companies can take a more agile approach to field force planning. Call lists can be updated much more frequently as relevant data is collected and insights are generated. 

The agile provision of timely data can also empower field reps as decision makers, says John Wang, Senior Director, Commercial Insights and Analytics, Jazz Pharmaceuticals. “In the past, the sales force was considered the facilitator of getting the right message to the physician, while marketing was the coordinator of that information. It was considered more art than science. 

“Now, the frequency and volume of data that is being generated is so great that you can no longer operate by blind faith. Instead of looking at retrospective data, you can now use data to plan and start your activities.” 

This could include identifying which physicians should be seen on a weekly basis, compared to those who could be seen in person less frequently; it could also entail determining which messages a physician is likely to be interested in seeing next based on what they have talked about or downloaded recently. 

AI can help automate this insight consolidation process, such as helping compile a pre-meeting summary of the engagements that a physician has had with a company in the last six months. 

Bringing sales, marketing, medical, and analytics together
Grünenthal has enabled its key functions to collaborate by acquiring the technology necessary to transition from parallel messaging from siloed business units to more synchronous messaging. 

It has also reordered its internal structures, breaking down market access, marketing, and medical silos, says Florent Edouard, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Commercial Excellence, Grünenthal Group. “We redefined our strategy – we had our brands work with our affiliates to create content and tactics. Strategic thinking is at the foundation of everything.”

Most larger pharma players have much to do to bring together the key stakeholders who will be involved in the omnichannel transformation. As these stakeholders gather, they should begin with the end in mind. 

The goal is not just to ’do omnichannel’ but to meet a specific business need, adds Wang. “You have to define what success will look like for a certain market or disease state, for a company of your size, and for your budget,” says Wang. “What will deliver that back to your customers? This is important. Otherwise, you may do something that’s not tied to your business strategy.”

Measure return on investment and course correct as needed
Deciding how to measure the ROI for the various omnichannel engagement initiatives is a new challenge for pharma but also a source of new insight. The proliferation of data makes it possible to assess program performance more frequently than before. 

Until recently, doing traditional marketing mix analysis was based on old data and could only be carried out once or twice a year, says Wang. “Now, you can do marketing mix optimization iteratively – monthly or even weekly.” 

It is also important to provide context about digital engagement metrics – and how they should drive future engagements.  A framework that includes leading indicators as well as lagging indicators will help here. 

While the final goal is to measure improvement in sales, it is possible to measure how you’re moving the customer along the adoption curve through a combination of digital content engagement metrics and customer perception scores along the way. 

For a deeper dive into the journey to omnichannel download our whitepaper here

Pharma Europe 2023

Apr 18, 2023 - Apr 20, 2023,

Join the world’s leading cross-functional pharma event