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Going Omnichannel? There’s a Method for That

October 31, 2019 by Justin Grossman0

With digital pharma teams in the throes of 2020 annual planning, omnichannel marketing has risen to the top of the priority list.

As our industry rushes to keep pace with customer expectations shaped by faster-moving sectors like CPG, marketers have broadened their focus beyond the channel-based tactics of the past. “Omnichannel” is now shorthand for the ideal future state of pharma marketing: a seamless and personalized experience for all customers, and a martech ecosystem that gives brands the power to deliver it.

Still, marketers are wondering: how exactly do I achieve omnichannel success?

I recommend a methodical approach. Our experience working with hundreds of pharma marketing teams has revealed that there are three phases every brand must navigate on the path to true omnichannel marketing — each with its own considerations and requirements.

As your 2020 plans take shape, think about which phase of omnichannel transformation you’re in now. What actions you can take next year to continue the momentum?

Phase 1: Channel Optimization

How well is your brand performing in each channel? Your ability to answer this question is a good indicator of your readiness for omnichannel marketing.

Brands in Phase 1 are leveraging a standard set of digital platforms that provide data for the channels they support; email automation platforms measure open rates, CMS platforms and analytics tools track site traffic, and media platforms count ad impressions. Data exists, but it’s mostly transactional. Quarterly reports might correlate data for each channel to top-level goals, but the attribution is not precise and conclusions are not actionable.

Phase 1 organizations should focus on two areas.

  • Reporting — Look beyond transactional data to understand how well each channel is supporting KPIs. Keep in mind that KPIs are key performance indicators; there should be a limited number of meaningful outcomes that your team can accurately measure and consistently report on: prescription lift, adherence, etc. Dashboards for every team (media, web, email, others) should attempt to demonstrate how their channel is impacting KPIs. With all stakeholders reporting on the same KPIs, the brand will naturally start to align on more customer-centric goals and consider how multiple channels could work better together.
  • Segmentation — Phase 1 brands have established demographic customer segments that drive high-level messaging; for example, physicians in the same practice area all receive the same email sequence. These demographic segments are a start, but deeper behavior-based segments that align to KPIs (e.g. frequent prescribers, non-adherent patients) a valuable next step. Determine what data would help you establish segments of customers who share key behaviors, even if you don’t have access to the data just yet.

If you’re still struggling to define KPIs or to understand how demographic segments are engaging with your brand, your short-term focus should be on optimizing the core platforms you’ve put in place to support your channels today.

Phase 2: Data Centralization

With a solid understanding of how channels are performing, you’re ready to leverage cross-channel analytics. This sets the foundation for optimizing spend.

How? Suppose that prescription rates are falling within a physician target segment. The media team ramps up display spend on target networks, the brand team tests new creative, and field reps increase email frequency. Too often, these uncoordinated efforts result in overspend and do nothing to improve real-world customer experience (CX). Considering that HCPs are 2.7 times more likely to prescribe a drug when they are satisfied with their overall CX versus a single channel, orchestrated omnichannel journeys have a real impact on the bottom line.

With pharma marketing budgets historically allocated by channel, teams often default to adjusting tactics within channels to improve performance. In Phase 2, you’ll focus on centralizing data to inform smarter strategies.

  • Customer data platform (CDP) —  A CDP is software that aggregates customer data from every channel in a single database. It integrates with your existing platforms to resolve user identities, track interactions across platforms, and trigger messaging. A CDP provides a more holistic picture of how your customers are interacting with your brand in real time, replacing disconnected transactional metrics. It doesn’t replace the platforms you already have in place; it complements them.
  • Behavioral segments — In Phase 1, you identified the behavioral data you need to create segments of customers who don’t just look alike on paper, but act alike in their digital journeys. With a CDP in place, you can gather and analyze behavioral data to craft better user journeys instead of optimizing “conversions” like ad clicks that don’t correlate to KPIs. What events signal high-value behavior? What combination of touch points indicates a likelihood to convert?

Keep in mind that you may not have enough data to create omnichannel journeys for every customer group right away. Start small; our clients typically run pilot programs designed to create one behavioral segment and practice using cross-channel analytics to improve their experience. Don’t despair if Phase 2 lasts six months or more; transforming from a channel-based to customer-centric brand takes time and effort.

In this simplified example, patients are grouped according to their behavior (engagement level) and KPI (adherence). With centralized data, the marketing team can begin to understand the triggers for each group, and track what combination of touch points improves engagement and achieves KPIs. 

Phase 3: Refining the Mix

With centralized data and behavior-based customer segments in place, you’re ready to focus your investment in areas with the highest possible return.

High-performing pharma brands are using omnichannel optimization to outthink (rather than outspend) the competition; in fact, Gartner’s 2019 Digital IQ Index reported that 19% of the top 88 U.S. drug brands are generating higher site traffic with lower display impressions. If those brands had budgeted based on channel data alone, they’d be wasting valuable marketing dollars.

How will you know what combination of messaging, channels, and tactics will make the greatest impact?

  • Testing — Your CDP gives you real-time customer insight and the ability to immediately deploy changes to your campaigns; no need to set up a fixed email sequence and wait for your quarterly business review to understand the full impact. You can personalize messaging on the spot for a specific individual or group to learn how it affects engagement. Leverage your CDP capabilities to create and test hypotheses that will validate how customers respond to changes in their journey.
  • Deeper Data — Consider additional third-party data could deepen customer insight; sources may include wearable devices, claims data, electronic patient records, and more (with an eye on compliance, of course).
  • Predictive Analytics — With your technical infrastructure in place, you can begin to draw on historical data and customer behavior patterns to predict what changes could be made to drive higher conversion rates.

Phase 3 brands have the pieces in place to deliver the personalized, low-friction customer experience that is considered true omnichannel success. Then what?

Beyond Omnichannel 

In 2020, pharma marketers will prioritize omnichannel transformation to provide customers with a “consumer grade” experience. Before we know it, the very idea of “channels” will take a back seat to customer experience. Our reporting dashboards, language, team structures, and strategies will change.

Eventually, “omnichannel” will become synonymous with “marketing” in pharma. It will sound redundant, and we’ll wonder why channels — not customers — were even a priority to begin with. Until then, identify the phase of omnichannel transformation that you’re in right now and how you’ll take it to the next level in your 2020 plan.

Justin Grossman


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