The pharma industry faces new challenges in increasingly saturated and competitive markets with ever-evolving consumer expectations. A solid medical clinical profile no longer suffices to ensure commercial success. This industry is affected by the same digital and retail trends as other industries, which means pharma companies are now having to learn how to not only launch and promote their products but also create and manage digital and hybrid experiences.

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While the pharmaceutical industry has come a long way in digitizing its product information and marketing collateral, the digital transformation of its sales is still in its infancy for many companies. Pharmaceutical companies can learn a lot from D2C companies when it comes to focusing on the customer experience, whether those customers are patients or prescribers.

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In this article, we’ll have a closer look at this shift and how digital transformation is affecting the pharmaceutical industry, and how the pharmaceutical companies need to respond to remain competitive.

From a Strong Product Focus to a Focus on CX

Traditionally, the marketing and sales of pharmaceuticals have been all about the new medicine or device in question. The focus has been on clinical efficacy, safety, and superiority to alternatives. And, of course, these things remain the most important. But forward-thinking pharma companies are beginning to realize that it doesn’t start and end with the product.

Focusing on the customer journey is increasingly crucial to building a loyal base of recurring customers. In fact, concentrating exclusively on the clinical value can lead companies to neglect the most powerful driver of business success: the customer experience.

By addressing friction and inconvenience along the patient and prescriber journeys, pharma companies can quickly increase customer satisfaction and boost revenue. There are many tools used by B2C and D2C companies that are equally well suited for pharma.

One example, cited by McKinsey, is a pharma company that launched an app to complement their medical product. The app works as a digital companion for patients, supporting medication and a healthy lifestyle, and this app helped increase revenue for the same medicine by 8 percent.

Complexity is increasing in the pharma market, and competition is intensifying in all areas. A “one size fits all” approach to marketing and selling is no longer viable, and pharma companies that succeed in personalizing the customer experience will quickly gain market share.

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From Digitizing R&D to Digitizing Customer Interactions

Most pharma companies have begun their digital transformation, and many have come a long way in digitizing their data, research, and operations. Modern R&D depends on digital in many areas, such as genome sequencing, precision drug development, and even home testing (as we witnessed during COVID). But when it comes to the next step after developing the products, when it’s time to market and sell them, many pharma companies fall short.

While B2C and D2C have seen an extreme digital evolution over recent years, many pharmaceutical companies remain stuck in old-school digital marketing, running simple ads and emailing PDFs to prospects.

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Pharma stands to gain a lot by taking a page, or a few, out of the D2C companies’ playbook and accelerating the ecommerce aspects of pharmaceutical sales. By not effectively reaching the target audience, all the research and investment into developing medications goes partly to waste. Whether the customer is the end consumer or a prescriber such as a physician, a well-oiled digital commerce approach will help increase sales and revenue.

And at the core of commerce — especially ecommerce — are significant benefits and value that could aid in the industry’s transition to being digital and connecting better with patients and physicians.

Some examples of digital business models in pharmaceuticals:

      • Telehealth consultations where patients don’t need to see a doctor IRL
      • Home delivery of medications, eliminating the need to travel to the pharmacy
      • Mobile apps that allow patients to manage medications, request refills, and track deliveries

Below we’ll look at some key considerations for a pharma digital transformation and the benefits a stronger ecommerce focus brings to the pharmaceutical Industry.

3 Tips for a Pharma Digital Transformation

1. Don’t Confuse Digitizing With Being Truly Digital

Digitizing means turning something analog into something digital (a bill, a brochure, etc.). But becoming a truly digital business means transforming how you approach all your customer interactions. People today expect fully digital and entirely seamless experiences that span across all the different digital platforms and devices. Every time a company fails to provide this, there’s a substantial risk that they’ll lose a sale.

2. A Solid Customer Experience Strategy is Essential

To stay ahead and remain competitive, pharma companies must evaluate, develop and digitize all customer touchpoints. This is true across all customer types and goes beyond patients, including providers, payers, and employees.

One of the truths of digital transformation is that it’s the organization and culture, rather than technology, that is often the most significant barrier to success. And the same applies to Customer Experience (CX). To create outstanding customer experiences, internal buy-in, C-suite support, and clear strategies are essential.

3. Creating and Addressing Target Personas is Essential

Personalizing the experiences for different target groups is essential in pharma digital transformation and optimizing customer journeys. The expectations and demands from a prescriber are very different from those of a patient or someone related to the patient. All these groups will need tailored journeys and content to build trust and lasting relationships. Each persona becomes a starting point for developing the customer journey that specifies all critical touchpoints with that particular customer group.

McKinsey recommends going very granular in developing these personas, and to include data from diary studies and other qualitative methods in order to build three-dimensional synthesized portraits that incorporate emotional, cognitive, and physical elements such as behavior patterns, aspirations, pain points, shifts in mood, and decision-making drivers through the process.

4 Benefits of a Pharma Digital Transformation

1. Digitizing CX Means Better Analytics and More Data

An investment in a modern ecommerce approach comes with many benefits. One of those advantages is the increased access to valuable insights and customer behavior data. These insights can not only fuel marketing efforts but also guide the organization in other strategic areas. It’s a good idea to invest early in creating the proper processes for capturing, organizing, managing, and analyzing customer data, to fully understand and leverage those insights to drive business growth.

2. Enhancing Customer-Facing Infrastructure Drives Business Results

For retailers, the ecommerce platform sits at the core of their digital presence. This should be the same for pharma companies. Many of the standard components of ecommerce platforms are equally well suited to be used in the pharma industry. Enhancing the customer-facing infrastructure with well-integrated systems will help you deliver a good customer experience.

3. Ecommerce Forces a Focus on Integrations

Implementing an ecommerce platform can help pharma companies build the digital foundation for delivering tailored and relevant customer experiences. Doing so also forces companies to focus on their integrations to ensure seamless and coherent experiences across all channels and devices. An ecommerce solution makes this apparent and often helps companies speed up this process.

4. Voice of Customer Programs Boost Sales

Many big pharma companies are now attempting to implement different programs and tools for measuring customer satisfaction and customer experience. Metrics and methodologies such as CSAT and Net Promoter Score (NPS) help businesses better understand how they are perceived across their different target groups.

The insights from well-constructed and integrated voice of the customer (VoC) programs can be extremely valuable.

Research by McKinsey shows to what level customer satisfaction impacts pharma companies. A study conducted on 600 immunologists in the US and Europe indicates that when prescribers are fully satisfied with their experience prescribing a particular drug, they are more than twice as likely to prescribe it to their patients.

This really shows that by paying more attention to the experience of different target customer groups, pharma companies can not only increase satisfaction, but also boost sales and market share.

Vaimo Helps with your Pharma Digital Transformation

At Vaimo, we’re experts in all things digital commerce. As a full-service omnichannel partner, we can help with every part of the process—we deliver strategy, design, development, and managed services to manufacturers and merchants worldwide. If you’re looking for an experienced partner to guide you and help you make the most of the new digital landscape, we’re here for you.

We can help you implement a modern ecommerce strategy, identify the technical changes required, and improve the digital customer experience and buying journey. Get in touch to talk to one of our experts.

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