O is for Omnichannel


Words by Isabel O’Brien

Omnichannel marketing is nothing new, but adoption is rising in the pharmaceutical industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We look at why companies are prioritising omnichannel now and the positive impact of this approach on brand retention.


Omnichannel marketing may be a mouthful, but it is the strategy on the lips of every pharmaceutical marketer this year. Companies are zoning in on this approach like never before, but why is interest in omnichannel marketing soaring right now and how can it be used as a meaningful tool to impact healthcare decision-making?


“Omnichannel marketing is the delivery of seamless personalised and coordinated customer experiences across all relevant channels. It’s not about marketing for the masses, it is really marketing for small customer segments, or even one-to-one, and we can only do that with customer knowledge and data,” says Cyril Mandry, Social Media & Digital Marketing Director, MSD.


It’s not about marketing for the masses, it is really marketing for small customer segments

For brands outside of the pharma sector, personalised and coordinated advertising is nothing new. The popular programmatic advertising system allows brands to bid and buy access to customers based on their preferences, but this is largely unadopted by pharma companies, who would face critical compliance issues if an advert accidentally reached a person for whom it was not intended.


This has left the industry with no option but to utilise mass marketing strategies, blitzing healthcare professionals on every touchpoint they can reach them, whether this is through sales rep visits, email campaigns, or social media, without any particular knowledge of whether a channel is the right one, or the likelihood of a HCP being engaged.


A key challenge associated with this approach is the number of times that HCPs must be successfully reached to retain a brand message: “There are several studies that have been done on brand retention consistently showing that it takes about five to eight different interactions to change belief and behaviour of a customer,” says Neha Arora, Hub Leader, Multi-channel Marketing (UK & Nordics), Eli Lilly. If marketers have no view of whether an HCP will be on the channel on which they were being targeted, there is little room for intelligently driving impact or retention.


However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put some power back into pharma marketers’ hands: “The big achievement when it comes to digital and virtual is that we can really use it to select the right way to approach every single customer,” says Danilo Pagano, Vice President, Digital and Customer Engagement, Lundbeck. Increased digital platform usage is providing companies with valuable data around individual HCP behaviour patterns, which will allow them to create meaningful omnichannel strategies and look at HCPs as individuals, rather than an indiscriminate whole.


The fallout of this is enormous, not just in ensuring a message is being opened and received, but in allowing sophisticated personality profiles to be built, reducing the chance of an HCP becoming saturated or fatigued by brand messaging. Arora demonstrates this benefit with a sample persona: “We have an HCP who has declined face-to-face meetings twice this year. They sometimes open our emails and click through to read more content. They engage more with the video content when it is available on our on-demand service and they have attended two of our webinars recently.” Previously, if an HCP had not engaged with rep visits, the strategy may have been to continue trying to meet with them. However, with the additional vision of their preferences, “we can easily make an informed choice and segment them as a target base who we need to engage through digital content, video on-demand, and live webinars. They might not be the right customer base for our salesforce to be focussing on,” concludes Arora.


In addition to being highly valuable from a saturation perspective, constructing profiles such as these allow a company to prioritise valuable sales time, with reps redirecting calls to more interested parties: “We have another customer who’s had three face-to-face interactions with the rep and proactively writes to the rep if they have any questions. They haven’t really engaged with the mass emails so far, but they often ask their rep to send them the clinical paper. They have attended one webinar,” says Arora. While omnichannel can help you to identify digital champions, it can also help you to identify more traditional HCPs, who you can keep cultivating with more conventional marketing methods. “Now this kind of profile or this segment of a customer base is a ‘sweet spot’ for a mix of face-to-face and virtual interactions,” continues Arora.


The opportunity is really to use the right channel with the right customers and deliver the right content

As a result of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, HCPs have increased their digital uptake, which has helped pharma to garner a more textured picture of who these individuals are, what they want to see, and on what channels they would like to be reached. As Mandry concludes: “With digital and virtual, we have a big opportunity, and the opportunity is really to use the right channel with the right customers and deliver the right content.” If executed correctly, omnichannel marketing could turn on the light, transforming prior stabs in the dark into personalised and targeted action.