It comes as no surprise that many prominent service providers in the industry have seen an up to threefold rise in demand for digital content, with little indication of this regressing. This suggests that pharma firms are now well and truly getting serious about accelerating their digital transformation, shifting from a sales rep model to a digital-first omnichannel approach. Many are weighing how to build efficient and effective sales and marketing processes, leveraging new technologies to maximize customer engagement, and grow revenue.
To start, pharma organizations need to understand how their customers now want to engage. A survey of European healthcare professionals (HCPs) reveals a significant shift in how they want to interact with pharma organizations post-COVID (see Figure 1). Although 54% of the HCPs we surveyed would still like to see sales reps in person post-COVID, that’s a precipitous decline from the 87% who preferred in-person meetings pre-COVID. We also see a decrease in European HCPs’ desire to resume using some of the most popular pre-COVID channels, including in-person and remote meetings with medical science liaisons (MSLs), attending conferences, and receiving marketing emails.
Post-COVID, remote meetings with sales reps and webinars will be among the most popular channels and will be key to enabling companies to maintain and build customer relationships. Similarly, the preference for using websites, online groups, mobile apps, and other online channels will increase post-COVID.
Source: Indegene Research
Although most pharma companies have deployed digital capabilities, many are struggling to implement a truly omnichannel approach that orchestrates all channels to provide a unified experience that meets customer expectations.
To successfully execute an omnichannel strategy, companies need to put new capabilities, systems, and processes in place. These include campaign operations and tools for marketing automation, digital content production, and data analytics. Firms must implement technical capabilities such as multichannel marketing platforms to operationalize campaigns and to integrate with other systems in the pharma technology stack, such as CRM. This has often been a major hurdle for pharma companies to overcome as they look to build capabilities quickly and at scale in order to stay ahead of the game.
To measure, evaluate, and optimize channel effectiveness, pharma firms also need to invest in and effectively integrate data analytics; without this, they are taking shots in the dark and limiting their gains. As pharma embraces the post-COVID world, it will be important to deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to convert insights into actions and collect and analyze the data needed to make better business decisions. The underlying principle of any omnichannel campaign in pharma is to ensure that the firm can deliver the right content to the right customer in the customer’s preferred channel.
New skills and roles are also needed to effectively implement an omnichannel strategy. Sales reps and MSLs need to be upskilled and trained to work remotely or in hybrid (remote and in-person) capacity and in conjunction with digital assets to improve engagement. Roles such as multichannel orchestrators are also emerging to coordinate interactions and ensure that the firm is deploying the appropriate channels and actions.
To make the situation even more complex, many companies are facing resource limitations. Whether this is due to reduced revenue as products go off-patent, lower market potential of new products, or constraints on pricing, companies need to make tough decisions on where in the product portfolio to invest their limited resources.
As pharma looks to embrace the new normal, there is an increased urgency for companies to accelerate their digital transformation, leveraging technology and innovative commercial models to improve commercial productivity. To remain competitive, it’s important to identify ways to quickly scale capabilities and build the necessary infrastructure and processes to create the right customer-focused engagement model. This new commercial model will be vital for success in a digital-first world, and those that leading the change will see the biggest impact.