2021 looks like being the year where omnichannel well and truly takes over. Since the invention of the branded pen, reps have been pharma’s main (sometimes only) form of customer engagement. Not only have we empowered our field teams to deliver our key messages, but we have also used them as a great source of intelligence gathering, finding out what is happening on the ground and feeding this information back to head office. And while we have talked about customer centricity and multichannel engagement, we have all really been rep focused.
Every year I have been in the industry I have heard people saying how access is getting harder and harder. Covid is a massive accelerator for this challenge, not only now, but I believe in the years to come. Add to this the fact that the ‘digital native’ generation are now more than 50% of the HCP population, I just do not see us ever getting back to the levels of face-to-face engagement we had pre-covid as an industry.
For this reason, and many more, Sales and Marketing need to work in alignment to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience for your customers. This will bring both great opportunities, and some challenges/risks.
The first big opportunity omnichannel brings is the ability to engage with a much wider customer base than traditionally. This is true both in terms of access constraints, and capacity constraints.
The next big opportunity I see is customization. Every customer can have their own engagement journey. This really enforces the shift towards customer centricity. With customers having a greater say in how, when, and why they engage, the requirement to put their needs at the centre of everything (website content, emails, advertising, interactions, etc.) is even more crucial.
Omnichannel should also give us greater flexibility, to change our level of engagement quickly and dynamically. In the past to increase our ‘noise’ we had to recruit, train, and then deploy a field team. Now we can simply flex our digital noise much more easily.
Lastly, omnichannel gives us the opportunity to try different strategies in different places, aiding the measuring of impact. In effect we can have control/placebo areas to compare with.
Just because we think we know more about our customers does not mean we do. By this I mean there are now more unknowns than we had in the past. For everything we know about our brands and interactions, we do not know it about the competitor's. Add this to the fact that we have no way of knowing when an initiation takes place, we need to be mindful of rushing to conclusions from our new wealth of data.
An established fact with the ‘digital native’ generation is the power of peer influence. Decision making processes are heavily influenced by peer recommendations. We need to find a way of understanding these influence networks, to better understand prescribing behaviours.
Another challenge we face is the loss of speculative selling. You cannot virtually bump into an HCP.
Your reps/KAM’s need to see the other channels as helping them to do their job better, not as competition. Those that can do this successfully will flourish, those that cannot, will struggle. Embrace these new datasets that we have but be mindful of their limitations and bias.
Finally, in these times of social distancing we all need to open our arms and embrace omnichannel as the future of sales & marketing in pharma.
If you would like to discuss how CSL can support Omnichannel Marketing Strategies, please contact me at LeeR@csl-uk.com.