Keep calm and do Omnichannel

‘Global is asking us to do omnichannel…’ Omnichannel! Omnichannel! The call comes ever louder. Engagement! Engagement! You’ve enjoyed the Workshops, you’ve got the Brand Strategy, here’s a Playbook. Now… Omnichannel! Easy…

Let’s pause a moment. This isn’t Zalando. This is healthcare. Healthcare. Our customers aren’t in the market for a new wardrobe. Or they might be, as they are human beings, but they aren’t buying it from us. What’s more, as human beings living on early 21st century Earth, their finite attention is already assailed on all sides and with all conceivable means by promotions, and that’s even before they put their feet under their desk, open their emails, and start thinking about their patients.

Omnichannel. One of the first challenges seems to be gaining a common understanding as to what it means in our context. Combining themes from the countless available definitions produces something like this: Designing and orchestrating for our customer groups or individuals, a positive, convenient, seamless experience across all channels relevant to their journey through our brand’s marketing funnel, physical and digital.

OK. We can think about that.

Not so fast. Strictly speaking, the ‘true’ Omnichannel experience, whilst accessed in a decentralised (omni) way, is powered by centralised data. Individual customer records, residing in highly powerful proprietary CRM technologies, are informed by a range of business software from eCommerce to mobile app, from supply chain to inventory, and beyond. Each potential customer, their every interaction closely tracked, is fed through a pre-planned, automated funnel designed to qualify, nurture, score and convert them for first and ongoing transactions. Omnichannel is digital lead generation and conversion, without human input. Then there’s the so-called Big Data, fed back to marketing teams to refine everything from products to sales process, customer service, brand messaging and marketing spend. Data. Data. Data.

The challenge in healthcare is that we’re not in B2C. Our audience interactions aren’t focused around one single eCommerce activity. Ok, we do have a CRM, accessed by our KAMs and MSLs, but we also have events, congresses, ad boards, email marketing, websites, social media, direct mail, and the list goes on. What’s more our HCP portal is not powered by HubSpot. In fact, it’s most probably not ‘powered’ by anything at all, and it certainly doesn’t speak to our CRM. Our interaction data is everywhere.

The considerations don’t end there. In healthcare, many of our customers think that we ‘just want to sell our drugs’ and are hardly receptive to our digital entreaties. Habits are entrenched. Global, Regional, and Local marketing imperatives must also be reconciled. Lastly, and as agile as we are all now trying to be, it can be hard enough getting one version of a mailout reviewed and approved, let alone 27 persona-customized variants. Put together it’s enough to make anyone want to run away (, run away!), as Monty Python once said. But it’s just going to follow us. Love it or loathe it, it’s the future, and the avant-garde pharma companies are rightly now moving to integrate the marketing tech that will enable approaches akin to the ‘true’ Omnichannel as explored above, and to build the necessary organisations and expertise to put them to work. But this is a complex undertaking, and the observation today is that there is a lot of work left to do.

The good news is that, for those still not so equipped, and despite our complex context, opportunities abound to apply elements of Omnichannel to our approach. We can for sure work to accumulate audience opt-ins, and to gather insights that allow their segmentation according to new and more relevant dimensions. We can also revisit the key moments in their journeys where we can bring value and influence them with our messaging. Talking of messaging, we can also undoubtedly think harder about their current belief status and behaviours, and the content and messages that are most likely to engage and funnel them to the changes we desire. Lastly, we can work smart to broaden and combine the channels at our disposal to deliver these messages in new and more impactful, more timely ways, and to extract the data and insights that will inform us on whether our objectives are being attained, and on what it would be good to do next.

Seizing these opportunities requires strong cross-functional teamwork and building next-wave capabilities in multiple areas, but it also requires something else. To start. Someone once said you can’t steer a car that’s not moving, and it’s an analogy that applies well to this context. Just start, even if only small at first. Start, learn, and build from there. You will be surprised at how far it can take you.

At X-Ray AG we have the expertise to partner with you to define and deploy your custom omnichannel approach. To learn more, contact us directly

Author: John Radford, Head of Digital, X-Ray AG

About X-Ray AG: X-Ray AG, Swiss affiliate of The BlocPartners network, uniquely blends medical, marketing, digital, creative and production expertise, with the aim of becoming the leading Swiss health-focused communications agency.

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