Omnichannel Marketing in Pharma Explained

Omnichannel marketing in the pharmaceutical industry could be the key to cutting through all the noise to reach Healthcare Professionals (HCPs), boosting customer engagement and resulting in higher revenue.

Yes, it sounds like a too-good-to-be-true marketing ploy, but here are the stats…

omnichannel stats presented as player of the game card

Using omnichannel personalisation can halve acquisition costs, increase marketing budget efficiency by 10% to 30%, and increase revenue by 5% to 15%, according to McKinsey.

Then from our experience with clients, most pharma companies consider omnichannel as important, rather than optional. And if other pharma companies are jumping into omnichannel headfirst (trust us, they are keen) then you’d better jump too if you want to stay ahead of the curve.

Omnichannel pharma marketing is a long journey, starting with learning and understanding, leading to implementing, and finally mastering. However, despite all the proven advantages omnichannel brings, most pharma companies today are wading through the learning and understanding stages.

This guide will help you take the leap from reading about omnichannel to successfully implementing and mastering it.

Key Takeaways

Let’s define omnichannel marketing and address the main misconceptions that prevent companies from adopting the strategy
The benefits of an omnichannel strategy are significant, for both your audience and your company
There are 4 pillars to consider for the creation of an omnichannel strategy, from content selection to measurement
Omnichannel marketing comes with challenges including reluctant stakeholders, fragmented systems and possible loss of data
We can help with your omnichannel marketing, from education to the definition of a strategy
There are 11 key elements to keep in mind when creating an omnichannel strategy in pharma. Keep the list at hand.

What is omnichannel marketing in pharma?

First, let’s define omnichannel marketing in the pharma industry:

Omnichannel marketing is a customer-centric approach to using multiple channels seamlessly. Each channel is optimised and working together to provide the best experience for the customer.

What it definitely isn’t!

So, does omnichannel marketing just mean using lots of different channels to target HCPs?

No! That’s a great definition of multichannel marketing, but omnichannel marketing is not the same.

While multichannel marketing hurtles your marketing message at your target audience from every angle, omnichannel marketing is strategized to take them on a journey. The customer experience is at the forefront.

Read our guide for a more nuanced explanation of multichannel vs omnichannel

At phamax Digital, we also noticed that many pharma marketers don’t know that omnichannel marketing goes beyond digital channels. So let’s quickly recap what omnichannel is and isn’t.

Omnichannel is not:But omnichannel is:
A technology or toolAn ongoing strategy
For digital channels onlyFor all channels, digital and physical
A quick overnight fixA marathon with evolving adjustments
Too expensive or complexScalable and easy to start with just a few channels
Only used by the marketing teamSynchronised across the whole organisation

Omnichannel can start small, but its impact is big. From sales and marketing to medical affairs and market access, the entire organisation is focused on the customer journey. And synchronising sales and marketing alone can boost campaign effectiveness by 23%!

The benefits of omnichannel marketing in pharma

By coordinating a pharma omnichannel strategy, the benefits are notable.

Customer experience

Improving the customer experience isn’t just about reaching customers through as many touchpoints as possible or repeating the same message. Instead, channels create a support network for a consistent, seamless customer journey. 

According to an Accenture report, 65% of HCPs complain about pharma “spam” where products are pushed on them repeatedly – a key sign that pharma companies aren’t considering the customer experience, and HCPs are noticing!

Personalised communication

With an omnichannel pharma marketing strategy, the message is customised for each channel and customer.

Our article on Using Personalisation to Reach HCPs covers this in detail, but here’s a spoiler: sending a simple personalised email to a physician before a face-to-face leads to a 6x to 8x better response.

Learn how to use personalisation to better reach HCPs in digital marketing

Data-driven decisions

Setting and analysing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each touchpoint enables data to be drawn for highly effective and targeted data-driven decision-making.

Takeda, the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia, understands the importance of big data and the benefits it has for driving omnichannel strategies. Samer Ansari, Takeda’s Head of Digital & IT, Global Oncology Business Unit, states:

We can always have other experiences (send more emails, have slick websites), but it’s [all about asking] how do we channel all of our data and digital thinking and capabilities to elevate that relationship experience with the rep.

More data, improved experiences, better results.

Competitive advantage

Pharma marketers are, unfortunately, somewhat behind the curve. Marketing agency experts are still finding that even in 2023, pharma brands were still focusing on basic “relevance and consistency over omnipresence.” Implementing an omnichannel strategy now will set you apart – even if you start small and expand gradually.

Increased engagement

Here’s the big one – omnichannel marketing can increase engagement. It stimulates conversation and can utilise automation to boost engagement without pushing costs through the roof.

One biopharma company set out to market their major dermatology product to four HCP segments using an omnichannel strategy covering email, paid media, portals, and partner channels. The result? A 53% increase in engagement over 16 weeks, without increasing field force resources.

Enhanced targeting

Finally, who doesn’t want better targeting? With increased engagement and more data to make data-driven decisions, targeting also improves. This means more precision, less waste. It goes together with personalisation.

The four pillars of omnichannel

So, how exactly does the omnichannel approach work?

It starts with four pillars, or for a better example, let’s think of it as a party!

Content

The theme of the party

Any good party starts with choosing a theme – different themes are appropriate for different parties. Likewise, with an omnichannel strategy, you need different formats for different purposes. In an omnichannel campaign, you have the awareness, engagement, and retention phases. Each requires different content formats that tie into the main objective.

Example: You wouldn’t promote a whitepaper to targeted HCPs during the retention phase, but you might use it for the engagement phase.

With so many choices, modular content makes this easier to digest. To use modular content, start by creating content for cross-channel adaptability. Content should be easy to break into smaller chunks, reformatted, and adapted for different channels and stages.

Example: Conduct a real-world evidence study for more than a single article. It can be quoted in medical publications, turned into a webinar, scripted as a short-form video, featured in your newsletter, and even presented at congress.

Read our article for an in-depth guide on modular content

Presence

The venue for the party

Choosing your party venue is equivalent to choosing where to place the content.

Hint: it’s not just about the company website.

While websites are a must for HCPs (and by extension, you should Become A Game-Changer In HCP Portal Creation), only 26% of European HCPs rely on pharma websites for info. However, 88% of physicians do use the internet and social media to research pharma, biotech, and medical devices.

So, where are they spending all their time? 

  • Start with medical-specific platforms, including medical publisher apps, journals, and general media.
  • You should also focus on medical websites, including societies and communities plus professional social networks (Sermo at the forefront).
  • Don’t rule out general social media, however. Digital Opinion Leaders are found across the web and wherever they go, HCPs tend to follow. 
  • Finally, email. Both owned and third-party emails, including newsletters, are still relied on by HCPs for knowledge.

Promotion

The invitations for the party

What’s the point of organising the party of the century if nobody knows about it?

The same goes for your omnichannel strategy…

So far you’ve got great content planned and a selection of relevant channels to publish it. Now let’s get some visibility!

Discover the main digital channels to reach your HCP audience

Here are a few examples of successful campaigns to get inspired.

Empathy gloves (Athenex)

Oncologists were invited to try “empathy gloves” at the Athenex booth during exhibits, in order to experience CIPN symptoms and better understand the condition.

Tweets about athenex empathy gloves campaign

Content: Glove Experience (aka Feeling for CIPN)

Presence: Exhibits’ booths

Promotion: Digital Ads + Exhibits + Twitter

Results

550 new Twitter followers
80 HCPs shared their experience on Twitter
Better symptoms understanding for HCPs

With Love, Me (Merck)

Cancer patients shared the advice they would give themselves on the first day of their diagnosis

Tweets about Merck With Love, Me campaign

Content: Patient stories

Presence: Campaign website + social media

Promotion: Social media

Results

+160 000 visits on the campaign website
#withloveme was used +2700 times
~ 900 million impressions on national media

Measurement

The success of the party

Our last pillar is all about how to define success – what happened at the party? As omnichannel analytics are more complex than you may be accustomed to, measuring success requires very clear KPIs.

Start with “classic” channel-specific KPIs:

  • Social media engagement (likes, comments, shares)
  • Click through rates
  • Website traffic
  • Email open rates

For channel-specific KPIs, it’s important to have engagement objectives – engagement is more than a click, it’s watching a video for several minutes, or having a click around a website rather than just landing on the homepage. With this data, you can calculate the cost per engagement between channels, thus determining cost efficiency.

You should also incorporate aggregated KPIs (that aren’t channel-specific):

  • Behaviour and channel preference changes
  • Integration of the knowledge you provided
  • Participation in more in-depth content forms

The main challenges faced by omnichannel marketing teams

As mentioned, omnichannel is an ongoing, scalable, adjustable, fluid strategy. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. So, let’s look at the biggest challenges, starting with blocks inside the pharma brand:

  • Lack of knowledge concerning digital channels
  • Misconceptions regarding cost and difficulty
  • Reluctant stakeholders clinging onto traditional marketing methods

A little education is key – find out how phamax Digital can help

Next, you’ll find tougher hurdles within the structure of your organisation and wider network:

  • Fragmented systems and departments, leading to a fragmented customer data journey
  • Lack of cross-channel communication and coordination between offline and online
  • Mismatched global and local teams with varying regulations

Some structural changes are needed here, but it’s not always about head office taking control.

Learn more in our Pharma Omnichannel: From Global to Local article.

Finally, there are the challenges that emerge when pharma omnichannel strategies get going:

  • Significant upfront work is required to create the first customer journey
  • Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) becomes more complex and long-term
  • Loss of data due to GDPR, HCP ad filters, and other data regulations to navigate

With knowledge of these common challenges, you can better prepare for them. Remember, you can start small with omnichannel and work out the kinks before scaling it up!

Need a helping hand?

Omnichannel is most certainly the future for pharma marketing and those that jump on the bandwagon today are ahead of the curve. You can learn more about the nuances of omnichannel engagement in pharma in the phamax Digital Academy or reach out to learn more.

From understanding the current pharma landscape to custom omnichannel e-training, we are here to help you take the leap

Checklist for successful omnichannel marketing

An aim to start small, learn, iterate, and scale

A customer-centric approach

Employee training on the omnichannel approach

Local and global team collaborations

Integrated technology to simplify processes

Seamless integration of offline and online channels

Defined customer profiles

Mapped omnichannel customer journeys

Modular content production

Personalised content and promotions

Customer support and feedback mechanism

Pharma omnichannel marketing FAQs

Which is better, multichannel or omnichannel?

While multichannel is better than one channel, omnichannel tops both. Omnichannel is more effective for business and enjoyable for customers. It’s shown to be particularly effective in pharma.

How does omnichannel benefit customers?

Rather than being stalked across the internet, in emails, through the post, and in-store with the same message, omnichannel takes the customer on a journey. So, they have a pleasant and personalised experience from day one.

Where did omnichannel come from?

Omnichannel was coined around 2003 by Best Buy for their customer-centric strategy using offline and online channels. Previously, multichannel (using multiple channels to target customers) had been around for decades, as retailers used mail catalogues, physical stores, and newspaper advertisements.

What are omnichannel tools?

Tools that aid omnichannel marketing primarily include analytical tools that track data across channels. Communication tools are also vital to ensure every department (plus local and global teams) can operate cohesively.

What is omnichannel engagement in pharma?

In pharma, omnichannel engagement is more than just clicks, likes, and email open rates. It’s about monitoring engagement throughout the customer journey across channels and analysing deeper changes in HCP behaviour.

Why is omnichannel important in pharma?

In pharma, it is crucial for the brand to develop trust and credibility with HCPs – hence the prevalence of face-to-face rep meetings. But the world is becoming increasingly digital, and HCPs want less hassle, more personalisation, and more convenience. Omnichannel ticks all those boxes.

What are the disadvantages of omnichannel marketing?

The disadvantages of omnichannel marketing in pharma are primarily up-front. You need to spend more time creating modular content for each channel andx creating an in-depth plan. You can no longer use a one-size-fits-all approach for marketing.

About the author

Photo of author

Jonathan Davies

Jonathan is phamax Digital's own digital swiss army knife. He makes sure everything works seamlessly across all our channels. He was born in Belgium but has been on the move for about 10 years as he can't stand the rain!

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