4 Key Strategies to Drive Digital in Health and Life Sciences

2021 will bring fundamental shifts in consumer expectations that demand compliant commerce innovation.

One could argue that the most dominant trend of 2020, a year unlike any other in so many ways, was the rapid, global acceleration of digital engagement. Consumer focus and sentiment shifted markedly toward digital channels and ecommerce solutions to fulfill every need, whether in the realm of entertainment or essential goods and services. And though commerce has long been associated with retail, necessity has driven consumers to actively seek out healthcare and wellness services via digital channels as well.

This tectonic shift in consumer needs has forced health and life sciences (HLS) companies, including medical aesthetics, biotech, and pharmaceutical providers, to focus intently on the development of sound digital strategy, secure technology, and compliant consumerism––all while attempting to sustain or recover financially and instill consumer confidence. In the midst of global chaos and tragedy, some HLS companies have begun to implement solutions that process, interpret, and strategically incorporate the massive amounts of data they collect in order to respond efficiently, effectively, and impactfully to this new consumer demand. Others have yet to catch up.

The HLS industry has historically focused on data to inform sales strategy, marketing, and consumer journey mapping, yet 2021 demands a renewed urgency for access to accurate and actionable data to form a critical foundation to overall strategy throughout the entire industry. HLS companies’ ability to successfully integrate the enormous amounts of data they already collect, to analyze that data, and to quickly put in place impactful consumer journeys will likely determine many brands’ success or failure. Additionally, ensuring that data is compiled across brands is crucial. Following are four foundational areas impacted by data, along with strategies to incorporate that data into compliant digital solutions.

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1. Trust in the data. Brand awareness and brand strength hinge on a key element that can often be overlooked in sales conversations with healthcare providers and boardroom conversations about bottom lines and predictive analytics. That key element is trust. While trust is foundational to all we do in the industry, consumers’ perception of their ability to place trust in a brand or a company is the holy grail. Throughout 2020, we saw that HLS companies who effectively integrated data to define their target demographic, who accurately conveyed genuine empathy for healthcare providers (HCPs) and consumers, and who delivered innovative solutions saw sustained brand value and loyalty.

The strategy: In 2021, understanding your company’s desire for the best customer experience isn’t enough. Companies that can accurately interpret the data collected and create trusted, innovative, and compelling digital commerce ecosystems based on reliable, actionable, and timely analysis will recognize a measurable strategic advantage. HCPs and consumers are demanding more information and personalized solutions. Digital journeys must not follow the usual path. Every single touchpoint matters immensely in the consumer journey in 2021. Use the data wisely. Make it count.

2. Measure your success. We have all likely heard some form of the phrase, “You cannot improve what you do not measure.” Effective measurement of the return on investment (ROI) from marketing and engagement activities is another crucial component of success in the industry. Over the last five years, many HLS companies have grown through a mergers and acquisitions strategy, creating a veritable spaghetti bowl of systems and processes. Multiple platforms and integrations, duplicate or fragmented customer data, and lag time in data processing and synchronization have all contributed to an incomplete view of the customer and inability to effectively measure the effectiveness of sales and marketing investments. In this new year, industry strategy must swiftly address these issues in order to improve customer experience, secure loyalty, and manage rapidly escalating storage and data costs.

The strategy: In 2021, a fully integrated dashboard that reflects marketing investment, associated activities, and clearly defined results is critical. Digital engagement and sales efficacy should be seen transparently—and acted upon accordingly—in real time, while the data is relevant. In order to provide this level of transparency, predictive analytics should be employed against predefined measures of success and then reported in an easily consumable and actionable manner to leaders with authority to make crisp, quality decisions.

Get the Latest HLS Consumer Behavior Data

Globally, in-person patient visits to HCPs have declined 36% while virtual visits increased by 88% since onset of COVID-19. Our Astound Insights special report, Transforming the Global Healthcare Consumer Journey: Now and Beyond Covid-19, reveals key trends and relays crucial lessons the healthcare industry can learn from online retailers.

3. Chart the course. It’s no secret that a chasm has long existed between sales and marketing. In 2020, we saw that sales and marketing worked together more closely than most thought possible to reach HCPs and consumers in innovative ways. Marketing teams engaged sales executives and consumer advocates to try to create impactful campaigns. Unfortunately, companies with largely traditional sales models were forced to implement mandatory and accelerated sales training for entire teams with reimagined campaigns and digital platforms. The elemental challenge was that neither HCPs nor sales executives, or even some marketers for that matter, were accustomed to utilizing mainly digital platforms and solutions for daily interactions and sales success.

The strategy: In 2021, developing a comprehensive digital roadmap that clearly defines business goals as well as sales and marketing strategies based on trusted data, foundational platforms and integrations, digital marketing, and consumer engagement is an absolute imperative for sales success. This roadmap must include detailed metrics for success and specific outcomes for each specific area. Selecting a trusted and mature digital partner in this journey is absolutely crucial for success this year..

4. Forge a strategic partnership. The complex and rapidly evolving nature of the HLS industry demands that organizational leaders have a trusted, global digital partner. Astound Commerce is that partner, having shepherded some of the world’s largest health, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies in creating compliant, groundbreaking solutions. We have deep industry expertise and consistently proven results in the health and life sciences industry. We can help you develop the strategies required to navigate the complex consumer journey and build a compliant digital commerce ecosystem that protects your company, your customers, and your data while providing lasting positive results.

The strategy: It is clear that HLS companies that have recognized HCPs and patients as consumers are far ahead of their competitors. By taking action, embracing innovation, and implementing compliant digital commerce solutions within the HLS industry, companies can engage consumers and optimize their journeys to convey empathy, offer personalized information, and inspire loyalty in a time when the need is real.

For the HLS industry, data tells a very clear story of how to move strategically this year. Read this story with a trusted, strategic partner early and often, and make 2021 a year that positively impacts HCPs, patients, and the industry as a whole. Let’s make a difference together.

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Tina Wilson

Tina Wilson is vice president and client partner for global health and life sciences at Astound Commerce.
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