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Life Sciences Can’t Wait for Better B2B

Say goodbye to 20% conversion rates and meet the consumer-grade solutions that actually deliver

Life sciences companies are finally recognizing that they need to do more to engage health consumers directly—we know this because leaders from 10 top pharmaceutical companies recently admitted as much to Astound Health. But D2C engagement isn’t the only area where ecommerce can help companies in their efforts to improve human health. Life sciences B2B ecommerce remains woefully immature compared to retail and consumer goods—and companies need to adapt fast to survive in a world where researchers, doctors, and scientists bring consumer-grade expectations to every sales interaction. In this article, the latest in a collaborative series between Salesforce and Astound Health, we’ll look at the B2B solutions that can revolutionize operations for life science tools (LST), biopharma, and medtech companies.

John Audette is Global Head of Astound Health, the Health & Life Sciences practice at Astound.
Andy Peebler is Vice President of Business Strategy & Growth for Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

Delivering the Life Science Tools of Tomorrow

LST companies were early adopters of online B2B ordering, quick to recognize the benefits of ecommerce over catalog sales when it came to data validation and product comparison.
But, as Astound found in a recent analysis, many of these online offerings remain stuck in the ’90s, especially when compared to consumer retail brands. Here’s what LST companies should consider when weighing their digital transformation options.

Researchers are consumers, too. A scientist at Pfizer expects the same level of customer service when she’s ordering reagents as she does when she’s buying clothes. In fact, she might expect better. After all, a T-shirt isn’t going to disintegrate if it’s exposed to extreme temperatures or arrives a day late. When dealing in unstable compounds and delicate instruments, tracking the details of how every order is handled isn’t a luxury. It’s a business imperative. With Salesforce Order Management (OMS), companies can track where an order is, when it was shipped, and whether it will arrive on time. And Salesforce Commerce Cloud for B2B Commerce allows companies to pass that information seamlessly on to the researchers waiting for life-changing components to arrive. 

Ordering at the speed of science. For future-focused life sciences companies, exciting new possibilities are emerging that can improve the ordering and distribution of products, particularly research and healthcare consumables. Thermo Fisher, a leading global supplier of scientific equipment, has been deploying Supply Centers—basically fancy vending machines—to equip labs with commonly used research consumables for years, and a similar rubric can be applied to B2B ecommerce portals by creating distinct microsites. 

Microsites provide an elevated experience for customers buying frequently restocked products such as antibodies, primers, buffers, cell culture supplies, and labware. The microsite approach builds on well-established B2B2C models in medicine whereby consumer products are sold through health providers, and it repurposes those models for the specific B2B needs of life sciences research companies. For each microsite, wizards allow for new customers to be onboarded quickly, and procurement teams can even have admin control of their individual portal. 

For manufacturers of healthcare products, the same model can be used for consumables like imaging and other diagnostic testing supplies and extended to booking services such as equipment maintenance.

New Prescriptions for Biopharma

LST brands aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a B2B digital transformation. Biopharma companies large and small can reap major dividends when they enlist best-in-class ecommerce solutions to optimize efficiency and increase sales. 

Better, faster, easier distribution. Distributing drugs to pharmacies and hospitals nationally and internationally is a monumental task at the best of times. And the ongoing COVID crisis and global supply chain disruptions have made that job even harder. But some companies are seizing the moment as an opportunity to improve outcomes and increase efficiency with a robust B2B solution. For instance, McKesson UK, one of the UK’s oldest and largest medical suppliers, enlisted Salesforce to transform its business in the midst of the pandemic. With multiple, fully integrated B2B webshops targeted to different types of buyers, McKesson UK was able to dramatically simplify the ordering process—the average weekly order now takes pharmacists just 2 minutes to complete instead of 20. 

E-sampling for the future. The era of drug representatives peddling free samples office-to-office easily, casually, and in person is over. Even before the pandemic caused hospitals to reduce access to doctors, legislatures around the globe had been clamping down on relationships between doctors and drug representatives in response to public concerns about corruption. With more scrutiny and less access, drug representatives need better support to deliver free samples, which remain a crucial sales tool. And doctors’ offices are clamoring for easier ways to access samples, which are popular with both patients and physicians.  

There’s a straightforward solution that supports drug representatives and providers alike, and it’s been around for decades: e-sampling. Pfizer, Astrazeneca, and Merck all established online sampling practices by the end of the aughts, but the solutions offered by the likes of My Sample Closet remain crude at best. Conversion rates hover around a dismal 20 percent—in other words, the vast majority of doctors who are already interested in a medication give up because ordering a free sample is just too frustrating. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, some pharmaceutical brands are refusing to wait for their slow-moving parent companies to modernize and instead creating their own sample cabinets that operate with the same seamless efficiency as modern retail storefronts. It isn’t a heavy lift: By combining Salesforce Order Management, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Salesforce Service Cloud, brands can quickly and easily build a sample cabinet: doctors simply need to be able to order online, get a tracking number, and get updates on when the medications will arrive. Any e-sampling solution would also require a credentialing system to ensure that each order came from a licensed physician—but Salesforce’s built-in security system is equipped to do just that. Inventory reconciliation and other aspects of PDMA compliance can be readily addressed by combining Salesforce’s robust ecosystem with Astound Health’s in-depth industry knowledge, allowing biopharma brands to launch seamless, easy-to-use e-sampling solutions—fast. 

Where We Go From Here

For our next article, we’ll talk about how implementing Salesforce Genie Customer Data Platform (CDP) can enrich patient journeys and provider education. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to learn more about how partnering with Salesforce and Astound Health can help you advance human health. And ask us about our work with cosmeceutical giant Allergan, with whom we presented at Dreamforce 2022 on how we co-created a highly successful multi-channel commerce solution.


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