5 Key Takeaways from DigiPharma Connect

Innovations in data-driven marketing and B2B are about to transform the industry

John Audette
Global Head of Industries and Insights at Astound Commerce

It’s a pivotal moment for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries as enterprising brands start to embrace the consumer-grade solutions patients and providers want. And, at DigiPharma Connect 2023, the premier gathering of senior marketing executives in biotech and pharmaceuticals, industry leaders were eager to discuss how cutting-edge ecommerce technology can strengthen pharma-patient relationships, decrease operational friction, and improve outcomes for human health. Here are the key takeaways from our conversations:

1. Companies are (finally) leveraging data-driven marketing. Digital maturity remains low in pharma and biotech, especially relative to retail: Few brands optimize targeted email, customer data platforms, or consolidated systems for collecting and using data from either healthcare providers (HCPs) or patients. But savvier companies like CSL Behring are now maximizing Veeva Systems to employ a data-driven approach for targeting providers. Although Veeva seems like an easy option for health companies already familiar with its software, the platform has limitations: its marketing capabilities are restricted to HCP engagement, and even within that domain, it can’t enable targeting and data enrichment the way a more robust solution can.  

2. Compelling digital experiences can build better relationships with patients and providers. There’s a simple reason patient-support programs suffer from low conversion rates and scant organic traffic: they’re failing to provide compelling, personalized experiences that engage and inform consumers throughout their treatment journeys. And portals designed to attract providers to life-saving treatments aren’t doing much better. Even best-in-class products are missing opportunities to gain traction among providers because their online portals are so difficult to navigate. Brands have a clear opportunity to connect with consumers and create a customer base for critical treatments by building the seamless digital journeys both doctors and patients have come to expect based on their online shopping experiences.

3. Better e-sampling is a low-risk investment with enormous pay-off. Despite the clear benefits of offering free samples to HCPs, e-sampling cabinets have barely changed since they first appeared in the 1990s: the sites remain difficult to navigate, time-consuming to search, and yield low-conversion rates. Multiple brands we talked to reported plans to break off from company-wide cabinets to create their own e-sampling portals, leveraging the capabilities developed by ecommerce to allow HCPs to order and ship free samples directly to their offices, hospitals, or patients. By combining off-the-shelf software like Salesforce with a dose of informed creativity, consumer-grade e-sampling solutions can be implemented quickly, easily, and efficiently.

4. Manufacturers are ready to ditch distributors and embrace B2B solutions. B2B pharma solutions are gaining traction, particularly for products that don’t require a prescription. We heard from two leading companies that they were developing B2B capabilities for selling vaccines directly to pharmacies and hospitals. Excitement surrounding the possibilities is sky high, especially given how much friction exists in the current system of distribution, but action and execution appears slow due to industry-wide inexperience executing consumer-grade ecommerce solutions.

5. Rare disease brands are driving the industry’s digital transformation. Serving small patient populations with urgent, unmet needs, rare disease brands enjoy greater independence than their peers targeting more common ailments, even when operating within a large pharma company. In multiple conversations, rare disease companies expressed a keen interest in building one-to-one relationships with patients by leveraging a CDP and patient engagement solutions. The same dynamic applies to cutting-edge B2B solutions, where rare disease companies have been facilitating buy-and-bill models that allow providers to order specialty drugs directly from the manufacturer. The buy-and-bill model simplifies the process for doctors and patients alike and bolsters adherence, keeping rare disease sufferers happier and healthier. While many companies still rely on distributors and fax machines, rare disease brands are demonstrating how well-integrated ecommerce and order management systems can reduce friction, increase efficiency, and center patient needs.

To learn more about how you can better support health consumers in the next normal, download our 2023 Astound Health report, Health in the Next Normal: Innovations Consumers Crave. Let’s build your consumer-grade solution to deliver better health outcomes. Get in touch today.

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