COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for pharma to evaluate their organization’s digital maturity and ability to serve customers personalized experiences.

In many ways, COVID-19 has accelerated preexisting trends: An increase in the use of health tech and telemedicine; a decrease in sales rep access; a focus on customer experience; the momentum of digital transformation across pharma organizations.

The pandemic has brought these trends into sharper view and added a sense of urgency; but they were, by and large, already in motion. Rather than putting the brakes on these movements, COVID-19 pressed the accelerator.

It has also revealed new opportunities to upend a stagnant status quo and make dramatic improvements in areas that, until now, had not received such focus: Opportunities to support telemedicine and a broader ecosystem of connected health; a shift toward a data-driven, customized concierge approach for reps; virtual medical events offering further reach; enhanced patient support programs (PSPs) with the patient at the center; more meaningful methods of decreasing the cost burden for patients; a movement toward remote clinical trials and the digitization of product launches; and enhanced access to and interoperability of health data.

While these approaches may have been found in small pockets of activity in the past, they are the new trends shaping the commercial organization’s future.

Being part of this evolution is not a given, however. It depends on the technological capabilities of the commercial organization.

When we asked pharmaceutical leaders what they felt was the biggest opportunity for the industry in the wake of COVID-19, a number of them cited the chance to catch up to other industries in the use of digital communications—to improve digital infrastructure and platforms.

The time is now to double down on digital transformation. The pharmaceutical industry has talked about it for years, but now, it must happen out of necessity, faster and more completely than anyone predicted or was ready for.

COVID-19 should serve as a wake-up call for pharmaceutical manufacturers to evaluate their own digital maturity and ability to serve customers with personalized experiences that demonstrate they truly understand and care about their needs. Addressing the shifting roles and needs of sales reps, HCPs, patients, and caregivers requires an honest assessment of the organization’s modern marketing maturity, and a prioritization of improvements.

When making this evaluation, marketing leaders must consider how capable their company is across three key drivers:

  • Leveraging data to drive business and marketing strategy
  • Creating individualized customer experiences
  • Applying technology to deliver on customer expectations

An organization’s modern marketing readiness can be seen in its combined maturity of data, customer experience, and applied technology; measured against the business objectives of the brand and prioritized accordingly. When viewed in this manner, it becomes apparent where an organization’s capabilities stand, and it becomes possible to plot a course of rapid evolution.

Let’s look at each of those three drivers a little more closely.


Data is the heart of modern marketing. Brands that use data to drive experiences win over their customers by actively anticipating their needs and delivering relevance, because they expect nothing less in today’s personalized world.

Using data, pharma marketers can modernize their approach by:

  • Enabling targeting and micro-segmentation
  • Orchestrating and automating customized and dynamic customer journeys
  • Establishing and intuiting preference
  • Measuring, learning, and optimizing programs for continuous improvement

Data is vital to creating opportunities to deliver value, identifying customer’s needs, and tracking engagement.

Customer Experiences

That expectation of personalization is met, using data, with customer experiences—ones that recognize and speak directly to customers’ current needs in a privacy-conscious, highly compliant fashion that gives them control of the experience.

To build these experiences, marketers must consider:

  • What is the customer’s definition of value?
  • What is relevant to them at this moment?
  • How will we leverage data to anticipate their needs?
  • How will we empower them?
  • What will it take to create strong ties and relationships?
  • How can we measure the true impact of the experiences?

The pandemic has deeply changed the experience of healthcare for consumers and HCPs alike. These changes provide opportunities for marketers to drive increased value, if they can respond with agility and relevance.


The technology solutions and platforms companies adopt make it possible to use data to create customer experiences. Selected, deployed, and implemented strategically, they offer the power to be dynamic, hyper-relevant, cross-channel, and to:

  • Reduce time to market
  • Govern and manage change
  • Scale with organizational growth
  • Integrate seamlessly across touchpoints
  • Align with overall commercial brand strategies

Conversely, the wrong platforms—or, the right platforms used incorrectly—limit everything: Efficiency, growth, adaptability, and success.


Even before 2020, the old ways of pharma marketing, with blockbuster brands, traditional launches, simple marketing mixes, and generous budgets, were no more. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these changes and added many, including strained patient adherence, upended HCP practices, and vanishing sales-rep access.

While influence was once measured by reach and frequency with personal sales, impact and value today is influenced by customer experiences. Customers—both patients and HCPs— expect relevance and need it more than ever. Modern marketing influences customers with personalized experiences that demonstrate an understanding and caring for their needs.

Intouch Group and DHC Group collaborated to create a forward-looking report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pharma marketers: Surveying 112 physicians, more than 50 pharmaceutical executives, and 157 patient influencers, and interviewing 30 senior-level pharma stakeholders. On behalf of the stakeholders who contributed to the research, a donation was made to Heart to Heart International to support their ongoing response to the pandemic.

For detailed recommendations based on up-to-the-minute facts and industry experts, access the whitepaper, “The Aftermath: COVID-19 Insights and Recommendations,” here.

  • David Windhausen

    David Windhausen is Executive Vice President at Intouch Group, a global marketing network delivering solutions to the life sciences industry, and President of Intouch B2D, Intouch’s enterprise technology consultancy. He describes himself as a techie by trade and an entrepreneur by heart.


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