Exactly what areas of pharma marketing are being impacted by the addition of new technologies? In a word: Everything.

“Every aspect of marketing is absolutely impacted by technology as new opportunities arise to bring attention to your brand and create new engagement experiences,” says Craig Mattes, office lead and creative at Fingerpaint’s Phoenix, AZ office. “The biggest change in my position has been the consideration of technology and digital platforms when crafting creative campaigns. We now need to think about how our ideas will play out across the digital landscape. I’m perpetually challenging our creative team to think through how a concept will affect online user experiences or what an interactive conference experience might look like based on what we create.”

The experience a user has with a brand online is becoming an important battlefront for marketers. In a 2018 Gartner survey, 81% of respondents said they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience (CX) by 2020. Justin Grossman, CEO of meltmedia, agrees that an emphasis on CX will be crucial moving forward—that is why his agency is focused on “customer journey orchestration,” which involves using technology to personalize experiences based on a deeper understanding of customers and their real-time behavior.

“Rather than select and implement technology platforms in isolation, based on the requirements of a single channel, digital teams are evolving their stacks with an eye toward the overall CX,” Grossman explains. “For example, customer data platforms (CDPs) collect and distribute data (including third-party) from multiple channels and resolve user identities to enable event-driven decision-making. Data management platforms (DMPs) can source and generate audience segments, typically for online ad campaigns. Those brands that can tackle the data compliance challenges of this model have been able to differentiate their CX.”

Digital Meets Reality

Digital experiences are also no longer isolated to your computer or smartphone as the digital world is colliding with the real world through new advancements in immersion technologies like virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.

“Over the past 12 months, we have seen a massive surge in the strategic deployment of AR integrations,” says Mike Marett, Founder & CEO, Confideo Labs. “Projects are now including volumetric video to further bolster engagement by delivering fully holographic iterations of patients/HCPs to deepen engagement in ways that we haven’t seen before. Additionally, with the advent of portable head-mounted displays that deliver high-fidelity, high-resolution experiences at cost-efficient budgets, the channel applications have become wide open for VR deployments as well.”

Meanwhile, advancements in virtual meeting technology is disrupting peer-to-peer physician education, sales rep training, advisory boards, and more. As one example, The Inception Company’s Pando is a virtual platform that delivers the experience and impact of an in-person meeting by integrating a full studio production with in-studio moderators and/or presenters, a 40-foot video wall, and remote attendees participating from anywhere in the world.

“For example, we recently conducted a global medical affairs program for 1,600 HCPs from 51 different countries,” says Shaun Urban, President, The Inception Company. “Our client combined the best of both worlds by opting not to have a large, global in-person meeting but instead combined live meetings with the Pando technology. In-person meetings were held locally and then brought together via Pando so they could hold a virtual scientific session that maintained high-level medical education while providing opportunities for interactivity, engagement, and real-time connectivity between speakers and meeting participants.”

Even physical meetings are changing thanks to new technology.

“The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging is driving more personalization in the industry, especially in conference badges,” explains Andy Nieto, Global Healthcare Solutions Manager, Lenovo. “Marketers are able to provide a better conference experience through the ability to understand attendees’ engagement and behaviors throughout an event. Alignment and partnership between conference exhibitors and the organizers could further increase this capability.”

Data Made Easy

Of course, one of the most talked about new technologies today continues to be the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). In fact, David Sakadelis, VP, Group Technology Director, Heartbeat, believes that ML is impacting every single aspect of digital marketing.

“When applied correctly, ML allows a deeper understanding of our audience, their personalities, behaviors, and ultimately informs how we can design and deliver the evidence-based experiences and content that will resonate the most within the micro-interactions along their journey,” Sakadelis explains. “While the concepts of content personalization and cross channel journey mapping are not new, Machine and Deep Learning allow us to apply this 1:1 marketing at scale and in real-time. This data-centric marketing ‘engine’ can also improve over time and has the potential to automate many manual effort intensive services, totally up-ending the way we approach every aspect of marketing.”

A.J. Triano, SVP, Engagement Strategy, GSW, a Syneos Health company, also believes that data science—the discipline and technologies available to query data—is a rapidly growing discipline among today’s marketers.

“While we have seen focused efforts on precision tactics in recent years, we are now experiencing the creative transformation of strategic design by integrating data science as 1) a core input to the strategy process; 2) as a validation of hypotheses through modeling; and 3) as a virtual war-gaming tool to ‘pre-optimize’ before ever spending a dollar in market,” Triano says. “Querying large data sets reveals the unexpected answers and the hidden questions we never thought to ask. We can create more intelligent and responsive strategies that achieve greater market activation, content activation, and ROI amplification.”

Still, despite how enticing all of this may sound the best approach to applying some of these new technologies is through baby steps.

“Many executives believe that AI will substantially transform their companies within three years, but many of the most ambitious AI projects encounter setbacks or fail,” explains Partha S. Anbil, Client Partner & Cognitive Enterprise Transformation Leader, IBM Global Services, Healthcare & Life Sciences Practice. “A survey of 250 executives familiar with their companies’ use of cognitive technology and a study of 152 projects show that companies do better by taking an incremental rather than a transformative approach to developing and implementing AI, and by focusing on augmenting rather than replacing human capabilities. To get the most out of AI, firms must understand which technologies perform what types of tasks, create a prioritized portfolio of projects based on business needs, and develop plans to scale up across the company.”

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