There are countless new technologies that are having a positive influence on pharmaceutical marketing. When we look at other industries, we see companies embracing technology in revolutionary ways—ways that pharma marketers have historically overlooked. Despite restrictions that often result in industry short-sightedness, in order to be successful today, pharmaceutical companies must utilize these advancements to improve and expand their capabilities and better serve patients’ needs.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has long enabled brands to understand existing customers and acquire new ones. But in 2019, we’ll see pharmaceutical companies use AI in new and exciting ways. By looking at historical data, combined with its predictive capabilities, AI can help brands focus their sales efforts on appropriate potential targets.
For example, a large global pharmaceutical company wanted to use AI to predict conversion and adherence rates to focus sales efforts. Using Salesforce Einstein Discovery and patient-level data, they were able to predict conversion rates based on multiple criteria, such as diagnosis date, age, location, and provider. By accessing these tools, marketers can save time and expenses when pursuing new customers in a way that is most appealing to that person.
We’ve seen chatbot-driven apps such as Healthily and WoeBot encourage patients to actively engage in their treatment. These types of chatbots provide user-friendly experiences for users to regularly engage with brands, but in an efficient and cost-effective way for the companies that create them. A critical consideration for pharmaceutical companies next year is scale: When different chatbots are used for different audiences—such as employees, pharmaceutical reps, doctors, patients, and more—how can companies keep all of their bots working in harmony to ensure content is managed properly and consistently?
There is an increased need for an internal framework for pharma companies to build chatbots, further develop their capabilities, test them, and optimize them. Brands can now use natural language processing and machine learning to make their bots smarter and more intuitive, so they can better serve patients or other key audiences. And instead of individual bots being isolated, we may see the implementation of internal chatbot factories, which can manage dozens of bots and house the information learned from individual conversations. That data can be socialized so that all bots can hone future responses.
Voice devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa satisfy consumers’ desire for speed and convenience. So in 2019, everything a pharmaceutical company puts in front of a consumer should be voice-enabled. Patients can use voice technology to verbally acknowledge that they’ve taken their prescribed treatment that day, to set reminders for appointments, or to report health concerns to physicians.
Further, according to ComScore, 50% of all web searches will be completed through voice technology by 2020. In fact, Google has recently experienced increases in “near me” searches for locations such as hospitals and pharmacies, as well as an increase in “medicine delivery” inquiries. Where brands have been focused on typed search optimization, it’s now becoming equally—if not more—important that they ensure that their online presence is optimized for voice search. This should be a key goal for pharmaceutical companies next year.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were widely used in pharmaceuticals in 2018. Outside of marketing for and education about a product, healthcare providers have utilized these technologies to undergo empathy training to understand the real impacts of illnesses, resulting in physicians adopting a more mindful approach to disease prevention and treatment.
But in the next year, the most cutting-edge work will be done in mixed reality (MR). MR, a blend of the virtual and real worlds, provides a more interactive experience for users. The use cases for pharmaceutical sales teams are endless. For example, rapid advances in drug discovery and development complicate the educational process for physicians. Sales representatives can use MR to help doctors visualize exactly how a drug works to fight disease. This memorable, immersive experience enhances retention rates among users, in addition to creating an opportunity to collect data.
When a doctor interacts with a company’s MR technology, they learn not only who is clicking on the chart, but what they are clicking, providing invaluable insights into the treatment process. MR experiences help physicians quickly grasp how therapies work, and also builds strong brand recognition amongst this critical population. Technologies such as the HoloLens 2.0 and Magic Leap, given their transportable design, open even more doors for MR to be implemented on a greater scale in 2019.
Although pharmaceutical companies have tried to deliver omnichannel marketing experiences in the past, most have failed to do it. It has historically been difficult to employ because the technology has not been there—but this will likely change in the next year. The approach can no longer be siloed. When customers make purchases on Amazon or utilize ride-sharing services such as Uber, their expectations for experiences with other brands are heightened, and pharmaceutical companies must rise to meet them.
Omnichannel marketing ensures alignment of experiences. Unlike multichannel marketing, the experience is synchronized across channels and modified for each user. It’s data-driven, and because of that, we’re able to create personalized experiences for customers, no matter the device. Pharmaceutical companies must prioritize creating this type of experience so that consumers of our brands always feel like their time spent on apps or websites or in-person is worthwhile and valuable—and seamless across all channels.
A Bright, Digital-First Outlook
Reflecting on the innovative approaches to marketing that evolved over the last year, there are numerous opportunities for pharmaceutical marketers to utilize digital advancements to grow their brands and build strong connections with key audiences. With today’s speed of technology, I look forward to witnessing all that will be accomplished in our industry this year.