Which Comes First: Trust or User Experience?

For anyone who has been a patient—or cared for one—finding trustworthy information online is crucial to understand symptoms, learn about new medication, and manage chronic conditions. For marketers, communicating this life-saving and life-enhancing information can’t be accomplished without trust. But in today’s digital environment, pharma marketers and communicators must reconsider exactly how trust affects consumers’ online search preferences.

Recent research shows that when it comes to prompting online engagement, trust alone isn’t a key driver of the consumer behavior marketers are seeking. New data (http://prn.to/1Y1MNp9) reveal strong consumer preferences for online health resources that are easy to use—regardless of trustworthiness.

In other words, user experience trumps credibility.

What the Data Show

It’s a critical insight for pharma marketers. Companies and brands direct significant human and financial resources toward ensuring their messages are perceived as trustworthy. One prominent strategy is to partner with a trusted third-party source with a shared patient-care mission. It’s a win-win: Patients learn about important scientific data or patient support programs via a trusted source, and the third-party receives support to continue its important work. The approach is successful for good reason—consumers do have strong opinions about trustworthiness.

But when it comes to accessing and engaging online resources, something unexpected happens: Trust doesn’t always correlate with use. For instance, even though advocacy groups earn consumers’ highest rating for trustworthiness (59%), just 16% of consumers use their websites for online health information. Conversely, WebMD leads the pack for consumer usage (53%), but earns relatively low endorsement for trustworthiness at just 39%.

It’s a head scratching disconnect. But when the data for “trust” and “ease-of-use” ratings are compared side-by-side, a clear pattern emerges: WebMD scores highest on ease-of-use (56%), while advocacy groups (29%) are among the two lowest-rated online resources in that category.

In other words, despite high levels of trust, consumers seem turned off by a poor user experience on advocacy websites. What do these data tell us? Three key takeaways for pharma marketers include:

  • When it comes to health information online, the presentation is just as important as the message. Don’t neglect user experience just because you are working with a highly trusted partner.
  • Synthesizing patient care and web design remains an underserved need. Demonstrate credibility and build trust—but then reward your target audience with a positive online experience and messages written in their language.
  • Incorporate input from patients and advocates on their on-the-ground needs—but don’t forget that accessing information online is one of them.

By bringing ease-of-use to the forefront and combining digital know-how and resources with advocates’ patient-care messages and reach, we can advance patient education, care, and hopefully, outcomes. With consumers increasingly engaged in their care, communicating trustworthy treatment information about treatments and medical conditions management is more important than ever. Make sure your trusted information is easy to use.

  • Arielle Bernstein

    Arielle Bernstein, MPP is Group President at Makovsky Health. Arielle is sought out by clients and colleagues alike for her editorial expertise, strategic counsel, and data analysis acumen. With a background in public policy and health economics, she brings unique value to client efforts, focusing on Thought Leadership and Advocacy.


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