The Omnichannel Approach for Pharma Marketers: A Getting Started Guide

Omnichannel continues its long-standing reign as a kingly buzzword in the pharmaceutical industry, and it isn’t being overthrown anytime soon. The omnichannel approach is driven by how seamless and personalized your pharma brand’s digital experiences are for users. 


HCPs and patients should feel like they are at the center of your brand's universe, their unique needs met in an instant, whether on their phone or laptop, day or night.

So what is omnichannel marketing?

Omnichannel’s simple definition rests in its name: all channels. Unlike multichannel marketing, omnichannel reaches HCPs and patients at every touchpoint consistently and holistically, maintaining a unified message. It's a powerful alignment of all facets of the customer experience, centered around HCPs and patients rather than the content itself. 


You’ve probably heard other pharma marketers say something along the lines of: delivering the right message, through the right channel, and at the right time. If omnichannel marketing had a slogan, that would be it. 


The omnichannel approach covers all bases with precision. It’s a data-driven, dynamic solution to meeting and potentially exceeding HCP and patient expectations of personalization.

What does an omnichannel experience look like?

An omnichannel experience is tailored, timely, and smooth. It does not stall or bombard HCPs and patients with irrelevant and impersonal messages.


IQVIA’s Andrew Burkus lays out a perfect example for us in the latest magazine issue of pm360: 


"Dr. Smith goes to her favorite health endemic site to research a new therapeutic option for one of her patients who continues to struggle with symptoms … If you know Dr. Smith interacted with this content and you know her channel preferences from behavioral data, you can sequence future contextually relevant messaging (email, social, digital, etc.) at a time when it is most impactful for her. It is also possible to add this information to your customer relationship management (CRM) efforts, triggering an alert to a representative or a medical science liaison (MSL) enabling them to maximize message relevancy and effectiveness." 


The experience revolves around Dr. Smith, not the brand.


That perspective shift is imperative to the success of omnichannel marketing, leading to better outcomes for everyone.


Why invest in the omnichannel approach?

There is no shortage of reasons to invest in omnichannel marketing. Patient engagement expert Helen West feels that “the omnichannel experience legitimizes a patient’s impression of a pharma brand by creating that personalized frictionless experience.”


A good impression breeds loyalty, increasing engagement not only in the initial moment of impact but in future moments, too.


The level of personalization omnichannel brings to the table (or tablet) reflects well on pharma brands, showcasing a commitment to patient centricity, another thriving buzzword. Patients are fed relevant content on their preferred channels. They are, as previously noted, the focal point of the interaction. 


IQVIA points out that “Modular content building blocks are key to [meaningful personalization], e.g., developing a preapproved content repository which can be re-used and re-assembled, as is a streamlined medical, legal, regulatory review (MLR) process, including smart process automation where feasible, to enable agility.”


Beyond personalization, omnichannel is associated with convenience. Integrating omnichannel techniques into your marketing strategy will transfer that positive association to your pharma brand, enticing busy HCPs and patients. 


To toss another apt omni word into the mix, taking the omnichannel approach paints your brand as an omniscient digital entity. HCPs and patients want to feel as if you know what their specific needs are and are ready to meet them at their convenience, not yours. 

The convergence of digital storytelling and the omnichannel approach

Digital storytelling brings the omnichannel approach to life by transforming the marketing strategy into convenient pieces of engaging content.


It is a fast track to omnichannel success because it’s powered by two unbeatable forces: data and storytelling.


Personalized digital stories include a number of interactive features that enable the generation of customer-level data. Every click can give you invaluable insight into an HCP or patient's preferences and needs. That deeper data feeds back into the storytelling cycle, the stories getting smarter and smarter with each campaign they're layered into.


Detailed storytelling engages the human, emotional side of HCPs and patients, while valuable insights engage the analytical side that craves stats to back up a pharma brand's claims.


Once a digital story locks in HCPs and patients, it can trigger the next best action in your omnichannel sequence.

Acclimating your team to the omnichannel approach

Going omnichannel can seem daunting given the advanced technological capabilities required to see its success. But It doesn’t have to happen overnight.


Nick Lucente, senior director of oncology digital marketing at Bayer, provides insight into Bayer’s steady pace: "We didn’t do it all at once, and as we built and expanded, we optimized and better orchestrated messaging across channels."


The time spent improving your omnichannel infrastructure will be earned back, and then some, once more efficient systems are put into place.


Lucente continues, explaining how his whole team adjusted to omnichannel marketing and the accompanying new HCP and patient insights:


"We started with education. We explained how everything worked … [and] collected feedback around different use cases and the insights that would be most valuable. For instance, we asked whether it would be helpful to know if a core customer was downloading patient resources or ordering samples from our website ... Before we launched or worked with regulatory, we worked with sales leaders to understand how to frame the messaging."


It takes patience, collaboration, and a willingness to revamp the processes you’ve always known. Stepping out of your industry comfort zone and into an innovative space encourages necessary growth. 

What’s next for omnichannel pharma?

Omnichannel may not be overthrown soon, but it is already being adapted, new “omni” buzzwords being tossed around experimentally. Two such words are “omnidynamic” and “omnipresent.”


Omnipresent is, coincidentally, the more present of the two emerging buzzwords, while omnidynamic is the brainchild of CMI Media Group’s José Ferreira, not yet fully developed.


Omnipresent marketing and omnichannel marketing are nearly indistinguishable from one another. In some ways, omnipresent seems more like a reframing of omnichannel versus an entirely new marketing strategy to conceptualize.


MarTech attributes the subtle difference to their varying levels of commitment to the customer journey: “While omnichannel focuses on bridging the gaps between channels, omnipresent strives to immerse the brand into the very fabric of the customer’s life. It’s not about being everywhere, but about being everywhere that matters.”


Ferreira describes omnidynamic as being “where omnichannel breaks free of business rule-based constraints, is fueled with variable and modular content across marketing channels, and each customer can be served a unique experience that is attuned to their specific in-the-moment needs.”

He also notes that an omnidymanic approach could ease the switching between unbranded and branded campaigns by implementing templated messaging.

Will Ferreira’s coined term climb the ranks? That is yet to be seen, but regardless, it emphasizes the massive and continuous surge toward data-driven, hyper-personalized digital experiences. 

Take the omnichannel leap for your pharmaceutical brand

According to McKinsey & Company, the implementation of omnichannel techniques within commercial models can result in a 3-5% increase in prescribers and a 5-10% lift in HCP satisfaction. That is no small boost.

Omnichannel is like a springboard that can launch your digital marketing content to new heights, driving leads and conversions.

Customer satisfaction greatly determines the success of your omnichannel approach to pharma marketing. It’s time to meet HCPs and patients where they are and in the way they want to be met.

Omnichannel is not the future, it's now. 

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