Embracing digital change: How Pharma can move from a traditional to a digital engagement mindset

Consumers in every sector now demand convenience, i.e speed, relevance and customization, no matter the channel they use or the product they’re shopping for — and pharma industry is no exception. Pharma customers are now more social, more connected and better informed than ever before and thus, they expect the same level of experience from pharmaceutical companies as they do from retailers or consumer-goods companies.

Today, the challenge for Big (and Small) Pharma is to understand how their customers behave and to establish a multichannel marketing strategy to effectively communicate with prospects or leads in the right channel, at the right moment with the right offer and at the same time to be compliant with pharmacovigilance.

Ready for the digital spotlight

This is why digital transformation and reaching customers through multiple channels is often regarded as a top priority for the industry in 2017 and the years to come.

To achieve this, companies create and implement different strategies. Take Daiichi Sankyo Europe for example. The Japanese conglomerate went as far as to create a Multichannel Academy as part of their Digital Transformation Initiative. This is designed to offer digital training for people in charge of channel management with a focus on implementing their digital strategy, as Susanne Kellenaers — Director Multichannel Management shared at a recent Digital Pharma event in London.

Another interesting example of implementing the communication strategy throughout multichannel marketing comes from Dustin Haines, Senior Director, US Launch Lead at ViiV Healthcare who believes that pharma companies should concentrate more on the following three pillars:

Brilliant at the Basics: Lately, everyone is focusing on innovation and forgetting about the basics. This strategy suggests first to create a strong foundation and afterwards to focus on innovation.

Linked campaigns: Make sure you link all your digital channels and ongoing campaigns to deliver a coherent message.

• The agile concept “fail fast”: Similar to fail fast in Scrum, this is a strategy to try something, get fast feedback and then rapidly inspect and adapt or terminate before more money is spent. It is better to fail fast than to invest a lot of time and money and in the end to discover that your strategy wasn’t the best approach.

Challenges and Opportunities in Pharma

Besides product information, studies, blog posts and videos, pharma companies lack an essential element: product distribution. Why? Because a truly omnichannel digital experience should also include a product purchase option besides the content.

It is not enough to have a Digital Marketing Strategy to deliver your content, promotions or news if you don’t think it until the end of the funnel and include also an online purchase option. An omnichannel digital experience delivers contextual customer experiences and unifies processes. After you target your distributors with a marketing campaign for your new product, they will be able to log in to your platform and with just a click to check your stock and order the product online, with no salesperson needed. This kind of interaction offers pharma companies new opportunities from which to derive value.

The road to digital success in responding to changing customer needs

The way I see it, the next step on the Pharma Digital Transformation roadmap is online distribution. Enabling distributors to order online is a new sales channel that is not meant to replace the traditional way of doing things, but rather complement the ordering experience and bring it to the next level. This will drive a steep change in the efficiency, responsiveness and agility of a wide range of complex, cross-functional, processes, be they in the back office, production, the supply chain, marketing or sales.

It is my firm belief that to succeed in a digital world, as a pharma company, you will need to deploy next-generation technologies to streamline your business processes. To do this you need an omnichannel commerce solution that integrates all of your touch-points, digital and physical, onto one platform. This way, you avoid the inconsistency that frustrates your customers and concentrates on delivering experiences at every touch-point and on every device to boost sales.


Knowing this, the first step should be to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that helps you to start the process of learning as quickly as possible. The solution should offer you the possibility to test the channels and the market response by starting small, just with the minimum required features, but on a very powerful and scalable platform. Based on the market response, the product development road-map should allow you to quickly pivot and adjust your strategy to answer the identified needs, based on the market response.