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The Shift From Multichannel to Omnichannel in Pharma Marketing

Jennifer Zeifman

The pharma industry has undergone many shifts in its approach to communications over the past few years – one of which is the desire to move from “multichannel” to an “omnichannel” environment.

What we’re discovering, however, is that: 1) not everyone’s definition of omnichannel is the same; and 2) without a clear understanding of what it is, people may not grasp why they want it… or how to make the shift successfully.

Let’s start with some definitions:

Multichannel simply means having more than one channel – multiple channels. For example, many pharma companies started building out their digital ecosystem with websites, social channels, CRM/email marketing programs, etc. As each channel was created separately, they tended to live independently – often repeating the same information. The expectation was that the customer or patient would find the information and determine what they wanted (or didn’t want) to consume. The focus was more about the channel and less about the experience they deliver.

Omnichannel, on the other hand, is one interwoven ecosystem in which each channel is intended to work together. Content on one channel relates to content on another – meaning you don’t need to repeat the same information everywhere and you can move people through your ecosystem by designing a “content journey”. 

How this applies to the healthcare industry

In healthcare, our patient audience will be educated online, but will also have offline interactions with their healthcare team. Meaning, we need to ensure that what is being communicated to HCPs (Healthcare Professionals) aligns with what that the patient may be asking.

This forces us to view content and the user experience we deliver through an audience-first and patient-centric lens – thinking through how users would like to receive the information to meet their specific needs.

How pharma companies can realize better outcomes:

  1. Engagement: Whether you’re communicating with a patient, caregiver or HCP, with omnichannel marketing, the content you’re presenting evolves as the user progresses through your digital ecosystem. You’re more focused on the individual’s experience, removing any barriers to keep them within your ecosystem. 
  2. Efficiency: Omnichannel is about using each channel within your ecosystem appropriately based on how the audience uses them. By maximizing the channels effectiveness, you will reduce wasted spend and increase efficiency. We encourage our clients to shift their thinking of channels as targeting mediums to understanding channel behaviour – providing the right content, at the right time, to the right person, on the right channel (right?!).
  3. Experience: Providing your target audience with a curated experience is not only an efficient use of your content on the right channels, but it makes for an easy and useful experience (and a higher return on investment!). This should feel like a seamless experience for the audiences you are trying to satisfy. It’s their information journey.

Content continues to be king. But we must consider the patient target who is demanding both meaningful content, and a meaningful engagement experience. It’s our job to ensure that happens.