Saturday, February 27, 2016

Zappos is winning by delivering happiness. What kind of experience are you delivering to your evolving customer base?

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This article originally appeared in the Aptus Health post here.

It’s the stuff of urban legends – a woman finds dozens of boxes of unworn shoes from Zappos while cleaning out her deceased mother’s house, and doesn’t know what to do with them. The company not only cheerfully refunds them all, but also sends a bouquet of flowers in sympathy for the customer’s loss. The message: we don’t just take your returns, we recognize just what the return means to you as a person, not just a consumer. That’s customer-centricity.

Of course, Zappos is just one example of how across all industries, people are changing the ways they engage with products, services, and brands. Those experiences shape how they expect to engage with pharma companies, too. To stay relevant in this new environment, marketers must re-evaluate their traditional commercial model and address the changing expectations of their evolving customer base. Customers’ expectations are higher than ever before, and yet we are less connected with them. Is anyone succeeding?

The answer is, yes. As a leading provider of digital engagement platforms and engagement architecture, we’ve been privileged to witness quite a few success stories. Here are just a few examples of positive trends we’re seeing, where pharmaceutical companies and brands have leveraged digital channels and insights to create mutual value for patients and providers in the healthcare space.

TREND: Consumers are moving to self-service models, whether they want to or not. From the way they book travel to the way they track their steps, people are using technology to take greater control over how they make decisions.


OPPORTUNITY: Support self-service models in a way that doesn’t focus just on medical habits, but overall patient habits, so that solutions fit into their daily lives Pharma marketers can support this self-service and self-tracking trend by engaging healthcare consumers through digital and mobile health tools that enhance and simplify that experience. As an example, over a 10-week period of engaging with the MedHelp SugarSense app, more than 50% of  a sample population of patients with Type 2 diabetes lowered their hemoglobin A1c levels by about 15%. Those are the kind of results many drug-based interventions only dream about, especially in real-world settings.

For a digitally-based program, this type of outcome is notoriously hard to achieve in chronic conditions like diabetes, and a synthesized digital approach that supports patients in those spaces between in-person interactions with the healthcare system is clearly a winning approach to helping them better manage their condition on their own terms.

TREND: Healthcare professionals are increasingly working within systems that limit their prescribing autonomy and make them virtually inaccessible to sales reps.


OPPORTUNITY: Recognize that trusted relationships are based on continuous, consistent, personalized connections—not just face time.

We may have lost the ability to create long term face-to-face relationships between pharma reps and physicians, but by no means does this mean we’ve lost the ability to create trusted relationships with those same physicians through other means. The first step is recognizing that we still have access to nearly all physicians, through the same channels that have made global commerce a daily reality. Even the most remote fashionista can get a pair of new Louboutins delivered to her cabin door, as long as she has internet access.

Similarly, digital channels ensure that pharma marketers can connect with target HCPs who may be difficult to reach face-to-face, and engage them in credible, valuable content that supports better decision making whenever and wherever they need it most (including on a mobile device). Over time, a consistent, valuable string of interactions replaces what was lost when we moved to a no-call environment. It’s not just about replacing the content of a sales call—it’s about replacing relationships and trust, one good interaction at a time.

As an example, after engaging with a digital, expert-led piece of clinical content within our digital HCP community, 78% of HCPs surveyed say their rate of success breaking asthma attacks improved. This kind of impact  creates exactly the brand relationships we’ve been mourning ever since our physical access was reduced, and are the kinds of results that we aspired to with a seasoned sales force. 

Digital content also helps support informed prescribing decisions; for example, 63% of surveyed HCPs say they identified additional patients for therapy after engaging with asthma-related digital content that had been developed by the client. That was exactly the intent of field calls—to help doctors identify appropriate patients for therapy. That’s content that delivers real value to both the HCP and the health system they work in, and it succeeded in a purely digital environment.

TREND: Payers are taking on the responsibility for creating new treatment algorithms and paradigms.


OPPORTUNITY: Help consumers navigate the coverage landscape by leveraging their already-existing habits of mobile intelligence gathering.

Just as consumers are accustomed to seeing alerts on their mobile devices recommending the best cup of coffee in a five-block radius, so can they get targeted information on the therapies that might be right for them, based on their location, insurance access, behavioral indicators, and more.

This is the kind of “customer journey” work we as an industry have been talking about for years, finally made real. Because it maps to customers’ existing  expectations ( “I can find whatever I want, wherever I want, or better yet, they’ll find me…”), it is easily assimilated by the user and rapidly integrated into their purchasing habits. The geo-targeting available through our media platform makes this approach even more valuable.

For example, a pharma marketer whose product has recently received formulary approval, but  approval that varies by state and depending on the specific insurance of the customer, can geo-target co-pay promotions that specifically focus on the relevant insurers in that region. Applied knowledge of access can amplify this information to relevant HCPs and healthcare consumers in a way that fits into their targets’ digital, mobile-centric lives—offering personalized marketing and messaging to encourage healthy behavior.

The digital revolution is marching on, and for all the stresses it creates, it creates an equal number of opportunities to excel. We are proud to be at the forefront. The impacts shown by our interventions are proving that pharmaceutical marketers can still have trusted, important relationships with customers, provided they approach digital engagement in the right way.

Curious to learn more and share your own experiences? Join me at the 2016 ePharma Summit, where I’ll be moderating an active ideation session to further flesh out these ideas and potential solutions together.

Brad Davidson, Strategic Planning, Aptus Health
Brad Davidson, PhD, SVP, Strategic Planning, Aptus Health


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