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Healthcare marketing strategy trends for 2021

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 25 Jun, 2021
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Our pharma and healthcare marketing trends 2021 guide covers the latest sector innovations for your medical marketing strategy

We are now in a period of significant change for both pharma and healthcare marketing where the pandemic has increased the importance of digital communications and value delivery. Within the pharma and healthcare sector, businesses need to continue to innovate their business models to make their online experiences and customer engagement communications more effective.

Our pharma and healthcare marketing trends 2021 guide aims to highlights trends in marketing communications within the pharma and healthcare sectors with an emphasis on digital marketing. These trends are, in turn, influenced by broader trends within business and revenue models within pharma.

In the blog below we will cover the implications of telehealth, experience optimization, and customer engagement across the healthcare marketing sector. You can download our guide to discover 6 further trends, plus case studies and best practice recommendations. Download your free copy today.

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The authors of the KPMG Report - Pharma outlook 2030: From evolution to revolution - highlight the broad trends within the sector:

“The pharmaceutical sector is at a crossroads. In a heavily disrupted marketplace, characterized by shifting payer attitudes and patient empowerment, neither incremental adjustments nor steady evolution is likely to halt the decline of the traditional pharmaceutical business model.”

This disruption is a result of a shifting power balance in two primary directions.

The first shift is in the balance of power across the healthcare value chain, as governments and insurers take center stage, pressuring pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices and demonstrate greater value from their therapies.

Secondly, the swing from treatment to prevention, diagnostics, and cure, will grow stronger in time, attracting a host of new entrants from within and outside of the sector.

This disruption is further backed up with findings by Deloitte who suggest that there will be five sources of potential disruption to the biopharma industry specifically.

healthcare marketing disruption

Prevention and early detection:

Treatment for some diseases could be rendered no longer necessary with continued improvements in wellness and vaccine technology. Interventions that halt diseases in their earliest stages will be possible with continued advances in early detection methods - thereby preventing their progression to becoming more serious conditions.

Customized treatments:

'Big data' powered personalization could help match patients with tailored therapies or custom drug combinations - avoiding a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to treatment.

Curative therapies:

Similar to preventative approaches, curative therapies could reduce or even eliminate the usage of some prescription medicines. To achieve this, the biopharma sector will likely need to invest in and adopt new capabilities to develop, market, and assign appropriate pricing structures.

Digital therapeutics:

Medication demand could be reduced or eliminated through the appearance of increasingly effective and scalable nonpharmaceutical (digital) interventions such as those focused on behavior modification.

Precision intervention:

Robotics, tissue engineering, or nanotechnology could reduce the need for pharmaceutical intervention.

How can digital communications trends support this innovation?

Using integrated digital communications will be important across all of these innovations in service delivery. In our trends report, we focus on how innovations in digital communications can support brand marketing and sales teams to communicate these new value propositions.

We envisage that investments in digital media and technology will increase in marketing communications both to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and consumers where the direct to customer (D2C) model is becoming more important.

Direct-to-customer (D2C) model

The Direct-to-customer (D2C) model is enabled by digital disruption. It involves brands communicating their proposition and, in some cases delivering their services, direct to customers via digital media channels such as website content with content distribution achieved through search engines, digital ads, social media, and email automation.

A D2C example from the Pharma sector is where Abbott introduced Freestyle Libre, a consumer subscription commerce option to improve access and loyalty for its diabetes care devices. This service uses many of the approaches of Software-as-a-Service or (SaaS) platforms to test and improve customer conversion rates and loyalty.

Healthcare marketing

When launching such new D2C services digital media and technology will become more important within campaign communications to reach and persuade consumers as they decide on adoption independently or with HCP support.

Reviewing the quality of orchestrating always-on marketing communications across paid, owned, and earned media will also become more important to ensure the right types of digital and traditional communications are used across the entire customer lifecycle model. This example summarises B2B lifecycle AO communications across the Smart Insights RACE planning framework suggests the complexity of communications that need to be planned, managed, and optimized.

Always-on marketing communications

This is a planned approach to scheduling and optimizing continuous marketing activities which support customer acquisition and retention. These activities aim to maximize visibility and persuasion through the customer lifecycle. Key ‘always-on’ activities include paid and natural search marketing to increase visibility as visitors search for products, information, or entertainment; social media and influence marketing to encourage recommendations.

Once visitors are aware of a brand, their interest can be nurtured by marketing automation techniques to feature persuasive content marketing including email marketing, SMS messaging, or push notification plus on-site personalization and off-site re-targeting ads.

RACE framework lifecycle

Download your free copy of our pharma and healthcare marketing trends report today to discover the latest trends and innovations in healthcare and pharma marketing. Our guide covers 9 trends integrated aross the RACE Framework, with real-life examples and practical recommendations. Find out more.

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Your business model and marketing approach

The approach to marketing that your business takes can be considered in terms of the type of products and services you provide. The KPMG report identified three types of approaches.

The active portfolio company

This is typically a company that is active in several therapeutic areas within its portfolio. An example would be companies that operate in genetics or immunotherapy - as they are constantly searching for new therapies as well as reappraising their current product mix to help match unfulfilled needs. As the number of blockbuster drugs protected by patents is continually decreasing, an active product lifecycle management approach becomes all the more critical.

The virtual value chain orchestrator

This approach possesses significant opportunity, effectively able to guide patients through a complex healthcare value chain, supporting healthcare practitioners to provide tailored care, even enabling pharma companies to be paid based on outcomes - all over the patient's lifespan. This presents significant sector change, whereby a company could effectively 'own' a customer but creating one-stop healthcare platforms. This essentially turns health into another consumer choice - where a platform owner covers the entirety of the patient's needs, such as advice, monitoring, and treatment of varying and tailored levels of complexity.

The niche specialist

This means those that typically specialize in treating a condition in its entirety, not those that offer a single type of treatment. A good example would be an arthritis specialist - they can treat symptoms and also provide a host of outcomes that aim to improve the arthritis sufferer's lifestyle, such as offering support splints and comfortable shoes to lessen the impact on painful joints.

Pharmaceutical marketing or healthcare marketing, what difference does it make?

Pharmaceutical marketing is the marketing of drugs or products to medical practitioners and consumers alike. Traditionally, Rx and OTx marketing has taken various forms - free samples and sales reps, fliers and literature, events, continuous medical education, etc.

Healthcare marketing refers to the marketing strategies healthcare providers, insurers, suppliers, and advocacy groups use to attract new patients and increase awareness of their healthcare business.

The consumer healthcare segment is expected to grow and traditional approaches to marketing and branding are being slowly overhauled to try to meet the potential of the market of prevention and health maximization.

Impact of COVID-19

The pandemic has forced many pharma operations, in particular, event-based marketing to move more communications online. It has also provided a significant increase in options for digital communications with customers - both HCP and patients who are looking for content directly from pharma companies. For sales representatives, geographical constraints and travel have been all but negated and they are able to service the needs of a global audience.

Multi-channel selling has been a higher priority in sales teams as well as multi-channel channel content management and the use of well-segmented email sequences have allowed personalized, compelling dialogue with customers. The focus on personalization and the recognition of what key information customers need has stimulated pharma marketers to improve the quality of their output across all channels.

Many providers are now looking to engage with customers in collaborative and consultative ways that provide value beyond the pill.

In terms of digital transformation, the transition from face-to-face relationships to virtual platforms has mostly been achieved using systems that were already in place. While this has been successful for established relationships, creating and nurturing new relationships will present challenges, and proving that your organization is more than just a commercial interest will need a solid strategy if it is to be successful using remote interactions.

Telehealth, eDetailing, and ePescribing

The pharmaceutical industry, which traditionally engages more with providers than patients, has made a concerted effort to reach out to patients directly via new channels such as mobile applications (apps). In this trend, we cover three techniques that are specific to this sector showing how their use has increased.

A review of any global life sciences company annual report illustrates that patient experience and patient engagement are both central to almost every company’s strategic agenda.

A recent survey by RockHealth reported that 80% of internet-connected adults use digital health tools. The survey identified five different categories of digital health use: searching for online health information, comparing health services online, tracking health with a mobile app, tracking health with a wearable device, and using telemedicine.

Digital health tools

Although the industry may still be in the early stages of digital adoption, consumers are already well aware and embracing digital channels as a tool for managing their health and wellness.

What is digital engagement?

Evolving digital capabilities have enabled pharmaceutical companies, healthcare practitioners, providers, and patients to proactively connect with, understand and support each other. This can be over passive channels like emails, SMS, banner ads, or interactive channels like chatbots and apps, etc., through the use of light content (ads, banners) or rich content (games, articles).

Digital pharma contacts

IQVIA believes that digital engagement provides the value that HCPs and patients seek across dimensions and it has opened many opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to interact directly with HCPs and patients.

HCPs and patients online

They go further to suggest aligning the customer journey around the cardinal outcomes or ‘three Es’ which in the context of healthcare are:

  • Efficacy – trying to maximize health outcomes, quality of cure, and recovery.
  • Economy – trying to minimize time and money spent on treatment and recovery.
  • Experience – trying to minimize emotional anxiety during the care journey.

HCP customer journey


The past year has highlighted the importance of protecting healthcare services and individuals and as the pandemic raged across the globe, telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) solutions became increasingly relevant. Their value was highlighted by the need for a rapid shift from contact-based care to virtual and the need for patient support in multiple locations and situations. The market also shows that telehealth and RPM are here to stay.

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is an all-encompassing term that is used to define the provision of medical and healthcare services that are accessible virtually. This can be by Type (Products and Services), By Modality (Store-and-forward (Asynchronous), Real-time (Synchronous), and Others), by Application (Teleradiology, Telepathology, Teledermatology, Telecardiology, Telepsychiatry, and Others) or by End User (Healthcare Facilities and Homecare).

Telehealth has emerged as a powerful tool with many people actively adopting teleconsultation and remote monitoring services in order to receive services while adhering to social distancing protocols. This is a technology and medical solution that’s here to stay, has a far-reaching impact on medicine and healthcare, and provides opportunities for marketing too.


eDetailing is one of the most important components in the marketing toolbox for pharmaceutical companies. Taking advantage of its possibilities can not only save time and money, but it can also help establish a stronger and more trusting bond with physicians. Physicians are no longer willing, or able, to schedule time blocks to engage with sales representatives therefore it is key for pharma companies to not only use eDetailing but to transform to intelligent eDetailing and take advantage of digital possibilities.

What is e-detailing?

E-detailing, electronic detailing, is a now well-established way of increasing pharmaceutical and MedTech company efficiency in customer engagement – and enables better service to be delivered to healthcare professionals (HCPs) and other stakeholders.

You may already know that e-detailing is information concerning things like newly marketed drugs, services, and technologies or sales content provided on a mobile device. The key is to make sure the content that is provided this way is interactive, interesting, and useful for HCPs. Because the presentations are trackable, they can provide data to help you better meet HCP needs in the future.

Benefits of pharmaceutical e-detailing

E-detailing offers many benefits for both your business and your customer:

  • Provides opportunities for HCPs (or other stakeholders) to actively engage with content using animation and video as well as augmented reality and virtual simulations, to draw attention to key messages.
  • Because this content is interactive, you can better understand what content actually interests HCPs based on their level of engagement. By tracking these interactions, and applying sophisticated analytics, it enables company representatives to work at an individual level with HCPs – providing ‘just-for-you’ communications.
  • In addition to your main product arguments, an e-detailing system can provide reps
    and MSLs with easy access to all scientific documentation on pharmaceutical products (and additional content elements), at the moment of need. These assets can be regularly updated with fresh content that applies the lessons learned from customer data.
  • Good e-detailing enables customer-facing staff, whether sales reps, medical science liaisons (MSLs), or other members of your customer team to provide a consistently high-quality experience which is crucial to implementing an omnichannel strategy.

Remote e-detailing

With access to HCPs becoming harder and the social distancing requirements in place due to COVID, remote e-detailing is growing as a necessary way of connecting with customers. By taking the physical detailing meeting online, pharmaceutical representatives and medical science liaisons are able to quickly schedule appointments when they are most convenient for HCPs.

Having quality, credible content is important and this needs to fit within the journey physicians embark on when they consume information.

When considering your ideal solution you may need to consider these aspects of your content:

  • Are you willing to adapt the content you already have to match specifically the needs of the intended audience rather than general consumption?
  • Can you provide this adapted and focused content on the digital platforms that my segments actually engage with?
  • How will you ensure your content is updated regularly?

Social listening intelligence and links to telemedicine

Telemedicine has become a mainstay of the healthcare industry and due to the COVID pandemic has become essential to maintaining healthcare services when physical contact has not been possible. Telemedicine allows patients to access HCPs more easily, allows HCPs to see more patients, and enables patients to access specialists that may be geographically distant.

With any technology there can be challenges with implementation that need to be considered such as patients may have low digital literacy and/or limited access to necessary technology. There can also be difficulties due to drug manufacturers facing supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic leading to delays of mail-order prescriptions.

As healthcare provisions increasingly transition online, ensuring all resources (e.g., doctor discussion guide) are available online and digitized for easy use (e.g. fillable forms, easily searched) is key.

The transition can be made smoother by creating best practices for HCPs to navigate this digital landscape.

Brands need to be aware of the differences that are present across countries that may impact the uptake of telemedicine usage. Germany, for example, is falling behind when it comes to the availability of digital content in education and regulations for telemedicine. This is not surprising given the importance of privacy to Germans, with 82% saying they only share data that is absolutely necessary when using an app or digital service.

In a 2021 study by Initiative2, Germany's largest non-profit network for the digital society, reported that 33% would be interested in attending a video consultation hour, 50% trust that legal requirements for data protection and data security are complied with and 30% fear that they will lose access to health care if more is shifted to digital.

A one-size-fits-all digital solution will therefore not work across all markets since attitudes to tech differ vastly. Any company looking at innovating in this space would do well to tailor to each country’s unique friction points and outlooks.

Download your free copy of our pharma and healthcare marketing trends report today to discover the latest trends and innovations in healthcare and pharma marketing. Our guide covers 9 trends integrated aross the RACE Framework, with real-life examples and practical recommendations. Find out more.

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Experience optimization and conversational messaging

As the way consumers engage with pharma and healthcare companies continues to evolve, your organization will naturally consider how you shape the customer experience as part of the transformation of healthcare.

How will your organization change how it provides data and information? How will it facilitate value chain integration and collaboration in new ways? How will it provide new digitally-enabled therapeutic solutions?

These changes will require reconfiguration of customer journeys and new solutions. For example, IQVIA has identified many new potential services to consider:

  • Health data management and analytics; þ Care coordination;
  • Personalized medicine;
  • Wellness Management;
  • Home healthcare;
  • Remote monitoring and
  • Technology-enabled outcome-based funding

CX As The Winning Card And The Rise Of Journey Architects

When it comes to health decisions, customers tend to be focused on their needs at a specific stage, rather than on any brand. To guarantee a competitive edge, your CX strategy needs to identify all customer touchpoints in an omnichannel way that connects departments and functions and can deliver new and better-integrated experiences.

The visual shows how these new types of experience relate to oncology:

Oncology marketing strategy

According to Mckinsey, “In the last economic recession, companies that prioritized CX realized three times the shareholder returns compared to the companies that did not.”

According to Forbes Council Member Joao Mendes-Roter, healthcare journey architects will rise in importance as product marketing, clinically knowledgeable tech champions to lead this new discourse. They will use agile processes, focused on services and micro-services, understand how to lead cross-functional teams, and nurture a culture of design thinking and continuous improvement. They will be fluent in defining measurable events and promoting education. They will deliver to customers and generate financial impact for the business with increased customer retention and reduced servicing costs.

Conversational engagement

As well as understanding the moments of need for customers and patients, using technology that empowers brands and consumers to interact with each other through chat or messaging, voice assistance and other natural language interfaces is crucial to building engagement and a positive experience.

Simply put, conversational engagement uses messaging technologies and natural language to interact with customers during their buying journey by providing them with personalized help and recommendations while nurturing long-term relationships.

Voicebot.ai developed this graphic which shows consumer device preferences for healthcare use cases of conversational engagement.

Healthcare and pharma voice-interactive devices

We recommend businesses review the relevance of these applications of conversational engagement:

  • Voice-activated search
  • Smart speaker interactions
  • Voice-based commerce
  • Chatbots and Messenger interactions
  • Immersive experiences

Note, however, traditional push messaging through emails, text, and mobile push notifications are likely to remain important. Smart Insights believe it’s essential to consider ‘conversational messaging’ as an integrated contact strategy that’s delivered across all relevant communications channels rather than focusing on novel technologies. Email and mobile messaging will continue to have the benefit that they can be personalized to the individual and are more widely used than chat-based platforms.

Voice-activated search

This started from the smartphone trend of voice assistants, where Apple and Google introduced voice assistants on their smartphone operating systems. We now have voice interactions through the likes of Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa/Echo.

According to Chatmeter, one of the top use cases for voice assistants has to do with healthcare-related tasks and questions with 19.1 million people having turned to their voice assistants for healthcare questions in 2019. At the time of the research, just 7.5% of respondents had used voice search, however, more than 50% were interested to do so in the future. This shows that voice search is changing the way patients search for healthcare which has a follow-on effect for marketers in the healthcare industry.

Healthcare consumer experience

Smart speaker interactions

The increasing popularity of smart speakers has increased the potential use for healthcare applications. While relatively few healthcare providers currently offer services through voice assistants, there are several that have taken the leap to a voice-first or at least a voice-supported future.

The most common type of voice app is focused on sharing information and is offered through either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Some of the more adventurous providers are implementing solutions that enable complex features such as appointment booking and are independent of the leading consumer platforms.

A notable barrier to adoption for healthcare providers is the challenge of HIPAA compliance in the U.S. If private healthcare data may be shared by a user through an interaction with a voice assistant, the options for providers are limited to receiving access to Amazon’s HIPAA-compliant solution for Alexa or creating their own assistant. As a result, few solutions today offer features that require HIPAA compliance.

Marketing for Voice search

Getting marketing cut-through and results in voice search requires content to not only be optimized for search but specifically for voice search. In order to obtain a voice result, a property needs to obtain a featured snippet (aka position zero) for a particular search, which is read by Google, Alexa, Siri. If there is a screen, regular search results can show as well, including paid search ads and organic rankings.

Tactics to increase your presence in organic voice results

Christa Toole, Partner, Search and Analytics, Greater Than One recommends these activities are important:

Do your research: Think about what your customer would ask, how they would ask and how your content answers their query. Make use of Google’s keyword tools and review “people also ask” listings in Google for relevant searches.

Use natural language keyword phrases within your content: Natural language should be used within your page titles and header tags and always build your useful content around questions people are asking and provide them with the best possible answer.

Utilize schema markup: Schema mark up is structured data that gives the search engines more information about the content. Search engines use this metadata to help categorize content and provide more useful search results. Pharma marketers have a variety of schemas at their disposal, including drug, generic name, drug class, condition, symptom, manufacturer, FAQ.

Follow SEO best practices: Include key terms and topics in content; create useful, unique content; develop good metadata; utilize a clear hierarchy and structure; make sure load time and user experience is good. Follow SEO best practices and guidelines for best results.

Promote your brand and content: Promoting your content, whether through PR, SEO, paid search, display or TV will help it get more traction, more authoritative links, and, in turn, increase organic visibility.

Search engines will show what they deem to be the best result for a search in organic (and paid) results where there is a screen. If Google deems a result worthy of a featured snippet in position zero, you will have the voice result as well.

Voice skills and actions

Amazon’s vision is to facilitate the transmission of health information and management of healthcare needs, but without compromising privacy or security in the process — and that vision might not be so far away. Improvements in accuracy will come as natural language processing systems such as BERT learn the variations of what users are saying and how they say it.

How we speak — accents, phrases, jargon — are just some examples of what has to be understood in order for AI platforms to provide accurate voice search query results.

For marketers, creating voice “skills” for Alexa and “actions” for Google devices that are triggered by users’ voice commands is a good place to focus attention. Marketers can create FAQs, educational programs, medication reminders, or programs that command action on a device or the internet, such as purchasing a product or activating a connected device (“turn on living room light”).

With advertising, it is a little different. Advertisers can’t currently buy the voice search result that is read aloud however, they can ensure their paid search ads show for voice searches that are done when a screen is present. For voice-activated paid search, identifying those natural language searches and ensuring they are included in keyword lists is the first step. Creating compelling ad copy and content that corresponds to those questions is key to pulling through those hand-raisers.

Eventually, voice search in health could add an e-commerce component — specifically, ordering or refilling prescriptions via a voice-activated search or command, as Amazon is currently piloting. In order to prepare for that, Cook advises pharma marketers to “have their foundational best practices in place” for the time when BERT and similar technologies become functional additions to the voice-search landscape.

Voice and Virtual Assistants: Real-World Opportunities

For pharma, the rise of virtual assistants and smart speakers presents an opportunity, since they are being rapidly adopted by consumers, although mainly for simple voice searches to control music and simple queries.

Within healthcare a number of potential care setting use cases have been suggested, including a post-operative pain management voice assistant; an AI-powered virtual assistant that records, summarizes, approves, and places the patient care note into the EHR; and an AI-powered virtual assistant that acts as a personalized companion for aging patients that can deliver reminders and monitor daily activities.


Startups like ‘NowRx’ are providing patients the option to order prescription medication via Amazon Echo or Google Home. Patients can download the NowRX Skill, activate it with voice commands, order a prescription medication and have it delivered the same day.

Pharma companies like Merck and J&J are building Skills designed to help manage conditions like diabetes and environmental allergies or answer pharma-specific questions about product dosing and indications. Cigna launched their Answers by Cigna Skill for Alexa earlier this year that answers more than 150 common healthcare questions.

Intouchsol identifies three approaches brands may consider in order to stay competitive:

  • For public-facing online content to remain visible, consider that voice search is rapidly becoming a brand imperative. The ‘mobile first’ design approach is giving way to a ‘voice first’ design. Foundational SEO strategies such as schema markups, long-tail keywords, and particularly semantic search are critical for pharma to remain visible in the voice search ecosystem.
  • Creating brand-specific Skills applications and pharma-specific content provides valuable communication opportunities with patients, physicians, and HCPs, and is another way to push brand-specific content into the voice channel.
  • Consider including voice-enabled devices as a critical component of the overall connected experience pharma brands can provide to patients and HCPs.

Stay ahead of the competition by keeping up with all the latest developments in medical marketing. Our free pharma and healthcare marketing trends report outlines 9 critical innovtations for marketers in the sector, all strucured across our RACE Framework so you can integrate your strategy and manage your marketing activities Get started today.

Pharma and healthcare marketing trends 2021

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Customer engagement platforms

As in other industries, digital technology should be carefully selected to support the aims of developing long-term relationships with customers to boost lifetime value. In this section, we consider the trends in digital platforms that give insight about HCPs and customer profiles and interactions and orchestrate communications with them. Traditionally, these are known as CRM systems (customer relationship management systems), but it's more common now to talk about Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) which we will explore in this section.

Creating a lifetime of value for customers, so they’ll give a lifetime of value back is only possible within an ecosystem that provides a unified view of the customer and their needs. Personalized interactions with customers based on their preferences, either stated or derived, create loyalty and alignment with customer insights.

In simple terms, this means a consistent view of the customer across many touchpoints including targeting, segmentation, and performance management as shown in the graphic here.

Pharmaceutical touchpoints

IQVIA refers to the process of achieving this as Orchestrated Customer Engagement (OCE). It combines insight about customer profiles with their cross-channel interaction blended with marketing automation to deliver more relevant communications based on this insight.

What is Orchestrated Customer Engagement?

According to IQVIA Orchestrated Customer Engagement is a new strategy for customer engagement that represents the next big step in Life Sciences sales and marketing. Traditionally, Life Sciences companies are organized as a series of disconnected vertical silos, a structure that limits companies’ ability to provide dynamic, or at a minimum, positive customer experiences for HCPs. Vertical functions such as sales and marketing tend to focus on their individual objectives, systems, and messages rather than collaborating on more effective and connected customer engagements.

With OCE, data is integrated so employees across departments can access all relevant information and collaborate effectively to coordinate customer engagement activities. As a result, HCPs feel supported and trust Life Sciences companies to provide information critical to their patients.

Customer data platforms

A Customer Data Platform ingests data from multiple sources and creates comprehensive customer profiles for analysis, decisions, and activation. It’s a marketer-friendly solution for understanding your customers and delivering relevant, win-win communications at scale.

You will understand that a CDP is a marketing system that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing and other channels to enable customer modeling and optimize the timing and targeting of messages and offers.

Regardless of the vendor, the key features that must be present are:

  • Data collection: The ability to ingest first-party, individual-level customer data from multiple sources (online and offline) in real-time with no storage limits. CDPs take in customer data from a variety of sources—including browser cookies, names, emails, device IDs, pages visited, demographic information, purchase history, campaign engagement, and loyalty status—and store that data indefinitely in a usable format until it has been processed.
  • Profile unification: The ability to consolidate profiles at the individual level and connect attributes to identities. This part of a CDP creates a profile for every individual you interact with, tracks them across various devices, and eliminates redundant customer records (for example, when the same customer uses multiple email addresses). It may also match third-party identity and attribute data with personally identified customer data and aggregate related/linked customers (such as those who share a household) into a single profile.
  • Segmentation: An interface that lets marketers create and manage segments. One of the core features of CDPs is their ability to take all that customer data you’ve collected and automatically create segments—that is, linked groups of people who share one or more common characteristics. All CDPs contain rule-based segment creation, but some may also offer automated segment discovery, predictive analytics, and the ability to import and deploy custom models built-in external advanced analytics platforms.
  • Activation: The ability to send segments with instructions to execution tools for email campaigns, mobile messaging, advertising, etc. Once your CDP has captured customer data, turned it into profiles, and then segmented those profiles, it needs to actually do something with the segmented lists. Activation tools send the segments, along with explicit activity instructions, to outside execution systems (such as email marketing software) in order to launch campaigns, advertisements, and so forth.

Simply put, CDPs enable automation of a step-by-step process that:

  • Collects customer data.
  • Unites that data into individual customer profiles.
  • Separates profiles into segmented markets.
  • Pushes those segments to technology that can execute specific marketing campaigns and messages.

Customer data platform

Why are CDPs growing in popularity?

The era of multichannel marketing, driven by the changes in modern consumer behavior, has created an overwhelming amount of data that is generated and collected across a wide range of channels. Overwhelmed by this data or simply unable to use it, brands default to generic, non-personalized campaigns. CDPs are regarded as the most effective way to unify and present this data at an individual customer’s level. This is the so-called Single Customer View, which makes the goal of personalization at scale achievable.

This visual explains the type of data included within a CDP and how it is used.

Customer data plaftorm CDP

Once the foundation has been implemented you can build layers of other technologies such as customer relationship management, sales force automation, business intelligence, and analytics.

Using this style of system, brand teams wishing to create a personalized experience for the customer via multi-channel and closed-loop marketing will be able to track relationships and behavior using master data for an individual or entity across an entire organization.

Marketers recognize the difficulties that come from working with insufficient data and the impact of poor quality data on marketing programs. An issue many are facing now is a rapid increase in available data that is held in separate and unconnected repositories. The seamless integration of customer master files that integrate with promotional activity, is now crucial to implement effective marketing campaigns.

By sharing all customer interactions across sales and marketing, details on marketing campaigns can be pushed to sales, and then feedback from sales can be looped back to marketing for real-time campaign assessment and adjustment to provide more meaningful and beneficial dialogue with the customer.

At a larger scale, this graphic from McKinsey shows the range of interconnected elements that could be used to support better health outcomes.Healthcare ecosystem

Clinical Data Platforms - The other CDP

Clinical Data Platforms is a closely related concept to Customer Data Platforms within healthcare. As an example, one US provider, Ciox Health, handles 40 million requests for health information each year which helps providers and patients alike by managing every aspect of health data requests, retrieval, and analysis.

Of particular interest to marketers is Ciox HealthSource, which is a secure, cloud-based information sharing platform that aims to integrate the process of clinical data exchange and workflow across different sources and formats.

Healthcare customer satisfaction

Achieving integration across these different sources has been an ongoing challenge given the number of providers and range of conditions all requiring separate data. The future will involve collaboration facilitated by large providers using standard APIs. Google is one large provider that is seeking to use standard APIs.

Google’s Cloud Healthcare API

The Cloud Healthcare API provides a managed solution for storing and accessing healthcare data in Google Cloud Platform (GCP), providing a critical bridge between existing care systems and applications hosted on Google Cloud. Using the API, you can unlock significant new capabilities for data analysis, machine learning, and application development, and use these capabilities to build the next generation of healthcare solutions.

The API is comprised of three modality-specific interfaces that implement key industry-wide standards for healthcare data:

  • FHIR, an emerging standard for health data interchange
  • HL7v2, the most widely adopted method for health systems integration
  • DICOM, the dominant standard for radiology and imaging-related disciplines

Each interface is backed by a standards-compliant data store that provides read, write, search and other operations on the data. These data stores also provide an interface into Google Cloud’s high-capacity Publish-Subscribe (Cloud Pub/Sub) product that provides a clean, secure integration point for applications. Cloud Pub/Sub integration can also be used for invoking data transformations in Cloud Dataflow, executing serverless applications using Cloud Functions, streaming data into the popular BigQuery analytics engine, or generating clinical outcome predictions by sending data to the Cloud ML Engine machine learning platform.

Edge computing in healthcare

Cloud computing has become ubiquitous over the past 10-15 years, but according to this article on edge computing in healthcare (Can Edge Computing Be A Game Changer For the Healthcare Industry?), there is a new recognition that there is a need to coordinate centralized data storage facilities or cloud storage which is distributed over a wide-spread network. The majority of this data comes from different locations such as clinics, individual hospitals, etc. and it usually comes in an unstructured form.

Edge computing, also called fog computing, is helping healthcare institutions distribute their data to make it available quickly and securely. It also improves network efficiency, as it also reduces the amount of mobile data.

What is edge computing?

Software and services which perform tasks previously requiring human analysis and interaction. Marketing applications of AI typically aim to improve business to customer communications including targeting media, personalized messaging, and customer service interactions.

A review in Healthtech Magazine summarizes these benefits:

Enhanced Connectivity

Some of the portable IoT devices, when combined with edge computing, have a greater ability to gather, store, analyze, and distribute data remotely. Edge computing can help solve connectivity issues and can work for remotely located patients as well. As a use-case, patients with wearable IoT medical devices on them can be quickly diagnosed from anywhere, anytime, and the data gathered can be distributed to a central server whenever connectivity is available. The characteristic localized processing power of edge computing can facilitate access and medical intervention for patients that are remotely located.

Connected technologies

Medtronic recently launched a wireless monitoring service for patients with cardiac disease, which enables them to send data from their implanted devices directly to their doctors. The latest devices can even be programmed to update and send patient data automatically. And other precedents for moving into health management exist outside pharma itself.

Now you've read about the first 3 trends, why not download your free copy of the 2021 pharma and healthcare marketing trend guide and take your next steps to a winning strategy today?

Pharma and healthcare marketing trends 2021

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By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site, DaveChaffey.com, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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