Global report shows excitement about the potential of digital but a lack of confidence about delivery

Pharma companies need to invest in the digital customer experience to add value now and in the future, according to a report by digital customer experience agency Graphite in partnership with Reuters Events.

The global report titled the Contradiction Conundrum is based on survey responses by 450 pharmaceutical company managers with roles across Commercial, Marketing, Digital, Brand, Product and Medical Affairs.

The report’s authors found that the sector is excited about digital opportunities but has a mixed level of confidence about its ability to deliver success. For example, 92% of respondents agreed pharma-sponsored digital products can add value to the overall customer experience, but only 4% reported regular satisfaction with the launch of new digital products.

One of the problems highlighted by the report is a lack of planning about how to engage customers after a digital launch. Eight in ten respondents agreed there is a tendency to get too distracted building websites and apps, but a lack of follow-through on creating services that provide long-term engagement for HCPs and patients.

“The solution is to see digital as an ongoing, always-on undertaking that responds to identified customer needs and provides on-demand information and services,” says ADG Managing Director Bryn McGeever.

“The reason that so many projects fail to deliver a solid ROI is that some companies take a set-and-forget approach. Only through testing, learning and continuous improvement can pharma companies ensure an effective audience-first go-to-market solution.”

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The survey found strong evidence of a company-first approach, with customers being left out of the conversation about their digital needs and preferences. As such, user research ranked last when the survey respondents were asked what processes their organisation uses to ensure their digital offerings are built around customer needs. Their process priorities are ranked as follows:

  1. Stakeholder expertise
  2. Monitoring digital marketing trends
  3. Competitor analysis
  4. Collaborating with third parties
  5. Interactive workshops
  6. Regular ongoing user research

Despite these rankings, 42% of respondents agreed that moving from a product-first to a costumer-first mindset will be a crucial success factor for digital products in the next two years.

The rep relationship

The survey identified an opportunity to modernise the relationship between reps and HCPs. One challenge was to find ways to encourage representatives to think about customer success rather than sales alone. This was particularly pertinent for organisations with more than 5000 employees.

An opportunity highlighted by the report authors was to use digital tools to take over administrative, day-to-day tasks. Such an approach would free up reps’ time and enable them to take on more high-quality, high-value interactions with HCPs.

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Other results in brief

  • 80% of respondents agreed that the pharma sector tends to get distracted building websites and apps and doesn’t follow through on creating services that provide long-term engagement.
  • 10% of respondents didn’t know the success of digital product launches as they don’t measure anything.
  • 37.5% of respondents have a process in place for understanding user needs.
  • 27% of respondents always conduct user research for digital products
  • 62% of respondents agreed that comparing the digital experience of pharma customers with those of Netflix, Spotify or Amazon is unrealistic.

In an article published by UK-based Healthcare Newsdesk about the report, Graphite MD Rob Verheul said the pharma sector was aware of its problems around digital innovation.

“A naturally risk-averse culture results in projects taking a long time to get to market. When they do arrive, their purpose and impact are often lower than originally intended. The ways of working need to change, particularly when it comes to user research and customer-centricity.

“By moving from a product-first to customer-first mindset and approach, pharma companies can improve the impact and success of their digital products in the future.”

The Contradiction Conundrum can be downloaded here.