Omnichannel for Life Sciences: the what, why, and how

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In its simplest form, omnichannel engagement is a customer-centric strategy that focuses on creating a seamless transition for the customer between your various sales channels. 

In the best case, this is accomplished by managing all channels from one comprehensive digital platform. This transition to an online ecosystem has an impact on everyone at your organization, and is perhaps the surest way to meet your customers’ increasingly high expectations. 

By leveraging omnichannel engagement, sales reps have a greater capacity to deliver the right message at the right time through the right channel to the right customer.

 

What is omnichannel engagement?

Omnichannel engagement provides a unified customer experience across a number of different selling channels. An omnichannel framework utilizes data that is personal yet universal, and that creates a seamless user experience on any channel relevant to that customer segment. In other words, omnichannel engagement supports cohesive, connected communication regardless of the specific channel you’re using. 

Organizations that have adopted this approach can leverage data and analytics to fine-tune their omnichannel strategy. By evaluating what’s working (and what isn’t), you have an opportunity to improve your customer relationships and drive even greater revenue for your brand.

 

Why is omnichannel engagement for Life Sciences so important?

In light of the ever-evolving public health crisis of the last few years, the majority of global industries have undergone tremendous shifts in how they conduct business – and that includes the field of life sciences. Once the face-to-face model was no longer applicable, onboarding new tools and technologies was seemingly inevitable. 

Although omnichannel engagement has become more of a necessity than a luxury, its widespread implementation has ushered in numerous benefits for today’s professionals: customer-centric interactions, diverse stakeholders, enriched relationships, a broader set of channels, and elevated customer expectations (and outcomes).

 

Promotes customer-centric interactions

There’s no denying that the key to a positive and memorable customer experience is through enabling customer-centric interactions. When organizations take steps to have a deeper understanding of their customers, it promotes a culture where employees feel empowered to make the best decisions for their clients and the company as a whole. Omnichannel engagement harnesses the power of new technology to better understand customers’ needs and to build stronger connections on an individual level.

The adoption of digital and analytical tools like telemedicine has certainly accelerated since the pandemic started. Today, telemedicine is integral to the service mix, as this type of collaboration has improved both customer and patient outcomes. Telemedicine has also resulted in a more efficacy-driven value proposition (thus translating to a win-win situation for everyone involved).

 

Satisfies diverse stakeholders

In direct response to the pandemic, life sciences companies have sped up their digital transformations and added more roles and channels – including micro-sites, webinars and social media content – to support remote interactions with fellow healthcare professionals (HCPs). This proactive shift has allowed HCPs to do the same thing with their patients, peers and non-clinical stakeholders when and where applicable. These stakeholders encompass a variety of invaluable groups such as payers, hospital leaders and procurement professionals.

Simply put, keeping up with each of these critical players will require the help of a diverse, omnichannel engagement model. With a hybrid system in place, sales reps can still engage face-to-face via remote channels like those listed above: micro-sites, services on-demand, and other innovative options that will continue to acclimatize to our changing circumstances. 

 

Develops enriched relationships

While it’s true that more channels provide more chances to get the end result you want, those results won’t amount to much unless you understand the ‘why’ behind each omnichannel interaction. Purpose remains an important concept to consider within the omnichannel transformation, as it helps guide engagement and makes each customer touchpoint more meaningful. Having a good grasp on your ‘why’ gives clients more confidence in partnering with you, and likewise, outlines what they can expect from their relationship with your company.

More specifically, leaders need to reflect on what the expectations of HCPs and nonclinical stakeholders will look like in the next normal, and how life sciences companies can adapt their go-to-market (GTM) models to address these expectations.

In doing so, life sciences companies can not only enrich patient relationships and the quality of care, but they can enjoy improved revenue, productivity, employee satisfaction, and talent acquisition at the very same time. 

 

Establishes a broader set of channels

The reality of omnichannel transformation is that its impact far exceeds your sales department – it truly affects your whole organization, and can readily benefit every one of your employees (whether they work in marketing or medical affairs). In order to adjust to the changing preferences among HCPs and non-clinical stakeholders, life sciences companies are incorporating a broader set of channels within their daily operations. These channels include:

 

  • Digital marketing: To really move the needle with your end customers, segmented digital marketing is the way to go, offering a much more targeted and personalized approach to selling.
  • Inside sales: Inside sales is rooted in having capable people who can close all those unwanted (and unproductive) communication gaps between the customer and your sales organization. 
  • Portals and e-commerce: Portals and e-commerce serve as another vehicle to reach potential patients, since these avenues streamline the buying process and facilitate bulk ordering.
  • Hybrid sales rep interactions: Life sciences companies are now equipping reps with virtual engagement tools, while offering specific training on how to work in this new environment.

Establishing a broader set of channels is not about unlocking as many channels as possible; it’s about understanding the relevance of each channel within the greater value creation journey for each customer segmentation. Keep in mind, however, the more channels you put into action, the more competition will be created between your different channels. This is especially true if your omnichannel approach isn’t aligned with your customer engagement strategy

 

Meets elevated customer expectations

Modern customers expect seamless coordination across all digital, remote and in-person channels, as well as access to digital content (on demand) that’s consistently tailored to their unique needs. But with so many options at their fingertips these days, it’s no wonder customers have incredibly high expectations for their value experience when in contact with your company. 

 

Customers are trusting you to use the right tools and technology so you don’t waste their time (or money), and so you bring them what they need, when they need it.

 

This requires a huge re-thinking of existing GTM models, in addition to how said models will impact your organization’s internal structure, values and culture. That’s because, at its core, omnichannel engagement is a transformational process involving your entire organization. Life sciences companies are encouraged to modify their GTM models to address these elevated expectations, and in turn, guarantee positive patient outcomes in the short and long term. 

 

How is a strategic omnichannel engagement model built?

Even with a knowledge of the many benefits of an omnichannel engagement strategy, you may still be wondering just how this strategic framework comes together. Generally speaking, this process happens in three distinct stages: setting the vision, using a marketing and sales-focused methodology, and testing out your new transformation.

 

Set the vision

Any successful omnichannel transformation begins with leaders aligning their vision for how to achieve customer and patient centricity. This process includes breaking down internal silos and uniting each department under a common goal: delighting your customers and their patients. With this kind of ad-hoc approach, you can join all the necessary players together to determine how to make sales enablement and digital engagement work properly. 

This configuration allows everyone to think through the specifics of what it’ll take to become customer and patient-centric. Converging different departments helps ensure all the other functions, from sales enablement or sales force effectiveness, are in alignment to then support account-based engagement and bring value to everything your organization does. 

 

Use a marketing and sales-focused methodology

After you have a clear vision in place, you’ll want to utilize a marketing and sales-focused methodology – otherwise known as ‘smarketing’. The basis for this account-based approach is really a series of strategies (and methods for execution) used by your marketing department and your commercial sales team. These strategies typically include:

Strategic imperatives: What are your overarching brand objectives? What is your positioning versus that of your competitors? Who are your key (or target) customer groups?

Strategic proxies: What are your leverage points? What sort of behavior shift do you want to see among your customers (through whichever channel mix you embark on)?

Conversion points: Which content items are needed to reach the behavioral objectives you’ve laid out? Can some content be converted to digital, or must it be created from scratch?

Tactics: At this stage, your organization will define and identify appropriate channels based on their reach, impact, cost, and estimated frequency to better align with the customer journey.

Prioritize and plan: As you consider which channels are feasible versus their anticipated impact, you can customize your strategy depending on the market’s readiness and capabilities.

Measure success: What does success look like to you? Which KPIs and predictive and prescriptive analytics should you be paying attention to when measuring engagement? 

The answers to these questions will allow your sales team to dig into the most pressing or pertinent issues based on your segmentation criteria. From there, your company can make changes as needed to meet (and even exceed) your customers’ rising expectations. 

 

Test it, own it, and don’t be late

As you’re building strategic omnichannel engagement, it’s imperative to instill a mindset of change management and a sense of urgency around this process. Once you’re ready to transition from controlled pilots to company-wide transformation, you’ll need to address talent, capability building, and performance management gaps (such as competency frameworks and job success profiles). That’s because even if you’ve completed a pilot and collected insights from this testing period, you’ll still need to be prepared to scale very rapidly afterward. 

In today’s market, it’s pivotal to move fast, since missing this window of opportunity comes at a high cost (like losses in relevance and performance). On the other hand, those companies who were early adopters of omnichannel transformation have seen improvements to their reputation, image and revenue – all of which have made a significant impact on their investors. 

 

Turn your omnichannel dreams into reality

In addition to bringing unparalleled value to your channels and customers, omnichannel engagement creates a sense of belonging and identity for your brand that should not be underestimated. An omnichannel approach affects both the internal world of your employees as well as the external world of your customers.

When you have the right strategies for value proposition – and the right technological components to execute on those strategies – you can operate in a more efficient manner and bring a higher level of service to each and every client.

This article was adapted from an on-demand webinar, access the full webinar here.