As Mobile Surpasses Desktop Search, Poll of Digital Marketers Finds Industry Divided on Pharma’s Next Steps

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In a digital advertising conference yesterday, Google announced that mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches in the U.S. and numerous other countries.

This is big news, but a not necessarily stunning development to anyone paying close attention to the inexorable rise in mobile usage around the world since the introduction of the smartphone in 2007.   In the tech and consumer-driven sectors, the most innovative global companies have long been battling to optimize marketing, content, and ad placement in a feverish attempt to effectively engage customers on this surging channel.

Here at Best Practices LLC, the question we are most interested in answering is this:  “How will the biopharma industry and its digital vanguard react to the rise of mobile usage among both physicians and patients?” 

And furthermore:  “Does mobile ultimately represent a challenge or an opportunity for the industry?”

Through a major benchmarking initiative launched just last week, we’ve tackled these questions head on.   The Best Practices’ Digital Marketing Consortium is probing the prospectus for mobile impact across the biopharma landscape, and identifying the multi-channel tactics and programs leading the industry forward.

Here are some very preliminary findings from our ongoing research*:

First, it is important to establish how important mobile technology is to the customer segments most heavily targeted by drug and device manufacturers:  physicians.

We asked:   Mobile Uptake among HCP Customers:  Across all of the products you support digitally, approximately what percentage of the physician pool is actively using mobile technology?

Here’s what we found so far:  Most companies report that between 50 – 75% of relevant prescribing doctors are active on mobile media in a way that makes outreach in this channel a “must.”  The level of effectiveness of physician-mobile interaction will vary significantly depending on therapeutic areas, but clearly biopharma companies cannot ignore the immense technological and demographic changes thrusting mobile programs to the bleeding edge of competitiveness.

Next, the roll-out of the Apple iWatch provides something of a microcosmic test case of how the perspectives of various biopharma competitors line up on the challenges/opportunities posed by mobile breakthroughs on the consumer side.

We asked:   Predicting the Impact of the Apple iWatch & Other Wearable Devices:  How would you assess the likely market impact of the Apple iWatch and the advent of other wearable devices for therapeutic manufacturers?

Here’s what we found so far:

  • Major event that will open an important new high-impact channel (21%)
  • Minor event that will open another medium-impact channel (35%)
  • Over-hyped event that will not significantly alter digital marketing paradigm (14%)
  • Too early to say (28%)

They can’t all be right!  While some digital marketers see the introduction of the iWatch as marking an important shift and new opportunity in how customers receive information, others are skeptical that this development will radically change the game.  Since no one is clairvoyant, all companies must nevertheless do their best to prepare for an uncertain future marketplace.

We askedApple iWatch & Wearable Preparedness:  What steps are your digital marketing group taking to prepare for the release of Apple’s iWatch and the dawn of the wearable device era?

Here’s what we found so far:

  • Innovation teams are readying wearable programs and campaigns (14%)
  • Monitoring and studying new developments (42%)
  • Outsourcing wearable engagement to an agency (14%)
  • Nothing at this time (56%)

Since 2012, our firm has led the Best Practices’ Digital Marketing Consortium, a community of practice for pharma digital professionals to share best practices, brainstorm solutions to key challenges, and capitalize on digital opportunities.

Increasingly, we have heard pharma digital marketing leaders emphasize the importance of “finding and engaging customers on their own terms” and “meeting them where they live.”  As Google’s mobile announcement makes clear, today’s customers are relying more than ever on mobile devices to find information – where to order pizza, where to enroll their children in swimming lessons, where to find more information about asthma and its treatment.

Certainly, no one channel or strategy will fit every educational or marketing need.  But companies will move slowly on mobile only at their own peril, while the pharma digital vanguard will lead the way forward.

*This newly-launched study, “Digital Trail-Blazing in Pharma: How Innovative Multi-Channel Marketing Is Transforming Customer Engagement” is still collecting data – and research findings are subject to change as more biopharma organizations join the benchmark class.  If you are a biopharma or medical device digital or multi-channel marketer interested in participating in this research and would like to be among the first to access these new findings, go to:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2051026/Pharma-Digital-Trailblazing-Benchmark-Study

To learn more about the Consortium or view related pharma digital marketing research, visit our homepage:  http://www.best-in-class.com/digital-marketing-consortium

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