Omnichannel. It’s on every plan, but what’s behind a truly effective strategy?

Sales & Marketing

Whether we’re marketing a pharmaceutical brand, diagnostic, device, or medtech product, the need for an omnichannel strategy can’t be ignored.

As consumers, when we’re buying our weekly groceries, booking the annual family holiday, or making a once-in-lifetime purchase, we expect a seamless experience from brands and to be able to complete our ‘buying mission’ wherever we are, whenever we want.

Clinicians, patients, payors, and carers are all consumers, too. The expectation they have in their daily lives is the same expectation they have when engaging with brands, products, and services professionally. They expect to have access to information on demand. They expect unbiased, peer-reviewed information. They expect brands to understand them and personalise content. And, just as they do with brands in their day-to-day lives, they want agile and real-time support for queries.1

Has the rest of the world got it right?

Much of the evolution and success of omnichannel in mainstream consumer categories has been accelerated by eCommerce and the increasing sophistication of brands to move from offering multichannel touchpoints, to a seamless journey between mobile, store, app, and beyond.

Whilst there are learnings we can take from the wider consumer marketing world, there is a clear correlation between the presence, or absence, of certain components of an omnichannel strategy and its success navigating the nuances of the healthcare sector:

1. Buying journey, the decision-makers, influencers, and blockers:
Similar to account planning, a deep understanding of the buying journey for the medication, device, or technology you’re trying to sell is critical.

Who are the key stakeholders along the buying journey? Who is most likely to discover and champion your product first? Who do they need to influence and who holds the decision-making power? With this, you can start to pinpoint the most relevant moments along a journey to engage stakeholders and understand where, and how, your omnichannel activity can have greatest impact by giving people what they need and want, not what you want to say.

Where to start: Start with the field teams. They will hold a lot of knowledge about how clinical champions, decision-makers, payors, and procurement interact with each other. In a well moderated format, you can pull a lot from these teams and then fill the gaps with the voice of the customer / market research.

2. Work with the data you’ve got first:
Data is power. Most organisations will recognise the need for a data strategy to support its omnichannel efforts, and some get distracted by what’s not in place, defining data automation roadmaps, buying data, building data lakes, and climbing what can feel like a mountain with regards to data cleansing and governance. Whilst this is all needed long-term, what can you use today?

Where to start: Manually review the data you do have about your customers and accounts, their behaviours and preferences, digital channel performance and historic sales. Analyse it as one data set with multiple lenses - you’ll be surprised by the insights you can uncover to help inform an early omnichannel strategy.

3. Start small:
Building complex omnichannel strategies in the healthcare space where technology and infrastructure is often not in place takes time.

Where to start: Identify a product, specific brand challenge or customer persona to build a strategy for. Pilot it, learn from it, and iterate. You’ll move much quicker and learn much faster. For example, if you can’t build out deep behavioural and attitudinal personae to start, build personae around adoption ladder stages and add as much insight to them from your historic sales data and account understanding as you can. If you haven’t got the resources to build assets and content for every channel you want to utilise, start with a couple, and increase over time.

4. Get internal teams on board:
One of the biggest challenges omnichannel leaders and marketeers in the healthcare sector report is internal buy-in. Functions traditionally built around face-to-face relationships can be resistant to the introduction of digital communications and touchpoints with customers, questioning its role and fearing a lack of control as to what’s getting sent to their customer. Getting teams to see an omnichannel strategy as an asset, another tool in their toolkit, rather than a threat is critical. Successful implementation will see an omnichannel strategy work as an extension of face-to-face teams.

Where to start: Use our own day-to-day experiences and insights around HCP digital behaviours to bring awareness to teams that we all seek, and want to be able to access information from brands we interact with in different ways. Leverage case studies – in and out of category – to show tangible impact. There’s a strong correlation between effective omnichannel strategies and increased sales.

5. Define effectiveness:
Marketing effectiveness has become a culture in B2C marketing and our ability as marketeers to define and measure it is evolving. Yet, it is an area healthcare has typically lagged in. Omnichannel teams need to be able to demonstrate the impact of the strategy with meaningful metrics in the boardroom and to the sales, medical, and functional teams.

Where to start: Buying journeys in healthcare are typically complex. Bring together a cross-functional team to define what an effective strategy/outcome looks like, how you’ll measure it, and agree a common language you will all use. By having this at the outset, everyone is clear on the behaviours and actions you’re trying to drive amongst customers or stakeholders.

6. Red line thinking:
One of the biggest challenges reported by commercial / marketing teams who see omnichannel executions misaligned with brand strategy. Omnichannel teams are often centralised resources who work across multiple brands or are left out of annual brand planning cycles, with the omnichannel plan considered as an after-thought.

Where to start: Keep the brand plan in sight. Incorporate omnichannel strategy to the latter part of the formalised brand planning cycle, as opposed to afterwards. Use the brand’s strategic imperatives or pillars as guardrails for the omnichannel plan, and to help focus efforts on the beliefs / behaviours the strategy is looking to drive.

7. Implement an ‘analysis and action’ loop
Where brands comfortable in a performance marketing space thrive is by using data to optimise their omnichannel strategy and campaigns. With the healthcare sector, adoption of digital marketing is still some way behind and this mindset is often missing from a team’s approach.

Where to start: Introducing a simple framework for a monthly ‘analysis and action’ cycle can help drive adoption of an iterative approach to optimisation. Task teams with analysing the performance monthly and providing recommendations, from which choose one or two per month that are most aligned to delivering on the brand strategy and effectiveness metric you’ve set to implement.

Any marketing effectiveness is rooted in making intentional decisions throughout the strategic planning and implementation stages. Tackling even one or two of the challenges here will help strengthen the effectiveness of any brand’s omnichannel strategy.


1. L.E.K analysis

Sarah Fleming
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Sarah Fleming
17 November, 2023