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Learning from Digitally Leading Industries: Key Ways to Improve Omnichannel Engagement in Life Sciences

Published on March 2, 2022

Reposted from MedAdNews. Authored by Bruce Carlson | Publisher

The interplay of communication channels – websites, e-mail, video, podcast, social media, mass media, and, of course, interpersonal – is all the rage in consumer marketing today. Hundreds of millions of marketing dollars are being committed to these channels each year – and marketing spend is expected to grow by nearly 15 percent this year, according to Deloitte.

Yet, there’s no playbook that provides reliable standards or practices to guide marketers for lone channels, let alone how to effectively juggle omnichannel communications. Given the omnichannel flurry of activity in pharma and the extraordinary constraints on life sciences commercial teams, how can the industry most effectively leverage omnichannel communications to connect with healthcare professionals (HCPs)? What can the life sciences industry learn from outsiders, like retail, where omnichannel practices have advanced further and much faster?


Translate the superior in-store experience to the online experience.

Ian Liu, VP of client services at Alorica, a leading contact center and digital customer experience provider, looks at what major retailers do for their customers. "Retail giants are tracking their customers even as they arrive at the parking lot, tying their prior online experience to what information that customer might want when they enter the store," Liu explained. "The goal is to create a model of the customer’s entire journey, from online searching and social media activity to in-store customer behaviors.

For the life sciences industry, the obvious parallel here is to connect patient queries or online activity with their experience at the doctor’s office. In a similar fashion, the online activity of an HCP can be connected to the interactions they have with sales reps or physician portals. In fact, social media is predicted to be the next major source of physician insights. According to a survey of more than 4,000 HCPs, nearly 70 percent use it for professional reasons. Further, Sermo reports two-thirds of physicians spend an average of two hours and 22 minutes on social media platforms a day.

AI and machine learning will be critical to helping life sciences commercial teams orchestrate engagement across this mix of traditional and non-traditional channels. AI can quickly find patterns based on social media behavior to make suggestions. Natural language processing can capture valuable sentiment data from HCPs who are sharing content, retweeting articles, and commenting on news. In this way, HCPs are divulging attitudes, preferences, and interests via social – pharmaceutical companies that pay better attention will thrive.


Create product/service evangelists.

Liu, who was formerly a pharmacist at a leading chain drugstore, sees valuable lessons for pharma in how the banking industry got its customers to adopt mobile banking, such as depositing checks through their phone. "A few years ago, it was hard to believe that I could deposit a check from home on my laptop and then my phone," he said. "Evangelizers were the key to getting broad consumer acceptance, especially younger people who showed their parents and their parents’ friends how easy it was, and how freeing it was to be able to skip a trip to the bank."

A similar transition has occurred in the travel and hospitality industry, where smartphones now make it fast and easy to buy concert or airline tickets, reserve hotel rooms, and more. "We even use mobile phone ‘keys’ to enter our hotel rooms to streamline check-in," added Liu, "but this became acceptable because of technology apostles like Millennials and Gen Z."

In the life sciences industry, evangelists often come in the form of key opinion leaders (KOLs), and emerging digital opinion leaders. This is also why it is so vital for commercial teams to proactively collaborate with medical science liaisons (MSLs) on omnichannel engagement strategies. MSLs are the bridge to KOLs. Pharmaceutical companies can leverage social media to identify KOLs more effectively – a process that is often very manual and inefficient. Analytical methods, such as graphing analysis, can be applied to social media datasets to help identify KOLs, plus emerging leaders, in their therapeutic areas who have the greatest and most widespread influence.

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Alorica Inc. (“Alorica”) is the holding company of various direct and indirect subsidiaries, including Systems & Services Technologies, Inc. (SST). Many of Alorica Inc.’s subsidiaries operate under the brand, Alorica, but all remain separate legal entities.