Similar to other sectors of the consumer goods industry, the future of consumer healthcare is changing as consumers adjust the way they make their purchasing decisions. As Millennials and Generation Z consumers demand more personalized experiences, new technologies and social media have become exceedingly important to how patients interact with health products. From diagnostics to delivery, new consumer preferences have motivated companies to compete by changing product bundles, branding strategies, and supply channels. Instead of casually perusing the shelves of local drug stores, consumers come armed with research, ready with specific queries for pharmacists. To keep pace with these growing expectations, consumer healthcare companies must consider the impacts telemedicine, social media, and e-commerce will have on the buyer journey as the digital revolution continues.
Informed Consumers Turn to Telemedicine
When they become aware of a problem, consumers are now using online resources to self-diagnose and actively seek medical attention. For this reason, telemedicine has become increasingly popular among consumers across all dynamics. Research shows that virtual doctors are often consulted for non-emergent visits such as cold, flu, earaches, and skin rashes. This trend can have a positive effect onconsumer healthcare companies, as many of these virtual diagnoses can lead patients to seek over the counter treatments. A recent Wall Street Journal article stated that web companies such as Teladoc, Doctor on Demand and American Well expect to host at least 1.2 million visits in 2017, which is a 20% increase over 2016.
Brand-Consumer Interaction has Shifted to Social Media
Not only are consumers now able to directly engage with physicians via online services, they can also engage directly with healthcare brands to better inform their purchasing decisions. Social media has essentially created a “market of one,” as companies can interact with consumers on a one-on-one basis. Communities of patients are coming together and congregating in Facebook groups to learn about rare diseases and treatment options. Consumers are using social media to ask questions about dosage, submit complaints, and ask for coupons or where they can purchase products. Instead of traditional pharmacists behind the counter, social media managers for these brands are now responding directly to consumers to address these types of questions and concerns.
E-commerce has Changed the Nature of Purchasing
Lastly, the digital revolution, and notably e-commerce, is changing how consumer healthcare products are purchased. With a wealth of information accessible online, nothing can prevent consumers from doing their complete due diligence. Consumers can easily research desired products on various company websites including big players like Walmart, Target and Amazon to find, compare, and purchase exactly what they want. An additional feature e-commerce offers, which may convert more traditional shoppers to online, is the ability to set up recurring orders. For some consumer healthcare categories (such as allergy, feminine health, or vitamins), the ability to set up recurring orderings could increase brand loyalty and customer retention rates.
Preparing for the Future of Consumer Healthcare
As the industry evolves, consumer healthcare manufacturers must also reconsider various established business processes, especially product lifecycle management. In the blog, The Reasons to Review Your Consumer Health & OTC Product Launch Processes, an end-to-end new product launch can cost a manufacturer up to $630 million and the way companies engage consumers is shifting to an online model. As this shift occurs, the way you position yourself to your consumers will be critical to customer acquisition. When assessing your marketing campaigns there are multiple new factors to consider such as the usage of telemedicine as a viable vehicle for advertising, how consumers are engaging with your products on social media, or how influencers come into the mix. All of these elements need to be considered as you plan your marketing campaign for a new product and as your consider retiring SKUs. Products that would not survive in a traditional channel distribution model may be successful in an e-commerce strategy.
As the retail revolution continues, and the future of consumer healthcare will include new challenges from the digital revolution and manufacturers will need to continue to assess and adjust their new product commercialization strategy to optimize their significant R&D investment into new products.
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