Effects of digital marketing on Healthcare: Are we playing catch-up?

healthcare digital marketing

Social Samosa gets in conversation with Nicholas Hall of Nicholas Hall Group of Companies and Susan Josi, of Havas Life Sorento to understand the impact of digital marketing on healthcare on a macro level.

Digital marketing has changed the way the healthcare industry attempts to reach potential customers. There are three aspects to this: sales via e-commerce, dissemination of information, and social media influence. The third aspect, Nicholas Hall, Executive Chairman & Creative Solutions Director, Nicholas Hall Group of Companies explains, is the most difficult as it involves the art of persuasion and advertising.

As far as digital is concerned, the fact that we have a lot of media and distribution-dark areas is what is actually catapulting the industry in India, says Susan Josi, Managing Partner of Havas Life Sorento. However, health-related information is often circulated without question on authenticity. “It is an opportunity that the healthcare industry should champion with credibility and authority,” she says. 

Another issue that often crops up is about the regulation of information via influencers. Between a dermatologist and a beautician speaking about skincare, the one that is able to reach out to people is one with more influencer. Josi wonders: “Who is regulating that information touchpoint?”

Gaps in Advertising Health

Advertising agencies play a big role in the dissemination of information in palatable ways. However, there is a gap in the way information flows here, between clients and agencies. The more the companies are dipping their feet into advertising to share their narrative, the more agencies are resorting to targeting and retargeting.

Unfortunately, many agencies are not equipped with the required knowledge and in many cases, it’s the client that managed these relationships in the online space, Josi says, explaining the gap. 

It is important to understand how a brand can become relevant to a search. Josi explains, “How do I create a sense of engagement and connect with the consumers who are searching for a particular thing in the healthcare space? Agencies are just transporting what they have been doing on ATL, television or print, thinking it’s the best they can do, but there is more to it. If it’s only a digital company, they are always looking for fulfilment. The loop really closes either on the e-cart.”

Creative Hiring for Healthcare

Josi tells us that communication is a mix of creativity and science. She explains, “If I need to hire a creative person, they don’t need to be an expert in healthcare, infact that means they can get locked into a certain domain of speciality we would rather follow an integrated approach ”

To this, Hall adds, “We face this question a lot: Do you want someone with a special set of skills? Someone who knows healthcare? In the industry, many feel that people who have worked with FMCG brands can do a good job. However, in the end, it all comes down to an individual.”

Effects of Technology 

For market research, virtual reality will be an essential component, says Hall. He elaborates: Several platforms have virtual pharmacies where products are put online to see how people react to them. It’s a good method of doing early-stage research when you are trying to figure out how your product will appear on the shelf. It’s a business tool.

“VR is not so much in consumer healthcare but it’s a lot in disease management, for cases of migraine and vertigo. Artificial intelligence, in many ways, is seen as predictive analysis, slowly getting into the diagnosis,” says Josi. 

Communication hurdles

When marketing products, the most important aspect to put across, clearly, are the benefits. Why should a consumer buy your product? Though e-commerce is convenient, it can never be as easy and fast as going to a local pharmacy, even with one-day delivery. So, what are the kind of purchases that digital can facilitate? 

Hall tells us, “E-pharmacy is great for products that require a lot of information. It’s useful for ailments that you don’t want to talk about in public spaces, likes STDs. There is a benefit to chat with a healthcare professional. Some supplements that are expensive can be bought via e-pharmacy.”

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Josi adds to the list: E-pharmacy is useful to buy customised vitamins where a patient inputs their health profile and the company customises the kind of vitamins they will need. They can also chat with a nutritionist. These concepts are interesting and they are happening in skincare as well. Another key factor is discounts, especially for those who buy the same medicines every month. Such consumers are likely to look online.

Points to be wary of

Marketers should look at the healthcare brand’s business, understand their needs and the competitive market space they are in, and what drives the business. A mix of mediums like digital, trade marketing and indirect activity can help with the creation of a campaign. Hall and Josi list out things that healthcare brands will have to keep in mind as they indulge in digital marketing: 

  • Companies are not doing much work on their websites, many don’t have e-carts. 
  • Every consumer is different and navigating through health issues before marketing is key. 
  • In the near future, consumers are likely to be more protective of their privacy and online payments. 
  • The rules of the game will change faster in the next 5 years and marketers will have to adapt to it.
  • Every single piece of information that is posted will have to be better for there will be scrutiny.