Digital disruption is sweeping through the life sciences sector, fueled by an onslaught of new technologies that redefine how customers are served and work gets done. These technologies not only include the now familiar litany of mobile, social, ecommerce and cloud, but also the internet of things (IoT), wearables, artificial intelligence, gamification – the beat goes on.

But technology disruption is not the only force that pharma companies and medical device manufacturers face. Patients, influencers, and practitioners are now embracing new ways to manage their health, get information about possible treatments, and interact with health care providers. Consider these trends:

  • Life science’s advertising impact could be losing steam. The industry continues to spend the lion’s share of its marketing dollars on broadcast and print advertising. Direct-to-consumer pharma ad spending soared more than 60 percent in the last four years, hitting $5.2 billion last year. Yet the ROI of such investments, versus leveraging other marketing channels, remains questionable.

  • Patient behavior is changing and becoming more activist. As patients get more proactive about their health, life sciences companies must expand beyond the status quo and acknowledge that fundamental shifts in patient behavior are directly impacting traditional marketing and outreach tactics.

  • Direct access to time-strapped HCPs is diminished and continuing to shrink. With less than half of all health care providers (HCPs) willing to meet with sales reps, it’s imperative for life sciences marketers  – as well as field sales – to leverage mature B2B marketing tactics to educate and engage them. Tactics could include one-to-one personalization on the channels that HCPs prefer, increased use of mobile, and virtual meetings.

  • Direct to consumer (D2C) models are emerging. The disintermediation that transformed other sectors, such as consumer packaged goods, retail and publishing, is now making inroads into the pharma sector. Life sciences companies must quickly develop more expansive and comprehensive customer engagement strategies aligned to the evolving preferences of consumers.

Yet, significant complexity starts with defining the “customer.” While patients are the end consumers, life sciences companies have more direct relationships with prescribing HCPs, who significantly influence the patient experience and most certainly determine the successful marketing of solutions. Over the next two years, the life sciences industry will undergo dramatic, transformative changes in how companies interact with patients, HCPs, pharmacies, insurers and other influencers.


These changes in the industry will directly impact revenues and costs for both life sciences companies and intermediaries, and will reshape the overall customer experience for consumers and practitioners. New changes well on the horizon include streamlining the customer journey, improving customer experiences, owning more customer data, and building closer relationships with consumers over time. To capitalize on new opportunities, marketers must rethink their customer experience strategy in light of evolving patient needs and expectations, expanding digital channels, and an ever-changing regulatory climate.

Great Customer Experiences Require a Customer Journey Strategy

As a renewed focus on customer experience moves to the top of every life science company’s list of priorities, creating a well-defined customer journey strategy is critical.  The customer journey strategy is defined as:

The enterprise’s business technology plan to engage and delight customers by supporting all touchpoints that span discovery, sales, finance, support, and service, and by integrating the multiple devices, interaction channels, and application silos that support those customer touchpoints.

Customer journeys are highly strategic and – in a competitive and regulated environment like life sciences – understanding them can literally make or break the success of a new drug or product launch, as well as efforts to achieve long-term loyalty and adherence.  

For example, customer journeys highlight moments of truth – such as when a prospective patient indicates affinity by clicking on a social ad promoting a new medication, or when an HCP clicks through an email about a new trial – providing crucial intelligence for refining customer experiences. These moments are essential building blocks of a customer journey strategy, and they continue to evolve as new channels emerge and HCP and consumer behaviors change. As a result, no customer journey strategy is ever complete – it is a continuous process of deploying, learning, measuring, and adjusting.

Life sciences companies also have a large number of diverse and complex customer journeys, tackling all of them at the same time is unrealistic and unachievable. This means that customer experience project teams must work with senior leadership to align the prioritization of customer journey initiatives with the business strategy. It’s important to get started instead of waiting to launch everything all at once.  Many companies start small but with high impact channels, such as first improving e-mail interactions with customers, and then moving to mobile interactions, followed by social engagement and beyond.

Life sciences companies that embark on journey strategies and develop journey maps that graphically depict the pluses and minuses of current interactions, and then interpret customer journeys within the context of future industry disruption, are well positioned to win the ongoing race to acquire, onboard, engage, and retain patients and HCPs. The message to the C-suite? Make sure your organization has a journey strategy that includes D2C and B2B, supports crucial moments of truth, anticipates future industry changes in a dynamic marketplace, and, ultimately, spans all touchpoints.

Get More Tips for Managing Journeys in Life Sciences

For additional insights from Digital Clarity Group and a case study featuring Roche Medical Devices, download the whitepaper “Get Started on Creating Great Customer Experiences with Journey Strategies. And for a first-hand perspective from Digital Clarity Group and Roche Diabetes Care, view the webinar recording of “The Cure for Marketing Fatigue in Life Sciences.”


 Connie Moore is the Senior Vice President of Research for Digital Clarity Group