When it comes to digital, pharma leaving opportunities on the table

KEY TAKEAWAY: While patients are going online to research new drugs and treatments, pharma websites are becoming a less important part of the decision making. DTC marketers need to focus more on digital and less on TV.

Visit any pharma product website and then revisit it. Do you see any changes to the home page? Do you see any compelling reason to convince you to ask for their product? Chances are no. Most pharma companies are afraid to use cookies to leverage different messages to return website visitors. That is a huge lost opportunity.

I’m not going to go into the definition of a cookie because it’s a fundamental part of any web strategy. Astra Zeneca has a great page that informs visitors about their cookie policy, and if a website visitor is interested in learning about your product, they will gladly accept cookies.

By designing your website to deliver different messages to returning visitors, based on research, makes sense if you understand that people are making healthcare decisions based on what they find online rather than TV commercials.

Similarly, websites can use cookies to learn about what you like and consequently customize their content to match your preferences.

You can see this process in action on Amazon; the Related Searches box relies on cookies to suggest content you will like. The cookies allow Amazon to collect data, cross reference it with other users who have a similar profile to you, then make its recommendations.

Google, Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, and just about every other mainstream site offer their own twist on the same philosophy.

Sure, all that data benefits the companies; they use it to increase sales. But it also helps you; without cookies, no user-by-user personalization would be possible. Consequently, the amount of time it takes to find things would increase, you would be more likely to miss out on good deals, and the web would become a more frustrating place.

At the heart of this lost opportunity is the fact that DTC people see their websites as a sales tool rather than a tool to empower patients. A good DTC manager can approach their digital strategy like an outsider who is overwhelmed with online health information. However, they need to understand their online audience via research and analytics that tell a story. Visitors to your website don’t mean a thing when your bounce rate is high and time on site is low.