The challenges of omnichannel marketing for European life science companies: a data science perspective

European life science organizations have invested lower budgets in digital and non-personal promotional tactics compared to their US and Japanese counterparts. However, the trend towards digital and non-personal promotion has increased in Europe in recent years. According to the IQVIA 2018 study,1 while there was a 25% drop in contact time with traditional healthcare professionals (HCPs) over the period 2012-2018 in Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain , investments in various digital channels increased from 13% to 37%. %, with investments in digital details recording the most significant increase. A 2020 survey by Bryter Research shows that despite the increased use of digital promotion by the European pharmaceutical industry to address the problem of limited access to doctors, European organizations still lag behind their counterparts. American and Japanese in the use of digital marketing. The volume share of digital promotional activity in Europe is only 11%, compared to 21% in the United States and 47% in Japan.2

In recent times, European brand leaders have shown a greater preference for building orchestrated omnichannel marketing strategies. In an omnichannel approach, multiple channels are used to interact with the customer in order to increase the share of voice. The channels are also coordinated to create a seamless experience for the customer.

As EU brand leaders develop their omnichannel customer engagement strategies, they must address the challenges of the European environment with a well-thought-out deployment plan. Based on our experience working with many brand teams in Europe, we have observed the following challenges that must be addressed before the brand can embark on the omnichannel journey.

The challenges of developing omnichannel capacities in Europe

1. Digital at the heart of the customer engagement strategy

As European leaders expand their digital presence, they need to ensure that overall digital customer engagement becomes a central part of their strategy. A 2020 survey of more than 2,500 global companies by Twilio, a digital communications specialist, found that 74% of healthcare companies have accelerated their digital transformation due to the COVID-19 crisis and expect to that omnichannel communication will take on new importance in the future.3 This is a significant change to prioritize omnichannel marketing. A previous 2019 survey by Simon-Kucher & Partners4 found that while 89% of respondents understood the relevance of digitization and chose a strategic digitization approach, 59% of life science companies had yet to put their digital strategy in place, which is necessary to enable omnichannel customer engagement.

2. Data quality process

There is a critical need for strong process frameworks for creating or collecting data, especially at the level of healthcare professionals. These frameworks have a direct impact on the quality of the analyzes that can be performed and, therefore, can contribute to the success of omnichannel programs. Due to the limitations of data availability at the HCP level in Europe, the problem is even more pronounced. Due to regulations, HCP-level sales data is not available from syndicated data providers, so organizations need to create high-quality internal data assets. For example, to have quality HCP segmentation to drive omnichannel analytics, there needs to be thought leadership in the organization to identify the right segmentation frameworks, alignment with strategy across the European headquarters and the individual countries, and finally, a coherent message from the countries to the field force for the expected deployment of the segmentation strategy. Organizations need to invest both time and effort in putting in place effective processes to enable rich analytics in the future.

3. Investment decisions for omnichannel programs

In Europe, HCP promotion is central to all marketing activities, and investments in direct-to-consumer promotion (DTC) are limited. In addition, government agencies or public health systems control most payments.5 For HCP promotion to have an impact, marketing organizations like to monitor the ROI of the promotional activity. But the unavailability of prescription / sales data at the HCP level makes measuring ROI difficult for HCP-centric programs. Omnichannel programs require significant financial investments. Before making such large investments, organizations would like to know if the investments would yield a high ROI. Because ROI measurements are more complex and less precise in European markets than in the US market, executives are often unsure of the value they can generate from large omnichannel programs.

4. Infrastructure and preparation

One of the most crucial elements of omnichannel activation and orchestration is having the right technology and infrastructure to support personalization across multiple channels. As COVID-19 accelerated the pharmaceutical industry’s digital journey, many companies struggled to put the right infrastructure in place in the early months of the pandemic.

The infrastructure needs to operationalize omnichannel can be complex and require high investments. Companies with a more centralized strategy and execution in all countries may find it easier to invest in these technologies and infrastructure because they benefit from economies of scale.
Companies with a more decentralized infrastructure approach make local decisions to optimize their individual market needs, resulting in higher costs and decoupled systems.

5. Scalability

Various considerations must be taken into account to develop an omnichannel solution in Europe. Specific nuances regarding data, environment and even product strategy in different countries or even within a country should be taken into account. The regulatory environment (promotion restrictions and barriers to access, compliance process, consent, etc.) varies considerably from one European country to another. Quite often, different regulatory authorities approve drugs / indications at different times. All these nuances have a major impact on the attitudes and behavior of physicians.

Omnichannel customer engagement roadmap for Europe

1. Pilot

Start small! Life science organizations can begin to assess the value of an authentic omnichannel approach by piloting it in a few countries. A pilot can help better understand the value of an omnichannel approach and identify operational issues that need to be addressed before a wider European deployment.

2. Measure

Life science organizations can use aggregate data at the brick level to measure the impact of the omnichannel program. In such cases, it is not the accuracy of “one” measurement, but rather the “improvement” in the outcome measurement over time that would be more critical. If the impact of the program can be measured with a solid foundation methodology, the results can be tracked from a “directional” perspective, enabling organizations to make better data-driven business decisions.

3. Scale

Once a solid foundation for omnichannel customer engagement is established, the approach can be extended to multiple brands and countries. However, as highlighted above, the rollout needs to be customized for each country due to many specific nuances across countries. Organizations can anticipate such nuances during the pilot phase and ensure that the technology is designed to handle those nuances. Organizations can also take a consistent approach to measuring overall impact.


In the same way that today’s self-driving cars are constantly learning driving habits from drivers and using sensors and on-board computers with a built-in artificial intelligence layer to make driving automated and safer, an omnichannel solution Global for Europe must also take advantage of intelligence with human intelligence (IA + HI) to generate value for organizations. European leaders must combine their experience of interacting with customers on physical media with machines and algorithms running on digital media that can adapt to each customer action in real time to enable holistic omnichannel customer engagement plans . A clearly articulated omnichannel vision with a well-defined roadmap can help European leaders accelerate their transformation towards this vision.

Prabhjot Singh is Director and Devesh Verma is Principal, both at Axtrie.

The references

1. Alexandra Smith, Patrick Bervelt. Find out about pharmaceutical promotional spending in 2018. IQVIA. Available from
2. Laurence Olding, Georgina James. Multichannel engagement and the need for a better understanding of European markets. Available from r_greater_understanding_of_European_markets_1343332 [Accessed 7th Oct 2021].
3. COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report. Twilio. Available from [Accessed 7th Oct 2021].
4. Simon-Kutcher & Associés. Digitization in healthcare: trends and challenges in 2020.Available from [Accessed 7th Oct 2021].
5. Mads Krogh Peterson. Pharmaceutical digital marketing in the EU, the United States and Asia. Available from [Accessed 7th Oct 2021].

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