Web Watch

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While pharmaceutical marketers are gradually getting more sophisticated in their use of the Internet—even designing product sites with customers in mind—a recent survey of consumers indicates there is plenty of room for improvement.

The study, conducted by online performance metrics firm Keynote, showed that when searching for information about a disease or condition, 19% of respondents felt that the information offered was too basic. Meanwhile, 17% couldn't find the information they were seeking at all. Consumers tend to be more sophisticated than marketers previously believed. They want to access whatever they're looking for, and fast. Product sites that deliver quick, relevant information also excel at driving patients to their doctors for further discussions about the brand.

Keynote determined that the top drivers of action were all related to accessing information, with latest health news, patient success stories, and expert advice and articles having the greatest impact in driving consumers to talk to their doctors. Consumers were also keenly interested in information about the causes and triggers of different diseases conditions, along with advice on how to cope with these conditions and the treatment options available to them.

But for some reason product Web sites don't include disease-specific news, even though their customers would like to see this. Perhaps brand managers are concerned that such news might flatter their competitors' products or contain negative information about their own brands.
Pharmaceutical marketers must decide if they want to offer the information their customers are asking for, or if they should simply offer messages that will support their brands. The problem is that, after a while, consumers start to realize that they're only getting the information that the hosting company wants to give them.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service

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