A discipline that surged in importance as COVID-19 forced brands to rethink their channel allotments, omnichannel has since become so ubiquitous as to be nearly synonymous with “doing business.” But while everyone may be aware of the ever-growing proliferation of digital, personal, professional and in-person networks to tap into, there remain many inquiries around best practices for segmenting marketing strategies.

During a recent Convene webinar, Larry Dobrow, editor-in-chief of MM+M, moderated a discussion between Jason Luis, managing director of omnichannel at Evoke Health, and Tom Mueller, VP of data and analytics strategy at Ashfield Engage, about ways to take an agile approach to omnichannel program management.

Luis noted that “clients are striving to create that better user experience.” The key is “to enable the next series of events that lead down that road to conversion, and not to overthink it by trying to create this whole ecosystem.”

It’s important to have “a strong grounding in what your main objective is,” Mueller added. “We don’t want the next best action for the sake of the next best action.” If pharma focuses on creating a consistent HCP experience, then “we’re always delivering proper value.” That is easier said than done because “all these different channels sit in very different places,” he explained. Another challenge is ensuring reps are well-versed in the key messages to “follow up based on an engagement with a certain piece of content.”

With all the excitement around omnichannel, Luis noted that many brands “aren’t having conversations about whether it makes sense or not, but rather, ‘How do we get it done?’” The truth is omnichannel is “a great opportunity if we can get it right.” This is why, Luis explained, Evoke Health takes “a top-down approach, getting alignment from management on giving the resources and the time to accomplish these milestones so we can see some progress.”

Opportunities and challenges

The biggest driver of success is “alignment upfront from all parts of the organization,” Luis said. To facilitate that alignment, it’s vital to “initially have a good strong plan and vision for where we want to go and those milestones to let people know that we’ve accomplished them and are ready to take on the next step.”

Many organizations struggle to “prioritize, get a starting point, have those first few connections and start to do that iteration, that ‘fail fast’ cycle,” Mueller said.

Embracing omnichannel “requires a mentality shift in our industry,” Luis stressed. While pharma tends to rely on defined goals and expectations, “we’re moving into new technologies, new processes, new ways of doing different things,” he said. As a result, “there has to be room to fail and not see these failures as failures themselves, but rather as learning opportunities that can be shared throughout the organization so that we can excel at a faster pace.”

With a broader learning strategy in place, ”even if something doesn’t hit as we expect, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to come out of it with some interesting nugget that’s going to inform that next round,” Mueller said. That next best action “has to be unique to the brand, to the therapeutic area, something you can’t discover from doing it somewhere else.”

There’s a tendency to “use failure as justification for not doing anything more, and then fall back on our safe positions, rather than move forward,” Luis said. The tech industry, he pointed out, archives its failures and successes as “a library of learnings that they can latch on to.” In that tradition, Evoke Health “did a post mortem for every type of campaign to look for those nuggets of learning and not just at the metrics.”

Quantifying omnichannel investments

“KPIs across a multitude of timescales” are necessary with omnichannel, Mueller said. From the day-to-day operational metrics to the long term, it’s important to “understand the patient’s journey and how it’s been shifted.”

The middle-term KPIs are “the secret sauce and very specific to what you’re trying to do, what your channel is,” Mueller explained. Iterations can provide “a lot of chances to affect things in the intermediary phases.” Throughout the process, it’s critical to understand “what behavior you’re trying to incentivize” and use that feedback loop to inform the next best action.

However, “the emphasis is not to over measure and analyze to death because there is no secret KPI that can tell you everything,” Luis added. Focus instead on “those quick wins, celebrating those as an organization because of the capabilities it brings downstream.”

To build on those early wins requires a “a vision that is longer than a year in duration,” he said. During brand planning, create “a road map to show what those check-in dates are and what to see as wins.” Keep in mind those first steps will take longer than later ones. “Understand that getting over that hump is key, because on the other end of that your efficiency will come,” Luis advised.

Advice about the journey

To Mueller, overcommunication is key. “Those connections across the organization can sometimes be hard to make,” he explained. “That extra conversation, understanding where objectives align, bringing everybody together” can help eliminate some of the disconnects.

Rather than being “dead set on what you want to accomplish,” focus on where you’re headed, Luis advised. “Those early wins are critical to help us get to the next step,” he said. Data and analytics can help ”show that momentum,” he said. “You see the results in real time and it propels you forward.”

“Keep an agile mindset,” Mueller concluded. With omnichannel, “you’re always going to feel like you’re just getting started because there’s always going to be another point of consideration to have.”