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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

How to advance comprehensive and successfully with your omnichannel strategy

for superior customer engagements.

Recently I have been asked by a prospect how to best build a comprehensive omnichannel customer engagement strategy. This is why I thought it would be good to ask David Ziedman, as one of the experts in my network, for an interview. David is Head of Accounts at Across Health and has worked in the past in Commercial Excellence in the pharmaceutical industry for Teva Pharmaceuticals and as a Senior Consultant for companies like IQVIA and Accenture. Karsten: In the digital world of today there is no doubt that digital channels are increasingly important for companies to engage with Healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients as well as payers. Where should companies start when they want to build a comprehensive omnichannel customer engagement strategy? David: The best place to start is with the customer insights: their changing preferences across owned, paid/3rd parties and earned channels. Karsten: One second, can you explain the differences between those three types of channels please? David: Owned channels are those promotion and/or medical/services channels that pharma runs and controls itself. Paid (or better known as 3rd party channels) are those that are bought by pharma and through which pharma can to a larger or lesser degree leverage. These typically include 3rd party online doctor communities, but also independent scientific websites, for example. And earned channels are those that are not directly “control-able” but you need to “earn” their endorsement (e.g. nurses, pharmacists, treatment guidelines or patient association websites) . And aside from the channels themselves, the value pharma provides all comes from providing the right content/services to the right customer and in the context the customer expects of it. So fully understanding these insights as input into the development of the actual customer engagement strategy is a very important step and one that is frequently missed. That is why we developed an online platform which provides access to insights on HCPs, patients and payers covering the whole world and 10+ specialties when it comes to HCPs. Karsten: Customer insights and strategic brand imperatives are supposed to be the basis to build an omnichannel engagement strategy. What does that actually mean? David: We see a big gap when moving from insights and the strategic brand imperatives found in the brand plans of our customers to the creation of a full-fledged customer engagement strategy and campaign blueprints per customer segment. This has also been seen in our recent survey for the pharmaceutical industry on this topic, where only 8% of pharma staff believe they have a robust process for defining the channel mix. What is very important here is developing customer engagement journeys per customer segment, considering prioritized leverage points, desired attitudinal an behavioural change and then the messages and content/services needed to support this shift. Only after that can the right combination of content/channels be sequenced over time to reflect the key themes that support the overall strategic imperatives. And having tools that integrate insights and allow for consistent budget, cost and impact planning per campaign can serve as an accelerator to the process. That is why we have also developed a planning tool in order to support the brand teams in developing their customer engagement plans. Karsten: Digital customer engagement is becoming the “new normal” in the world of today, yet it is difficult for companies to choose the best channels. How can that be achieved? David: When it comes to what the customers expect, we indeed see digital channels are ever more important in the overall channel mix. From the insights that we generate with our surveys, we can see that about 50% of HCPs prefer a mix of traditional and newer digital channels while at the same time only 5% of pharma’s sales/marketing budget is spent on digital.

Also, by combining traditional channels with digital ones, the reach can increase by up to 30% - and so can the frequency – at a lower cost to serve.

The difficulty of choosing the best channels comes from various sources however, including:

  1. Skills and knowledge available within pharma of how to apply digital channels

  2. ​Lack of senior management support resulting in slow mindset change process

  3. ​Holding onto the traditional means of promotion (i.e. salesforce)

  4. ​Difficulty to be agile to meet changing customer landscape

  5. ​Missing a best-practice channel mix process based on actionable customer insights

The solutions to these challenges are therefore multidimensional involving acceleration of digital skills building, change management programs, moving boldly to balance the mix and understanding fully the customer need. Karsten: Especially for product launches the majority of Life Sciences companies consider digital components to be extremely important. Yet only very few companies are satisfied with the implementation of digital components for their most recent launches. Why is that the case? David: Indeed, our 2019 study results show that 86% of respondents involved in multichannel launches in the past 18 months find the digital component important to very important. However, the current level of satisfaction with the digital component in an omnichannel launch is quite sobering: only 34% at the international level is satisfied with the impact. And applying omnichannel/digital at launch has been proven to be a deciding factor in achieving launch success. IQVIA has demonstrated that top launches have a consistently higher share of digital promo volume and a richer mix of digital channels (IQVIA analysis of 755 launches during 2012-2017). Our Omnichannel Launch Excellence program aims at decreasing time to reach critical frequency of impact from >10 months using traditional salesforce to 6 months using the right mix of traditional/digital channels, while extending the reach and enhancing customer experience: And that should be achieved by applying a 4-step process:

  1. Insights: Understand the customer via insights

  2. Omnichannel Strategy: Develop consistent omnichannel customer engagement blueprints per segment

  3. Execute: Roll out in an agile manner and learn and improve iteratively

  4. ​Measure and learn: Define and measure the right KPIs, including both qualitative and quantitative and not only on individual channels but across the launch campaign

Note: one MCQ (multichannel equivalent) = a combination of multichannel interactions with a target customer that equals the impact of one face-to-face call Karsten: Thank you, David for sharing these valuable insights with us. In summary, we can say that many pharma companies still need to build a more robust process for defining the ideal channel mix. And as the proportion of HCPs preferring a mix of traditional and newer digital channels is growing there is no doubt that investment in digital channels for Life Sciences companies will need to increase further moving forward. How robust is the process of defining the ideal channel mix for your customer segments to drive the desired behavioural change? Please feel free to comment below. If you find this article interesting please like or share it. If you have further questions on this topic please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or


Xeleratio Consulting Ltd.

We help Life Sciences executives improve sales performance with innovative best-in-class Business Excellence tools and methodologies . Expertise in Business Excellence has been gained with over 12 years of working in different global and regional roles in the Life Sciences industry.


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