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Global leaders in digital channels

Exploring why UK field teams are global leaders in digital channels is key to better understanding the changes in omnichannel engagement

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More than two-thirds (68%) of UK field engagement activities over the last quarter were digital. Having embraced the blended model during the pandemic, UK field teams are leading their European peers by relying extensively on video meetings, email and phone calls, allocating a far smaller role for in-person meetings.

The overall channel mix makes the UK both a global outlier and a digital leader in securing the best promotional response with healthcare professionals (HCPs). The benefits of a digital-first approach includes more time with customers and effective message delivery for field teams, based on tailored content and visuals to fit their needs. Video meetings offer a richer experience for HCPs, who consistently favour remote opportunities to engage with pharma companies.

Across Europe, email is a popular and effective secondary channel after in-person engagements. For instance, the average open rate of Veeva CRM Approved Email was high over the last quarter, at 42%. This is particularly the case in the UK, where email is the primary field engagement channel with HCPs, showing its critical importance to omnichannel strategies.

Based on census data of more than 80% of industry representatives worldwide, the Veeva Pulse Field Trends Report is a snapshot of field team engagement with HCPs. The insights help life sciences companies set a benchmark against industry peers for improved commercial performance.

UK is global outlier for digital channel mix
Globally, in-person is now the primary form of HCP engagement. Between April and June 2022, insights reveal a rough 70/30 mix of in-person to virtual engagement (video, chat or text, phone and email) with HCPs. In Europe, in-person engagement is similarly dominant at 62% of the channel mix (Figure 1).

Fig1
Figure 1: UK channel mix compared to major markets

Yet, the return to in-person is not uniform across the region. The UK is a distinct outlier to these results, with in-person engagement accounting for less than a third (32%) of its overall channel volume.

Data shows that engaging with HCPs through a mix of in-person and virtual meetings is three times more effective at driving promotional response than in-person alone. Compared to other major markets and regions, the UK has high digital maturity, with field teams far more likely to use channels like email, video and phone than their counterparts.

Email is the primary UK channel
In Europe, email is a far more significant secondary channel than in other regions, at 29% of total interactions, compared to 18% globally (Figure 2).

Fig2
Figure 2: Channel mix in Europe

This trend is even more pronounced in the UK, where email is now the primary channel.

Adoption is also far higher than in any other region. In fact, on average, UK field reps are more than twice as likely to use this engagement channel with HCPs (43%) than teams in the US or the Asia-Pacific region (18% and 16%, respectively).

The volume of delivered email remained high in Europe across the last quarter, at above 400,000 weekly (Figure 3). The popularity of email in the region reflects its role as a key connector in omnichannel strategies. Better average open rates relative to other regions (42% open rate vs 27% in the US) suggest that these interactions are high quality.

Fig3
Figure 3: European engagement quality – trending approved email volume vs open and click rate 

UK teams focus on most promotionally effective methods
There is a high level of omnichannel variation across European markets, ranging from eight to 23 recorded weekly activities per user across video, email and phone combined (Figure 4). There is also significant regional variation in productivity. In the UK, in-person access has not returned to the same level as in other European markets, at just seven weekly interactions (compared to 28 in Italy and 18 in France).

Fig4
Figure 4: Weekly activity per user by engagement channel in European countries

This low level of weekly channel activity contrasts significantly with users in Spain, who recorded a higher volume of interactions per user than in the other four major European countries (France, Germany, Italy and the UK). Spanish users are particularly active in person, recording 47 HCP interactions per week through this channel.

As access widens in the coming months, it will become evident which regions are striking the right balance of in-person and digital channels.

UK leads the region in use of video
Users in the UK are the most likely in Europe to use video, with three weekly activities per user, compared with two or fewer in other European markets.

This proves to be a highly effective strategy. Globally, data reveals that the fundamental drivers of promotional response are time with the customer and the use of content. Video meetings efficiently combine the two for the greatest impact, resulting in high-quality HCP interactions.

In Europe, for instance, we see a substantial difference in tracked content usage between Veeva CRM Engage and other video platforms (Figure 5).

Fig5
Figure 5: Trending content usage by channel in Europe

Tracked content usage through the Engage platform has consistently been at 80% or higher for the last quarter. This compares to less than 40% for video calls made using other platforms (and even lower for in-person meetings).

UK field teams are already global leaders in their use of video: at 15% of the channel mix, they are three times more likely to opt for this channel than their counterparts in APAC (5% of the channel mix) or the US (4%).

To have an even greater impact, they can learn from the example of the top three leading oncology companies. These market leaders supplement in-person meetings with digital channels and use video in 12% of their interactions, compared to 5% among their industry peers (Figure 6). Critically, they are more than twice as likely to use content in video calls (33% vs 16%) and have significantly longer meetings (47 minutes vs 28 minutes).

The push for longer, content-rich video meetings is likely to be rewarded by the customer. Three- quarters of HCPs globally say they want to keep or increase their share of remote interactions with pharma companies.

Fig6
Figure 6: Virtual engagement in oncology

Sales drives content sharing
Finally, UK field teams have an opportunity to optimise their engagement strategies by assessing digital maturity by user type. A comparison of productivity by user type in Europe suggests medical lags behind key account management (KAM) and sales roles in digital channel adoption.

Despite often engaging the same HCPs, with the same channel preferences, as KAM and sales, sales completed three times as many weekly digital activities as medical in Europe (Figure 7).

Fig7
Figure 7: Weekly activity per user by engagement channel, by user type in Europe

This is a missed opportunity, as medical has access to high-quality content, a key determinant of channel effectiveness, and the demand for scientific engagement is growing. Given the prevalence of video meetings in the current channel mix, this is an area where UK users could further press their advantage.

‘Pull’ channels accelerate digital maturity
Across Europe, HCPs are enthusiastic about digital engagement, so expanding the use of video and email is likely to be a beneficial move. Video meetings create a promotional accelerator and complement in-person meetings, rather than replacing them.

In the UK, where digital maturity is already high and video is a preferred channel, the next opportunity for field teams is to ensure that these touchpoints are as valuable as possible to the customer. The length of meetings and the use of content, especially in medical, are good indicators of high-quality engagement. Some of the leading oncology companies are showing the way forward on how to maximise impact in these areas.

Virtual channels are the ‘push’ side of two- way HCP engagement. Field teams should also focus on the ‘pull’ element in their omnichannel strategies by making it as straightforward as possible for reps to get in touch with them. The most successful field teams enable flexible two- way HCP engagement, ensuring HCPs can access personalised information at the right moment for them.

Today, the most effective engagement strategies rely on a blended model, combining deep in- person and digital connections, so that reps remain accessible even when they’re not physically present with HCPs. In effect, the best reps never leave the room.

Aaron Bean is Vice President, European Business Consulting Lead at Veeva Systems

25th November 2022

Aaron Bean is Vice President, European Business Consulting Lead at Veeva Systems

25th November 2022

From: Marketing

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