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Artificial intelligence: could pharma lead the way?

Producing powerful, relevant user experiences will be one key area to target

Chris CooperA rare opportunity now exists for the pharmaceutical industry to play its part in driving customer behaviour with a digital marketing approach that the world is fast becoming familiar with, and will soon be reliant on - artificial intelligence (AI). 

An industry on the cusp of change driven by customer behaviour
Few would question that pharmaceutical marketing is a niche sector with a unique set of obstacles for those tasked with delivering results. It’s an environment that challenges the perceived (marketing) wisdom of how to reach, engage and influence customers with innovative and stimulating content and messaging.

Our sector can be a restrictive, hazardous environment and we are challenged to define and deliver our work using a set of principles established in more conventional or conducive marketing environments. Understandably we follow, rather than lead, marketing conventions, latching on to terminologies, principles and methodologies that we (and our customers) see outside our industry every day.

Delivering a consistent customer experience (CX) and stimulating user experience (UX), and linking behaviour together with relationship management is rarely achieved. However, the nature of the pharmaceutical industry marketplace and its customers, together with enviable market insight, means that we are well placed to develop customer and personal experiences that are driven by AI.

Delivering a customer-centric approach can be moved from ‘to do’ to ‘done’
If this industry is to take the pathway to service and support, truly driving both customer- and patient-centricity, first it must establish how this can be achieved when the traditional conduits for messaging, service and support - the sales force and MSLs - are shrinking.

In this context, many turn to digital, but it remains an under-invested layer of complexity for those seeking to do more than tick the digital box in their marketing strategy. To make digital really work, we know the user experience must be both personalised and relevant. But how can we achieve this?

The answer could lie in artificial intelligence. Basic AI is already being used to inform and personalise the user experience. The technology can be used to parse information, allowing the customer to access - on demand - the content and messages which we collectively invest so much time and effort creating.

Those that can harness the opportunity AI presents will gain the advantage

“The need for marketing automation, mobile and social collaboration technology and advanced analytics like machine and deep learning advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are critical tools in the digital marketer’s tool box,” commented Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce.

Change is underway - how will AI transform our thinking?
Like analytics and metrics a decade or more ago, artificial intelligence is starting to form part of the collective vocabulary. Those that can harness the opportunity AI presents will gain the advantage, as did those who understood and used analytics to provide actionable intelligence.

The technological complexity of delivering AI to provide meaningful results remains an area with many challenges. By joining the dots between the customer experience, big data, artificial intelligence and personalisation, it can enable the industry to achieve a destiny predetermined by market forces and audience needs.

Gathering big data requires measuring customers’ behaviour. In our case, we are fortunate because the customers are not average consumers but experts whose behaviour we can use to ‘teach’ our systems what is relevant, what is not and who it is relevant for.

What does AI really mean to pharma? 
By using behavioural profiling and content analytics, AI can deliver personalised access to content using an evolved set of web and device-based applications. Tapping this potential to inform customer and user experiences will enable pharma marketers to close the loop in the move from ‘push’ to ‘pull’.

The most powerful outcome of properly harnessing this technology is the ability to understand behaviour at a community and individual level, and using that behaviour to infer the interests of other customers. The systems learn from the behaviour of experts and enable pharma to deliver on-demand access to the services and support that customers need, complementing traditional channels for key messaging.

Powerful, relevant user experiences, contextual delivery of content and messages, building increased reach and frequency… pharma could lead the way.

Chris Cooper is the founder and chief executive of EPG Health Media, a digital communications business and publisher of, the website for healthcare professionals.

Article by
In association with

EPG Media

1st March 2017

From: Marketing



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