Why sensor driven marketing will change the pharmaceutical industry
An assessment by Thomas Ebenfeld (left), Managing Director, and Stephan Breitwieser (right), Head of Health & Pharma Unit, concept m research + consulting
Not long ago, people learned how their vital functions were doing at most once or twice a year, at their regular check-up with their doctor. Things have changed. Most people are already collecting a wealth of information on their bodily functions and change of life, simply because they carry a smartphone or wear a smart watch.
But this is just the start of a trend
The increase in networking (keyword: Internet of Things, IoT) offers the opportunity to transfer and analyse more and more data faster and faster, and people’s growing commitment to self-optimisation will lead in the medium term to a fundamental change in the healthcare business. One decisive driver of this transformation will be sensor driven marketing, i.e. support for the sales process from information automatically captured and transferred by sensors.
You don’t even have to imagine you’re in a science fiction film to think about the possibilities which sensor driven marketing is opening up for the health industry. For example, smartphone movement and user data shows what kind of consumer has walked into a pharmacy, and an intelligent pharmacy can change its electronic displays to match the typical consumer habits of the smartphone user. Far from being witchcraft, this is at least partially possible today. Basically, there’s nothing more involved than transfer of personalised internet advertising to the real world.
Following this idea leads to extensive personalisation of the products and services offered to the specific customer. There’s very little loss, because possible needs can be clearly identified using the data transmitted by the sensors. In the course of this process, networking with other products or services is possible – anyone buying A usually needs B as well. Amazon has already shown how successful this networking is in the world of consumer goods, with its recommendation marketing.
The demographic change which has led to an increasing age of the population in the industrialised nations, and resulting steady increase in demand for medical services over the growing lifespan, could be the gateway for the breakthrough of sensor driven marketing.
Sensors can report on body functions or personal diet. If everything’s fine, there’s no need for intervention. If there are health problems, however, the doctor or other care provider is told this immediately. We can assume that older people are very willing to have their life documented in this way, as this could free them from what they feel are precautionary restrictions, giving at least a sense of being able to lead an independent life in their own four walls.
Other age groups could also come to regard automated capture and transmission of physical data as “good form” in the medium term, i.e. in 10-15 years. Sensor driven marketing could have the potential to redefine medicine as less concerned with repair and more with maintenance at an early stage, for a population functioning optimally in physiological terms – and with an automatically resulting need for new products and services. Why take medication Z if it was clear three years ago that a change in diet would do the job instead?
For all the excitement about possibilities like these arising out of optimised data capture and analysis, it’s essential not to lose sight of the things this trend can’t delivery. Simply multiplying the volume of data can’t replace the researcher’s experienced view of market developments. Sensors provide data, not interpretations
The fundamental physiological motivations, the fundamental and often contradictory drivers determining consumer behavior, will still have to be identified by psychological market research, and not big data. These insights will continue to be essential, where it’s a matter of positioning a product optimally – including (and particularly) in the pharmaceutical industry.
This article was published in the May edition of the http://www.pm-report.de