I recently spoke to members of New Zealand Self Medication Industry about why they should be utilising digital channels more. I was curious what % of budgets are been allocated to digital activity and so I asked the room. No one was spending more than 20%. I was surprised how low the amount was. But given what I had observed while researching for my presentation maybe I shouldn’t have been.

We know that New Zealanders spend a lot of time online, actually the equivalent of 2 working days per week according to research from Nielsens. And 1 in 20 Google searches are for healthcare info.

Research from IRI conducted in 2016 found that OTC products sold in the grocery channel responded to digital promotion better than TVC by 63%.

Given a lot of compelling reasons to embrace digital channels you’d have to ask the question why OTC brands aren’t spending more on digital.

Maybe one reason could be that OTC companies haven’t seen great returns from their digital activities. In reviewing websites and media activity I observed a lot of fundamentals missing that would explain why ROI may be low.

I’ve listed below some general comments that might assist companies promoting OTC products to leverage digital activities better.

Integrated campaigns.

I was surprised to see brands running full TVC campaigns with media activity but not updating their websites to reflect the same imagery or messaging. Consumers jump online when they see something of interest on TV. If your marketing activities aren’t consistent across all your promotional channels you will erode trust with your customers and miss out on a big opportunity to continue the campaigns promotion. The biggest benefit of digital promotion is the contextual nature of it. If people are specifically looking for certain information, especially after they see it on TV, why wouldn’t you be waiting to provide it to them online?

Online content needs to be kept updated and current

Websites need to look and feel up to date if consumers are to spend any quality time on your site. Your objective is not to just drive people to your website, but to illicit a response. Whether that is to decide to buy your product or to seek more information. Like any good relationship, you need to be able to connect genuinely with your customer. I was surprised how ‘old school’ many of the websites looked. They weren’t up to date with current design best practise, and they were not easy to navigate. I could tell from the footer information that some hadn’t been updated in the last 18 months to 3 years. In an always on digital world, customers will be able to tell that your site is old. And so will Google.

Your site not only needs to be current and up to date from the front end but it needs to be mobile responsive and built in a Google friendly way in the back. I was surprised to see companies running Google Adwords, but not having the minimum requirement of mobile responsive sites.

Utilise the digital ecosystem and tools

Google controls a large part of the digital ecosystem, so you need to play by their rule book. Googles goal is to serve people the best content based on what they search for. If Google can’t read your site well, understand who you best serve or doesn’t see you regularly updating your content, then they will actively penalise you. Penalising you means that you won’t rank well in organic search. For the companies that are paying for media or Google Adwords, but not optimising their websites you send mixed messages to Google. What you are saying is that we want to drive traffic, but you aren’t prioritising the quality of your content or the customer experience. You need to ensure your content management system (CMS) provides you with an agile, current platform that makes updates easy and compliant with Google’s algorithm. If you are using an old legacy system, which I imagine some of the companies I reviewed are, then you need to push for change. Otherwise, you are wasting valuable media spend.

I visited a few websites as part of my research, and not one of them retargeted me with advertising afterwards. You have a suite of digital tools that can enhance your conversion with potential customers. Make sure you are utilising them all.

Provide value driven content

OTC marketers traditional communication approach has been to focus on the product and its benefits. Using emotional language has been a challenge in a regulated environment, and so most have continued with this approach as they moved into digital channels. This style of marketing is outdated and doesn’t work well in digital. Your communication needs to be targeted so that your ideal customer knows that your product is for them. People spend time on sites that help solve their problem, and where an emotional connection occurs. That doesn’t mean you exaggerate your claims, what it means is that you use language your target customer can relate to, and you lead with a customer focus, not a product focus. Make the customer the hero, not your product.

Very few of the websites prioritised telling me how and where I could buy the product. If your goal is to educate the customer about your product, then the next step would be to help them buy it. Understanding the customer journey and trigger points is key for effective digital activation and commercial returns.

A lot of what I have commented about are digital fundamentals but are been missed by OTC companies. Companies that are spending larger amounts on online media that could be better spent.

Take the time to do a robust review of your digital assets to ensure you have your fundamentals right. If you’d like to know more about mastering digital fundamentals for the healthcare marketing, connect with me on LinkedIn.