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Life After Launch: The Challenge of Sustaining Digital Products in Pharma Organisations

In the world of global health and pharma, the development and launch of digital products have become commonplace. Our CEO, Rob Verheul, writes here about the challenge of sustaining digital products across pharma organisations.

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by Rob Verheul
11 April 24
  • Digital Pharma
  • Product Launches
  • Digital Product

Originally posted in Pharma Times:

In the world of global health and pharma, the development and launch of digital products has become commonplace. These products, often serving as vital communication channels with customer groups, hold immense potential for enhancing engagement, improving customer experience, and driving business growth.

However, there is a chronic pattern within health and pharma organisations: a tendency to create, launch, and subsequently neglect these digital products. This neglect stems from a combination of shifting priorities, short-term mandates, and a failure to recognise the evolving needs of customers.

Neglecting digital products can have wide-ranging and serious consequences for a business, affecting its competitiveness, reputation, security, efficiency, and bottom line. Recovering or rejuvenating a neglected digital product can be costly. So businesses should prioritise ongoing maintenance, updates, and innovation to ensure their digital products remain effective and competitive.

Digital products are dynamic and evolving entities

Digital products and services are not static entities; they are dynamic platforms that require ongoing maintenance and engagement. At launch, they become new communication channels with key target audiences. These audiences become dependent on the service, as it meets their needs — whether those needs are information, functionality, or facilitating relationships, for HCPs, patients or other consumer groups. Recognising this fact is crucial for health and pharma organisations to maximise the value of their investments and truly serve their customer base.

One of the primary challenges lies in understanding that customer needs are not static either. As customer expectations evolve, so must the digital products designed to meet them. Failure to adapt to these changing needs will result in diminished effectiveness due to reduced engagement, it can damage your brand reputation and will almost certainly lead to a disillusioned customer and a business wondering why they did it in the first place.

Evaluate your KPIs continuously

Central to the sustainability of digital products is the continuous evaluation of customer experience (CX) key performance indicators (KPIs). Metrics such as customer retention rate, customer satisfaction score (CSAT), customer effort score (CES) and others, serve as critical benchmarks for measuring the success of digital initiatives.

Make sure that the metrics you track are aligned with long-term, strategic objectives, and agree on them as early as possible in the digital product development process to provide direction through later stages.

Avoid the temptation to focus on vanity metrics — whilst they may impress others and show short-term gains, they won’t help you optimise your product and identify opportunities to create increased value for customers.

By monitoring these KPIs regularly, health and pharma organisations can gauge the effectiveness of their digital products and identify areas for improvement. Moreover, prioritising CX KPIs underscores a commitment to customer-centricity, which is increasingly recognised as a cornerstone of success in the digital landscape.

Finally, the metrics you set will have an impact on the culture and mindset of your teams, as this is what individuals will be measuring their own performance and success on. Setting meaningful and customer-focused metrics will keep your teams aligned on the right priorities.

Internal and external strategies for long-term success

To address the challenges of sustaining digital products post-launch, both internal and external efforts are necessary.

Internally, there needs to be a concerted effort to support digital launches through effective socialisation, training and engagement among staff members. This involves ensuring that all stakeholders understand the purpose and objectives of the digital product, as well as their role in its ongoing success. Furthermore, there must be a clear mandate for maintaining and improving the product, regardless of personnel changes or shifting organisational priorities. Internal understanding and buy-in will be key to long-term adoption and success. If internal teams don’t believe in and advocate for your solution, engagement amongst your end users will be impacted.

In a recent project with a global pharmaceutical organisation, we created a new design system and visual identity for their HCP portal which would be rolled out across 280+ brands in multiple markets. With each brand team having its own local partners and supporting agencies, there was a huge number of people to get on board with the new system and structure. Devising a comprehensive internal communications and training plan was key for success. This included internal email campaigns, training videos, launch videos, stakeholder onboarding sessions, and ongoing support post-launch.

Gathering customer insights regularly is also paramount. Engaging with customers to understand their preferences, pain points, and expectations provides invaluable guidance for refining and evolving digital products over time. This customer-centric approach not only fosters loyalty but also ensures that digital initiatives remain aligned with the evolving needs of the target audience. Build a process for obtaining regular first-hand customer feedback, even if on a small scale, to supplement the picture provided by your platform data and analytics.

Iteratively enhance your solutions over time

It’s time for health and pharma organisations to move from having a ‘project’ to a ‘product’ mindset. Digital products shouldn’t be thought of as having a beginning, middle and end, but as long-term commitments that will be refined and improved over time.

With established customer feedback loops, organisations should focus on maximising the value of their digital investments by making incremental changes to improve the user experience (UX) continuously. This includes refining the in-experience user journey and optimising the overall journey to the digital product. By iteratively enhancing the UX, organisations can ensure that their digital products remain relevant and effective in meeting customer needs.

The journey of a digital product does not end with its launch; rather, it marks the beginning of a new channel of dialogue with an audience that will rely upon the solution to meet their unique needs. Practically, it is the start of a continuous process of maintenance, improvement, and adaptation.

Organisations must recognise the importance of sustaining digital products beyond the initial launch phase. By prioritising CX KPIs, fostering internal support and engagement, maximising the value of investments through UX enhancements, and seeking regular customer insights, organisations can overcome the challenges of post-launch sustainability and truly harness the potential of digital technology to drive meaningful engagement and value for both customers and stakeholders.

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