When Will Pharmaceutical Companies Embrace Behavioral Retargeting to Drive Adherence?

Shopping KeyPicture this: You visit a website, add something to your shopping cart, but abandon the transaction. Maybe you are distracted or decide to shop around to get the best deal.

The next day, you’re on a different website. Suddenly an ad pops up on your screen…for that item you had in the shopping cart the day before. In your mind you’re thinking, “Wow, maybe this ad is an omen that I should buy that item?”

You’ll be relieved to learn that the ad is not an omen. It’s just “behavioral retargeting,” one of the tools that a smart marketer is leveraging to capture your attention. They want you back at their site to complete the purchase.

Digital channels can leverage relevancy (based on action and exposure) to deliver highly motivating advertising. If it works well for consumer products, how would this work for pharmaceutical brands?

The Web as a Research Tool
The Internet is used by consumers to compare prices and features. What we find online often influences both online and offline purchasing decisions. In the early days of the Internet, consumers were leery of making significant purchases online and would compare prices on the web then go to a brick-and-mortar store to make their purchase. With improved mobile technology, consumers now see and touch products in stores, only to make the purchase online. Many consumers are now willing to make major purchases online.

The prescription drug buying process is different. Some consumers see advertising for lifestyle drugs on TV and in print, go online for additional information, and ask their doctor for a prescription. If their doctor agrees, they may receive a prescription. A pharmaceutical website for a prescription drug may play a role in initial patient-doctor discussion, but it can really play a much more significant role in influencing medication adherence.

Behavioral Retargeting to Influence Good Behavior
We see many prescription drugs with elaborate, multichannel medication adherence programs that often have minimal impact on the bottom line. The reasons for this are twofold.

  1. Programs that are dependent on patients signing up tend to have very limited reach against the patient base.
  2. They often attract patients who are adherent, so there is little opportunity to increase sales. We also see programs where enrollment is driven by activating a savings card—but too often patients are unaware they joined the program and don’t engage with the communications they receive.

What if we used behavioral retargeting to increase awareness of compliance programs? Imagine if retargeting didn’t just apply to shoes and baby clothes, but also encouraged medication adherence.

Behavioral retargeting provides the ability to extend reach and deliver highly relevant adherence messages contextually, then bring consumers back to your site for deeper content. It provides an additional channel to get key adherence messages to customers who might not sign up for a program.

Then again, even if we can do it, we may not want to deliver behavioral retargeting. After all, some patients have conditions that they’d rather keep private. They may not appreciate a reminder message from a pharma company that manifests as a banner ad on their favorite website. If this is the case, such issues can easily be addressed with a simple opt-out that prevents future retargeting from the ad server.

These days, behavioral retargeting is closely associated with advanced ecommerce websites. Looking forward, it will probably become another tool for communicating with patients and healthcare professionals. Before that happens, industry thought leaders need to think carefully about how patient health information is used and retargeted across different websites, channels, and platforms.

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