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The rising cost of healthcare and growing interest in healthy living is driving significant growth in the consumer health marketplace. According to QuintilesIMS data, OTC product sales, including health and wellness products, have seen steady mid-single digit growth every year since 2001, and now represent more than 10 percent of total pharmaceutical industry sales. The Cough and Cold category posted the highest annual global growth rate, though we have seen growth and innovation across the spectrum.

In both emerging and developed markets, this created large potential for consumer health product developers to deliver new and improved products, line extensions, and Rx-to-OTC switches to better meet the needs of consumers. Through 2016, a few companies further boosted their market position through M&A.  Prominent examples include GSK-NVS, Bayer-Merck, Sanofi-BI and, more recently, RB-MJN. Strong portfolio prioritization moves also enabled some players to increase market share.

In 2017, however, we have started seeing signs of market contraction, with some of the leading players reporting near-flat or negative growth in their Q2 results creating mounting pressure on leadership teams. Manufacturers are facing strong competition (especially from the private/ local players), dynamic economic behavior, regulatory amendments and operational issues. In this environment, players must compete harder than ever, uncovering deeper insights and unmet needs, devising more compelling strategies, on-target innovation and differentiated communication. They must be fully prepared to employ more agile techniques and better, more efficient multi-channel marketing campaigns against regions and categories with the highest growth potential for their products.   

A digital world

Selling wellness products to health-focused consumers often requires a very different marketing strategy from those of more traditional pharma-focused companies and is becoming ever more complex. While consumers still rely heavily on their physicians and pharmacists to guide them in the choice of OTCs, they will also seek out much broader advice and perspectives, especially when choosing wellness products. They typically gather information from sources including friends and family, advertising, web-based product ratings, healthcare apps, and social media. As a result, the entire shopper journey and decision-making process is much more fluid. In some cases, consumers may still be considering their options at the point of purchase, checking websites and consulting with peers as they choose products.

This means that developers of consumer health products need to take a more holistic approach to marketing and sales that includes creating a cohesive marketing message that can be disseminated via multiple consumer touchpoints. Digital channels cannot simply be an add-on for these campaigns. With health and wellness products, all of the messages are core to the sales process, and must work collaboratively toward shaping buying decisions. 

Some forward-thinking companies are taking the digital component of health and wellness to the next level, generating innovative tools to engage consumers before, during and after the shopping experience. For example,  L’Oréal, is actively collaborating with tech start-up companies to help them innovate the way consumers engage with the company and use its products. One of the start-ups is Preemadonna, which offers a device & app called Nailbot that lets users design and print art directly onto their nails via their phone. In 2016, L’Oréal launched My UV Patch, the ‘first-ever’ stretchable skin sensor to monitor UV exposure to support its la Roche-Posay skincare range. RB is also expanding into new connected consumer products, including Nurofen for Children FeverSmart Temperature Monitor for its Australia market that sends data to parents’ smartphones.

 

Messaging for the masses

Along with engaging consumers via multiple touchpoints, companies need to tailor their content to specific consumer segments at their point in the decision-making process. A mother of young children may be more interested in messages about the safety of a product, whereas younger buyers may be more intrigued by the promise of improved appearance or immediate results – i.e. whiter teeth and fresher breath. These decisions often include emotional factors tied to personal goals, peer influence, and/or fears about their health. When crafting these campaigns, marketing teams should consider the entire consumer experience, online and off, and take into account what types of information consumers will respond to at different points in their buyer journey.

The rapidly shifting consumer health marketplace means consumer health product teams need more robust tools, such as Orchestrated Customer Engagement (OCE) and Master Data Management systems, to address changing customer behavior, and allow brand marketing and sales teams to collaboratively deliver a more integrated customer experience. 
When developing consumer health products and crafting sales and marketing campaigns to support them, innovation and collaboration will remain the key growth drivers. Finding exciting, fun and emotionally engaging strategies to connect with consumers and practical, functional solutions to aid commercial teams will help deliver the greatest potential from wellness and self-care product categories.