Multichannel to Omnichannel: Going “Omni” in Healthcare Marketing

For years now, omnichannel has been a marketing buzzword bordering on jargon, with most of us simply replacing “multi” with “omni” in our vernacular and going about our business. What is the actual difference?

Multichannel marketing is the use of multiple channels to allow customers to engage in the way they most prefer. This might include a traditional storefront or retail channel, as well as a website, online marketplaces (e.g., Amazon) and social channels for customer experiences. Each channel contains its own isolated customer experience with little to no cross-interaction. Multichannel is operational.

Omnichannel is an interrelated customer experience within and across your multichannel environment – a unification of all channels into a singular, nonlinear customer experience. Where a customer starts their journey isn’t necessarily where they will end, and omnichannel handoffs coordinate a seamless move across channels without disruption. Omnichannel is experiential.

Although the healthcare industry is late to the omnichannel party, it’s catching up. If you’re a healthcare marketer who’s finally “going omni,” here are a few steps to start your journey.


  1. Evaluate user journeys and content needs.

As mentioned previously, omnichannel is nonlinear. Map out the steps that HCPs and patients take in their journeys and address touch-points that may create friction or dropout. Common examples might be poor or sparse patient reviews online or lackluster content or customer service engagement on social channels. Make sure that each touch-point helps tell a story about your brand.

Take care to also consider the type of information needed at the intersection points of professional and patient journeys. What can doctors provide patients that creates another experience leading to the use of your product or service? Interactive doctor discussion guides and patient welcome kits are great examples of content that both audiences find useful and engaging.


  1. Evaluate the channels that matter most.

As the term “omni” implies, omnichannel includes all channels where patients gather and share information. Marketers must be diligent when deciding which channels to dedicate resources toward and which ones are not strategically critical. During this process, do your due diligence to be sure your gut is in line with available data.

For example, depending on your business objectives, you may need to decide between Pinterest and Twitter accounts. If you’re looking to make a visual day-in-life connection with women, Pinterest is a great solution. If you need an avenue to share news about your product, Twitter users are a receptive audience. Don’t forget to reference the ever-evolving FDA draft guidance and consider your own organizational tolerance for risk. In many cases, you may not own or control the channel, which can create variability in how your brand is portrayed or discussed.


  1. Invest in marketing automation.

Marketing automation platforms – centralized hubs for storing and using customer data – allow you to create unique user journeys that engage and reengage potential and past customers. Some of the marketing automation platforms and CRM tools we help our clients manage include Adobe Experience Cloud, Salesforce and Pardot, and Marketo, to name a few.

The primary hurdle in using marketing automation in healthcare (and why healthcare has been slow to adopt omnichannel) has been concerns over sensitive, personally identifiable information, or SPII. It’s important to decide what kind of data the organization is willing to collect, and how it can be used. In some cases, you may decide to gather some data strictly for insights and use other data for richer engagement. For example, you might collect data to study how certain kinds of patients engage with your website but not to retarget them with banner ads once you’ve made updates relevant to them.


  1. Include sales in your omnichannel strategy.

The sales channel may hold the most opportunity for omnichannel marketing within healthcare. Sales reps can provide a truly bespoke, in-person customer experience. Depending on what system you use for professional detailing, data can sometimes flow both ways. Did a doctor show interest in certain study data? Send her an email with a link to more info on the website. Didn’t open? Retarget her with display advertising. Didn’t click? Send a direct mail piece inviting her to a webinar.

Another opportunity in the sales channel is whitespace or nonpersonal promotion (aka NPP). Think of this as “personal nonpersonal,” where known and gathered data allows us to engage with doctors we don’t otherwise interact with. These opportunities  might include self-led e-detailers, a dedicated sales staff for video calls, sample and collateral request forms, email updates on outcomes or new study data, etc. Whatever the tactic is, the doctor is the star of the show and an orchestrated and automated system does the heavy lifting.


Start your multichannel to omnichannel evolution

Going omni can be a daunting task. For that reason, many of us think of it as a mindset rather than an achievement or goal. Your customers are ever changing and so too are your customers’ journeys. There is no omnichannel state, only the pursuit of one.

And remember, your multichannel structure is the backbone on which you’ll build your omnichannel presence. You aren’t going to toss it out and start from scratch. You only need to start linking those channels to create a singular customer journey.

Whether targeting HCPs, patients or both, starting with these four ideas will help you deliver the right content at the right time, unify your channel mix in a “surround sound” user experience, and move your audiences down the funnel toward advocacy. Keep omnichannel as a mindset for all of your marketing channels, and you’re already on your way.