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Marketing pharma: leveraging data science to create a competitive advantage

Marketing pharma: leveraging data science to create a competitive advantage

The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted e-commerce and digital behaviours, a trend that is also being observed in the pharmaceutical industry. To succeed in its marketing transformation, pharma needs to overhaul both its digital and retail strategies. This is where data science comes in, revealing all the potential avenues for reinventing the industry’s marketing performance.

Author : Stéphanie Korsia, Partner, Health & Pharma; Soline Aubry, Partner

Date : 2 October, 2023

€234 billion
Potential worldwide sales
in digital health in 2023 [1]

More and more patients are taking charge of their own health

In the post-Covid era, consumer healthcare (CHC) business is booming, with patients increasingly taking control of their own health. From food supplements and sports nutrition to weight control and age support, many markets are showing strong growth, driven by the meteoric rise of online shopping. By becoming more active in their own health, consumers are forcing healthcare companies to change the way they market their products: the market is in the process of moving from a “one size fits all” product-centric approach, to a more consumer-centric approach. What I want, when I want, where I want… Such is the new credo of today’s healthcare consumer. As a result, health marketing is having to become more market led. 

The trend is still in its the early stages: according to a study by Forrester, the volume of health and well-being products sold via retail outlets will double in 2023. This trend is increasingly visible in the United States (with giants such as Amazon[2] and Walmart) as well as in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. 

It is a trend that should accelerate the sector’s transformation: by drawing on methods already tried and tested in the retail sector, it is in the process of reinventing its marketing performance.

CHC: challenges and opportunities of retail marketing 

As consumer healthcare marketing aligns with retail marketing, brand strategies will face similar challenges. In addition, as the CHC market is opening up, some brands are now seeking to position themselves in supermarkets, whereas previously their products were only distributed in pharmacies. This certainly represents a real sales potential, but one that will require brands to question their image: with this new consumer-centric vs product-centric positioning, do they still want to be seen as pure pharma players – with health products that can only be found in pharmacies – or as consumer healthcare players? 

By refocusing on the consumer, marketing is being reoriented from B2B2C to direct-to-consumer (DTC), offering new commercial opportunities in the process. Sales forces will carry out their traditional B2B2C missions, with a particular focus on key moments in the product life cycle – product launch, new galenic formulation, indication, etc. – while the DTC strategy will enable them to diversify into the digital realm, with communications that could be very similar to those used in retail marketing. 

Furthermore, the exponential growth of digital technology has led to a spectacular boom in the volume of marketing data: the proliferation of health apps, more visits to specialist websites, and the search for and sharing of information on social media. All this information makes it possible to better understand consumer needs and develop more personalised service or treatment offers. But we still need to know how to exploit this immense potential and gain access to quality data. 

How data science is reinventing CHC marketing performance

For over 20 years, Marketing Mix Modelling (MMM) has been proving its worth as a way of measuring the business relevance of marketing investments in a wide range of sectors – retail, media, cosmetics, etc. The pharmaceutical industry is still in its infancy in this respect. To support the transformation of the CHC sector, it can be a powerful tool in: 

  • Supporting an organisation’s digital transformation. The aim is to understand the impact and role of each marketing lever in the performance of a brand’s products in different markets. In the CHC sector, for example, data can be used to support the evolution of the marketing mix towards more digital levers, relying less on the sales force. Such projects also enable business lines to develop their skills in the use of data in their decision-making. 
  • Rationalise investments on an ongoing basis. Like many other sectors, CHC is subject to strong financial pressure. Against a backdrop of budget cuts, MMM helps to optimise marketing, media and digital investments. How? By managing marketing performance holistically, using forecasts to maximise its impact on key indicators such as turnover, margins and brand image. It is a valuable decision-making tool that’s both tactical and operational. 


Data science – with a customer-centric approach – will also make it possible to structure and add value to data that has, until recently, been timidly exploited, and to develop more personalised services or treatments, such as the detection of certain diseases through voice or image processing, or health monitoring services to improve adherence to treatments. 


Customer stories: How a market leader in consumer healthcare accelerated its data science transformation and optimised its marketing performance

Ekimetrics developed an artificial intelligence platform to help this client’s marketing team measure and optimise its return on investment (ROI) using quarterly insights and optimisation recommendations. The platform has been deployed across more than 35 brands in different markets worldwide, to automate the management of data flows and manage media budget allocations. The marketing team is also now in a position to adapt quickly to the constant changes in the healthcare market (regulations, changes in consumer behaviour, etc.) in order to remain competitive. The platform is currently being rolled out in Asia and Central and South America to provide better support for underrepresented markets.


[1]According to a 2019 study by Frost & Sullivan.

[2]According to Forbes, Amazon is the world’s largest retailer. See this article: The World’s Largest Retailers 2022: Pandemic Helps Amazon Cement Its Lead (2022)

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