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What Pharma can Learn from Retail’s Customer Experience Innovation

retail customer experience

With the direct impact of experience on outcomes, what can brands learn from the retail customer experience to improve the pharma customer experience? 

We have compounding evidence that better experiences lead to better participation, relationships, trust, adherence, and outcomes. A 2012 “systematic review of evidence on the links between patient experience and clinical safety and effectiveness,” published in the British Journal of Medicine, identified evidence from 55 studies that showed consistent positive associations between patient experience, patient safety, and clinical effectiveness across a wide range of disease areas and settings. Following this study, the “Triple Aim” of enhancing patient experience, improving population health, and reducing costs was expanded to include healthcare professionals’ experience as a key component to driving better outcomes. 

As experience continues to be highlighted as a factor for driving outcomes, organizations are looking for new ways to deliver superior pharma customer experiences. For that, we turn to recent research Medallia conducted with over 100 retail customers and detailing over 100 million retail customer experiences. This research surfaced three key factors as instrumental for driving change in the retail industry. Those same top factors we learned that impact the retail customer experience can be applied to the pharma industry:

1. Ease of customer experience

It’s about making experiences convenient, simple, and consistent. For example, is it easy to get an appointment, find the office, understand the physician, and get your prescription filled? Is the answer to these questions “Yes?” Is it always a “Yes?”

retail customer experience

Drawing on retail customer experience lessons, consumer-driven brands within the industry dramatically shifted to meet changing consumer trends for a simplified and easy shopping experience. This move to “buy online, pick up curbside” has been met with success as 36% of respondents shop online weekly, up from 28% pre-COVID-19, according to the Global Connected Consumer Index Report. Further, our research revealed retail customers who had positive curbside retail customer experiences shopped online five times more every month versus those who had a negative experience. They shopped online less than two times per month.  

retail customer experience

And while very few retailers at the start of COVID offered buy online, pick up curbside, this approach has gained momentum with other aspects of the retail experience, including ePharmacy.

With that, I have dubbed this as POPUP, or prescribe online, pick up on porch. With 64% wanting a mobile and contactless pickup or check-in option, according to the Global Connected Consumer Index Report, this trend extends to all aspects of the retail experience including the ePharmacy and pharma customer experience. In fact, ePharmacy is projected to reach $178 million by 2026, representing a 17.3% compounded annual growth rate. Knowing this expected growth, pharma can learn from retailers on how to simplify existing experiences. 

For more on what retail is doing right, check out the blog: Voice of the Retail Customer: The Post-Pandemic Playbook to the New Customer Experience.

2. Customer experience expectations

Expectations can be formed based on previous experiences with the same brand or similar brand. For many consumers, the expectation goalpost keeps moving as expectations for better experiences are overshadowing the products or services delivered. Consider this: 80% of customers now consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services.

retail customer experience

Today’s customer expectations for better and more superior experiences have been set by some of the largest retailers and tech brands. In fact 49% of consumers wish the digital experience was smoother and more intuitive, similar to experiences with Amazon, Netflix or Uber. While COVID-19 has accelerated advancements in digital health and the overall pharma customer experience, consumers still want more. Sixty-eight percent of consumers want a customized experience with their healthcare provider. That experience can include unique services, personalized interactions, and connected experiences across digital channels.

In order for pharma companies to reimagine the experiences they deliver today, they need to assess where they are right now. Here are a few questions to help get started:

  • Does the feedback we capture mirror that of the customers/colleagues we serve?   
  • Do we provide multiple modes of feedback capture? 
  • Are we simplifying the process of sharing feedback with the right technology?

3. Emotional connectedness

Our emotions drive our behaviors and shape our decisions, actions, and experiences. How do experiences with healthcare providers make patients feel? Did they feel heard, genuinely cared for, and treated in a comforting manner?

The way customers think and feel about their brand experience has an influence factor of 1.5x on their oriented actions, as 93% of retailers believe customers are more likely to spend money with a brand they feel connected to. 

Understanding the psychology of emotion can help organizations better understand how various touchpoints can create an emotional connection between the customer and brand. 

The omnichannel experience is the foundation to building connections at every touchpoint, whether that’s over the web, mobile apps, email, phone, or in-store interactions. 

And during the omnichannel experience, organizations can track and respond to their customers’ emotions, as those emotions will dictate their actions and behaviors. Reactions of an angry customer will be different than those from a frustrated one, requiring organizations to respond differently based on prevailing emotions. Understanding the triggers behind these emotions will help organizations drive the desired outcomes. 

For that reason, pharma has an opportunity to better leverage data and feedback in the moment to customize and personalize the experience for every consumer and patient — at scale. By doing that, they can increase loyalty, retention, patient outcomes, and revenue. 

Creating a network effect to improve the omnichannel pharma customer experience

Experiences go beyond a single engagement or customer. They should be about creating a network effect of improvement where each customer interaction delivers increased benefits to the next customer. It’s similar to how Waze — a community-based application that provides drivers quicker navigation routes based on current driving conditions — works. With more users and data being shared, the experience gets better each time. 

Pharma can benefit from the network effect by improving poor experiences associated with long wait times, unprepared physicians, the challenges of getting a prescription filled, or unexpected side effects of treatments. An example of this in action is the recent rollout of the COVID vaccines, in which organizations were able to quickly pivot and resolve poor experiences by continuously integrating operational, clinical outcome, and experience data to ensure each future experience is better than the last. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

To dive deeper into how pharma can learn from retail’s customer experience innovation, I recommend you listen to the on-demand recording of What Pharma can Learn from Retail, a conversation I had with Zack Hamiltion, Medallia’s Head of Retail Experience.