The other day, I was listening to some orchestral music from our famous Berlin Philharmonic, enjoying the way all the different instruments come together to form a wonderful composition, when it occurred to me that this is the perfect metaphor for what the MedTech industry has to achieve through omnichannel experiences.

Each instrument in an orchestra has a part to play, sometimes taking the lead and other times playing a supporting role, only the perfect orchestration of those make it a symphony which appears nicely to the listener. In the same way, the various channels available to MedTech companies can play a bigger or smaller part in the customer experience depending on the stage of the journey and the customer’s unique needs. But when they’re orchestrated to work together, they form an integrated solution that can lead to more than 100% growth. This is truly the power of an omnichannel approach.

Why it’s important to get omnichannel right

My colleague, Pete Moran, has talked before about the fact that the MedTech industry is undergoing a massive shift. Customer expectations are changing at a rapid pace, even more so in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and MedTech companies have adopted new digital channels to meet the demand for faster and more personalized communications and service. Accenture research found that 69% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers expect at least half of their purchases to be made through digital channels over the next three years and 93% of B2B buyers will avoid a sales rep altogether once they know what they want to buy.

There’s also ongoing pressure to keep costs in check, which might lead some companies to focus parts of their efforts on using the lower expensive channels. However, customers do need to communicate directly with a sales rep at times, so meeting customer expectations is not as simple as making all your interactions with them hands-off.

Most companies are already using a traditional multichannel approach. That’s a good start. It respects that there’s a place for every channel—whether sales reps, inside sales, email marketing, the company’s website and blog posts, webinars or conventions, virtually or in person. It also recognizes that the reach of sales reps, limited by hours in the day, can be augmented by the use of other channels.

But if the channels don’t work together as a seamless experience for customers, MedTech companies are missing out on the growth they need to be competitive. To continue our orchestra metaphor, in a multichannel approach, it’s like all the instruments are playing at the same time without a conductor unifying them into a core sound.

The key difference with an omnichannel approach is the use of orchestration to ensure the different channels receive the support they need to work together across the customer journey.

An omnichannel approach requires cultural change

For MedTech companies getting started with an omnichannel approach, there needs to be a shift in mindset to ‘all hands on deck.’ Only a real team effort will lead to success. That means breaking down barriers between market siloes and functions and developing strong governance and execution at various levels across the organization. Cultural change is also crucial when you’re introducing these new capabilities. Companies I’ve spoken to that have built an omnichannel approach say that internal communication was a vital part of gaining buy-in from their staff and bringing them on a successful and collaborative journey in a changing culture.

It also requires changes across the Sales and Marketing functions. Low-performing sales reps, some of those who have been in the industry for many years and become comfortable simply serving their existing customer base, will face issues when those same customers move to other lower-touch channels. Higher-performing reps, who understand how to work within the new omnichannel framework, will see significantly more success. Our research shows that 30% of sales rep time can be freed up by technology and can be invested in further, personalized lead generation.

On the Marketing side, MedTech companies will need to become more agile and data driven. They’ll need to develop high quality content that tells a story and guides customers on a journey to bring in high-quality leads. In many cases, that will require a marketing transformation building the muscle to empower the different channels.

You’ll need a data supply chain with intelligent automation and AI

A successful omnichannel approach is based on real-time insights—which requires large amounts of data and the IT infrastructure (probably in the cloud) to support it. I recommend companies build a data supply chain that combines company, market and customer data. Start with the basics. Collect the data you have, including everything you know about your customers and their preferences, and structure it to ensure you have a high quality dataset. Scale up with data from additional sources, including public and third-party datasets. Then automate processes and add artificial intelligence to improve the user experience with next best actions and targeted solutions.

Getting started with an omnichannel approach

For MedTech companies considering an omnichannel approach, I have three recommendations:

  1. Make omnichannel a C-level topic. I firmly believe that implementing an omnichannel approach requires the attention of the CEO and other C-suite executives. Since it involves all functions and capabilities and has a direct impact on revenue edge costs and the overall profitability of the business, the C-suite must be invested in the program’s success.
  2. Start small, then scale quickly. I generally don’t recommend launching a large new omnichannel program at the global level. Instead, I suggest piloting a minimum viable product (MVP) in a limited number of suitable markets or countries. Then use the lessons you learn from these pilot projects to scale up more broadly while building out capabilities on the go from a customer, technology and business perspective.
  3. Commit to a serious effort, no half measures. Without a serious commitment that spans the organization, a program this extensive is likely to produce sub-optimal results. You’ll need a strong governance structure in place and a robust operating model that supports fast execution and decision-making.

There is no reason why MedTech companies can't double their growth rate when they apply an omnichannel approach. So, if you’re wondering if it’s worth making the commitment in effort and investment, my answer to you would be an emphatic “Yes!”

To learn more about the related topic of the business of experience, I highly recommend reading our report: Growth: It Comes Down to Experience

Philip Frey

Managing Director – Life Sciences, MedTech, European Lead

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