Digital, Social Advances Offer Opportunity In 2012

From medical providers to insurers and from politicians to the public, health care will continue to be on everyone’s mind in 2012 and beyond. And there is no doubt that technology will play a large role in shaping our nation’s future health care system, providing consumers and industry players a more effective and efficient way to operate. With the rise of digital, social and seemingly ubiquitous mobile access, consumers have tremendous access to information, and these technological advances also offer marketers new and powerful ways to connect, communicate and engage with their existing audiences and potential customers. Below are a few strategies health care and wellness marketers should take to heart as they embark on an opportunistic New Year.

Go Directly to Today’s Empowered Consumer: Today’s consumers don’t have to make doctor’s appointments to learn about what conditions are related to certain symptoms or learn joint therapy tips for senior citizens—they’re taking a direct and engaged approach to their health care and wellness. Advances in technology and communication have put consumers in charge and these empowered consumers are already turning to social and digital platforms to discover and engage with all types of content: more than 80% of U.S. Internet users say they have used the web to search for health-related information and answers; and PwC’s recent survey found that 32% use social media outlets to connect with health organizations or with other people with similar health-care interests. Furthermore, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to interact with their own doctors and providers online, with 73% of U.S. adults indicating that they “would use an online, secure tool to make it easier to communicate with their doctor and office staff” (Intuit Health Survey) and 60% are even comfortable “sharing their personal health data for coordinating care” (PwC Survey). As consumers increasingly turn to digital and social channels, health care marketers have a tremendous opportunity to reach, engage and interact with today’s consumer like never before as well as identify new target audiences and act as a resource.

Get Personal: No doubt that several industries are leveraging personalization technology and applications from companies like Zite, Sailthru and Clicker so that, alongside the age of the “empowered consumer,” personalization will be crucial for brands to stay relevant and elicit higher engagement rates through delivering targeted, personalized content to specific consumers. Consumers stand to be frustrated and disappointed if, say, a teenage male is consistently served up messaging related to menopause. According to an Internet Retailer survey, “understanding of consumers” was cited as the top reason for a retailer’s social success. Health care and wellness brands now have the ability to “know” their customers and deliver usable, valued, relevant content: so use it!  

Think Smart about Smartphones: Touching consumers on multiple platforms, including the social Web, personalized health sites and other interactive platforms, provides them a more direct and interactive experience. Nothing is more direct than the mobile channel so health care and wellness marketers must understand the importance of reaching their consumers who are increasingly on the go. In a recent AT&T national survey, almost 90% of marketers expect their mobile marketing program to increase in the next 12 months and, according to an eMarketer report, U.S. mobile ad spending will grow 47% in 2012, reaching $1.8 billion. Consumers will more frequently interact with social networks via their mobile devices and marketers must understand that a “cut and paste” strategy will not suffice – smartphone behavior varies from tablet behavior and both of those vary greatly from laptop and desktop behavior. My company recently put out a white paper surrounding the best practices for mobile-social consumer engagement.

Take a Holistic Approach: 2012 will see marketers place a continued focus on social—not with a siloed approach, but holistically viewed through a brand’s total digital footprint. This will be accomplished through a strategic and aggregated approach, including keen focus on analytics and metrics to gauge ROI as part of the overall marketing and sales goals. New tools, technologies, and partnerships will continue to give marketers precision social marketing capabilities, along with metrics that can merge across a brand’s total marketing landscape.

The Role of Retail Increases: From advancements in pharmacies to in-store clinics and interactive health kiosks, retail establishments will offer new and interactive ways for brands to connect with consumers. According to the National Community of Pharmacists Association, 92% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy or drugstore and given that most prescriptions require in-store pickup, a range of tremendous opportunities for health and wellness marketers still exist. Marketers must be vigilant in evaluating the latest in-store technologies and platforms to determine the best ways in which to incorporate their brand and when applicable, think about tying in other technologies that connect the physical and digital worlds like Foursquare and QR codes.

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