Pharmas risk losing doctors to digital fatigue in the post-COVID-19 world if they don't get their email strategy right

Healthcare professionals want high quality, low quantity and good structure when it comes to email campaigns.

If they fail to get this balance right, pharma marketers risk entrenching so-called “digital fatigue” from doctors as the world comes out of the pandemic.

This is according to new research and analysis from healthcare solutions company Indegene that looked at around 7.9 million emails from 15 email campaigns for multiple therapies from April 2020 to August 2021.

The report, shown exclusively to Fierce Pharma Marketing, found that for email campaigns to be effective—i.e., to be noticed, opened, read or acted upon—the design must take a front seat. “It’s not only about having attractive looking templates, it’s more about following a structural design,” the firm said.

It also found that delivering more emails does not correlate with higher engagement rates. Rather, brands need to find a balance based on the therapy area and geography to sustain engagement.

The research found campaigns that targeted HCPs with 10 to 15 emails witnessed an average engagement rate of more than 3% compared to a less than 2% rate for those that deployed more than 16 emails.

The study also found that HCPs showed lower engagement rates when promotional emails were delivered more than once a week. Indegene said it recommends promotional emails be sent about four to six weeks apart.

The post-COVID world will likely still see many virtual campaigns taking center stage compared to in-person meetings, and this shift will need to be carefully managed.

“In the traditional representative-driven commercial model, marketers are accustomed to achieving maximum reach and frequency,” said Gaurav Kapoor, executive vice president at Indegene, in an interview. “As we move into the post-pandemic world, omnichannel customer experience will be the key to driving conversions.

"Brands today are still trying to achieve the same reach and frequency in the omnichannel world as well. This will be possible only if we shift gears from the current push mindset to the pull mindset.”

He said one of the key elements of the report is that these campaigns must, in the future, stick to easy-to-understand, palatable, bite-sized content that “adds a lot of value from both the information and consistency standpoint.”

But he also warned that there is a need to bring “a paradigm shift in the mindset to draw the attention of healthcare providers with the relevant practice enhancement content as opposed to brand-centric content.”

Several reports over the past six months has shown some of the issues pharma marketers have been facing during the pandemic.

Indegene released its own report, the Digitally Savvy HCP, back in January. It found that 70% of doctors surveyed by the company felt that reps “do not completely understand their needs and expectations,” while 62% of HCPs are “overwhelmed” by product-related promotional content they receive from drugmakers.

This echoed a report out by Accenture late last year, which found 64% of HCPs said they're getting too much digital content from pharma, and 65% said at least one pharma company had “spammed” them during the pandemic.