Mobile: are you ready?

In essence, we are mobile and arguably much more today than ever before. And in the connected world in which we live, we want to have access to the same services during our “mobile day” that we do at work or at home.

Devices such as the iPhone and the iPad opened new ways to stay connected to all the knowledge that the Internet gives us access to. Moreover they allow people to always stay in touch with their online communities, by having multiple screen access to their favourite social media platforms or communities.

In the healthcare industry, new ways of using mobile devices, and changes in user behaviour, will continue to give us lots of new opportunities to engage with different stakeholders. At the same time, they will give us the chance to improve the way we are communicating, marketing and planning our businesses.

Mobile: are you ready?

Before looking at these opportunities, we need to understand and be prepared to embrace the actual evolution of our environment. Today, when we talk about mobile it is easy to primarily think about Apps, the iPad, and all new ‘geeky’ devices or services. Of course, such tools have to be taken into account but firstly we need to think about our existing content and platforms whilst we are looking for new ways to engage with our customers.

Indeed, although new apps are continually emerging, a large part of the mobile use of Internet is made through mobile browsers and search engines such as Google. This means that lots of people are trying to access to your website via their smartphones or tablets (and increasingly so in the near future). But are you ready for this simple way that people are using to access to your content?

If I ask this question, it’s because I’ve been reviewing lots of pharmaceutical companies’ campaign websites on my phone (iPhone 4). Many of the sites did not work well, for reasons including use of Flash content which currently cannot be displayed on an iPhone. On some, only parts of the website were not accessible and others delivered a very poor mobile experience. Beyond this access problem, this means that if you have invested in promoting your campaign website, such as through a Google Adwords campaign, you will probably lose money because many of the people you drive to your site will not be able to see any content. Moreover, this bad experience can even potentially have a negative effect on the brand or the company perception and finally suits your competitors.

So, in an environment where people are switching from desktop to mobile access to the Internet, this has to be taken into account to optimize your ROI and ensure you are providing the same quality of experience to all your costumers, wherever they are.

The year of mobile, really?

“2011 is the Year of Mobile”, this sentence has been said and heard a lot in the first months of this year, referring to the extensive adoption of mobile devices as a preferred Internet access tool. Indeed, the trends show us that people are increasingly using their mobile devices to access to the internet and use the large range of services it allows (video, sms, games, localization, augmented reality, etc.).

To go beyond, I would say that it is probably incorrect to keep talking about a “Year of Mobile”, since this was also said about last year and we will probably hear it next year too. In fact, we are in an “Era of Mobile” which started in 2007 with the first iPhone and is still only emerging. Mobile is the junction between the digital world and the “real” world which will soon simply be the world, that’s why it is essential to be prepared for it.

Mobile: 4 recommendations

As I said before, smartphones have started the mobile era. As a consequence, the development of services through applications on smartphones for healthcare professionals or patients is becoming natural for pharmaceutical companies. Of course, the iPhone is the mobile platform of choice to reach early adopters, but the massive growth of Android OS together with the arrival of Windows Phone OS is changing the mobile landscape and making it more complex.

The growing complexity of the mobile era is making decisions about channel choice much harder than they were before, not only because of the different OS systems  (iOS, Android OS, BlackBerry OS, RIM, etc.) but also variables such as the technical specifications of devices, tablets and the numerous Stores, just to name a few. It is important to make the right choices to maximise effective use of budgets to reach your goals.

To make the best choices, I will give you a few recommendations:

1. Look at where your customers are and which devices they use

This will help you to prioritize your choices. Make sure that you are developing services on the right OS for your audience (e.g. Android will probably be the good platform to reach a massive number of people in addition to iOS, and for now iOS is certainly the best platform to provide services or engage with doctors).

2. Think of when your customers are using mobile devices, and how

Laptops, smartphones and tablets are not used in the same way, at the same time of the day and in the same places. Those parameters have to be taken into account when you are designing your strategy. In fact, the ”mobile day” of your customers is divided into different phases, such as using their smartphone in the morning, their laptop during the day to work with and maybe their iPad in the evening to relax on their sofa or in their bed. This example shows us that the user’s needs, and the level of engagement you can reach through the different devices, will vary throughout the day and are likely to affect the impact of your communication.

3. Measure your results

Measuring your results is one of the most important parts of your strategy. Indeed, this will give you assets to improve your project and better understand your customers. Often, the success of mobile projects (e.g. launching an app) is measured with the number of downloads of the app, but if you really want to know if your goals have been reached, you need to look deeper. The number of downloads does not mean a lot if your goal is to engage people because most people download an app to see how it is, if it’s interesting, etc. Information such as the regularity of use, the time spent on the app, the traffic driven to the main website and so on are true indicators, and once analysed they can provide real insights to learn from and improve your strategy.

4. Think long term

The micro-environment you are creating for your costumers has to be thought through in the long term. Technically, the platforms, the devices and the digital environment itself is moving fast and you have to be able to provide an updated service. Strategically, the move from “one shot campaigns” to “long term engagement” is hard work because it needs changes in people and organizations mindsets, but it is the way to create real relationships between your brand, your company and your stakeholders.

What next?

Mobile is changing the world we are living in. Beyond the fact that mobile allows access to the Internet, mobile is facilitating the input of information thanks to the growing number of sensors present in our devices and the birth of  ‘Internet of objects’, where everyday objects are connected to the Internet. The emergence of IPv6 (next generation of the internet protocol) will open the next mobile revolution. Objects such as household appliances will have a unique IP address and will be able to communicate with the ‘cloud’ and vice versa.

The WiFi body scale you can see below, automatically transfers information to the cloud to allow people to access to it wherever they are, whenever they want and to share it with their doctor, nutritionist, online community (e.g. Lose it!) or personal health record (PHR) system such as Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault.

A connected weighing machine from Withings

This will change the way we are interacting with the physical world and will continue to merge the real and digital world. The data coming both from us and from our environment will be phenomenal and will help to inform and engage the next generation of healthcare stakeholders.

Creation Healthcare provides trusted healthcare engagement strategy advice to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare organizations. For a confidential discussion about engaging your customers and stakeholders using emerging technologies, contact us.

Thibaud Guymard

Thibaud Guymard joined Creation Healthcare’s UK team in September 2010 after completing an internship as Advertising Manager with Saatchi & Saatchi Health in Paris. He is an active innovator in healthcare engagement and has worked with Pfizer, Amgen, Sanofi, Ferring, Daiichi Sankyo. With first-hand experience of the French healthcare landscape, Thibaud strengthens Creation Healthcare’s European team and plays an active role in the consultancy’s current pharmaceutical commissions.