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Healthcare meets retail marketing

Healthcare meets retail marketing

What healthcare can learn from retail marketing

Kyle Richardson | May 14, 2015

Healthcare is going through transformations which are making it more consumer-focused than ever before. One significant transformation is the movement toward Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and how ACO incentives are turning healthcare organizations on their head. For the first time, healthcare organizations need to make marketing a higher priority.

What is an ACO?

WikiPedia defines an ACO as “a healthcare organization characterized by a payment and care delivery model that seeks to tie provider reimbursements to quality metrics and reductions in the total cost of care for an assigned population of patients. A group of coordinated health care providers forms an ACO, which then provides care to a group of patients.” At the simplest level, ACOs are an agreement between a company and a healthcare organization to meet the healthcare needs of the company’s employees for a set cost. With that structure, the healthcare organization is now incentivized to proactively keep its employees as healthy as possible. This makes it imperative that ACOs are more connected to their customers, better understand them and have many of the marketing capabilities typically seen in the retail industry.

Marketing capabilities needed

If you are a healthcare organization, you need to push marketing into a more dominant role and enhance your marketing with modern capabilities more often found in the retail industry today. Changing ACO incentives elevates the need for marketing techniques such as customer segmentation, outbound marketing, customer journey mapping, data-driven engagement, and proactive engagement. However, the elements that need to happen to effectively engage with different segments–such as centralized customer data, client communication preferences, marketing automation tool, and segmented messaging–are either new concepts or non-existent in healthcare organizations.

Capabilities enabling “Triple Aim”

Healthcare organizations are collecting more data than ever before with electronic medical records (EMRs), and yet they are still dramatically behind retailers, who gather vast amounts of data to inform their knowledge of the customer. As some of my colleagues have discussed, healthcare organizations are seeking to focus on the “Triple Aim”. That is, improve people’s experience of care (including quality and satisfaction), improve the health of populations, and reduce the per capita cost of healthcare. To achieve this, you will need to focus on the end consumer to enable proactive engagement with people.

Segmentation will be key

Segmentation is a key to success in the new world of healthcare marketing–not just having data about consumers, but using it to better understand consumer segment behaviors. Through this capability, you can identify segments of consumers which have specific needs, and hone in on their consumer journeys.

For example, after putting segmentation in place, you could segment middle-aged, diabetic people. With that segment identified, you could then dig deeper into their consumer journey to understand the important milestones and most impactful moments along the journey. Proactive engagement techniques (like segmented messaging and the use of a marketing automation tool) could be put in place to reach out to those people if they deviated from the desired treatment path.

Building trust and loyalty

As marketing takes a more dominant role in healthcare, the touchpoints involved with the consumer will grow. Retail organizations are known for keenly managing customer touchpoints. For example, Starbucks seeks to build trust and loyalty through a highly managed set of touchpoints designed for their target audience. Their digital channels provide personalized interactions and their physical locations tie into the digital information to build out a seamless experience. Retail organizations understand that you can’t send conflicting messages (with different tones, experiences or actions) across your different channels. Consumers are digitally-savvy and mature in their usage of omni-channel media. Touchpoints and messages need to be aligned or it will damage the consumer's trust and loyalty. The entire omni-channel experience needs to be managed, understood and optimized–from the moment the consumer sees an advertisement, looks at the website, or receives an email, to the point that she requests an appointment, and manages her care through online tools. All of these touchpoints need to be designed on a similar experience to build trust and loyalty.

A relentless focus on the consumer

While the capabilities needed for a modern marketing function within healthcare may seem daunting, the opportunity is exciting. The ability to surprise and delight consumers and provide improved service is very attainable. Having a relentless focus on the consumer and their experience will be critical for your success in the modern marketing world.

Kyle Richardson is no longer with Slalom.

Kyle Richardson

Kyle Richardson is a solutions principal in Slalom Seattle’s Customer Engagement practice. He is passionate about partnering with clients on digital and customer strategy, marketing, and analytics. He has over 10 years of management consulting experience and deep knowledge across the high tech, retail, and communications industries.


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