Posted: July 27, 2017

Consumer adoption of technology is evolving at a rapid rate. Add to that the speedy rate of technology development, and marketing to today's consumer becomes a test of strategy.

The line between technology and marketing is blurring — in today's hyper-connected world, our watches talk to cell phones, which can control the lights in our house and our TV. Our laptops and tablets are always within reach. All of which means we're always available for messaging to reach us, from one device or another.

Staying on top of digital marketing today means embracing the changes to consumer adoption of these connected products as they emerge, simultaneously keeping in mind how to adapt existing marketing or advertising behaviors to keep up with how customers are using the technologies. Healthcare may not always be the quickest industry to adopt new technologies, but there are a few major players that could have a big impact on influencing consumer health behaviors.

Immersive technology: No longer restricted to gamers and film buffs, augmented and virtual reality technologies are entering the mainstream with great momentum. These immersive technologies are commonly used by human resources departments for training and recruitment of clinicians. They are gaining popularity as an application of the telehealth model and are also enriching hospital marketing efforts.

Facebook, for example, provides support for 360-degree video through its advertising channels, which in turn provides healthcare marketers a simple way to give patients a virtual tour of their facility.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the most adaptable of immersive technologies, using interactive graphics overlaid onto existing applications. It could be as simple as an image filter, with customers able to see the effects of sun damage and eventual treatment for skin cancer on their own face or body.

Virtual Reality (VR) requires the user to wear a headset, and can be used in a setting where a potential patient can "try" a therapy under the guidance of a trusted healthcare professional. VR is a great opportunity to give your consumers a chance to see how your service could work for them without committing to the full experience.

Automation using machine learning: Marketers have regularly been collecting and analyzing customer data, but this has largely been a manual process because of multiple, non-integrated systems and data sources. In an interview with Digital in Asia, Adobe Asia-Pacific vice president of marketing, Marta DeBellis, said, “Machine learning in data science in particular will offer significant productivity opportunities for marketers, allowing them to focus their time on overall strategies and away from day-to-day analytics and data management."

Automated machine learning technologies, like chatbots, could also allow practitioners to respond directly to patient needs in a digital space. The Crisis Text Line, a mental health support service for young people, uses an automated text service to analyze conversations before triaging and referring patients to appropriate support material or medical services (if necessary). Its success has spawned many collaborations and spin-offs around the world, a testament to its effectiveness.

Voice recognition technology: A new device has been gaining a bit of attention lately, the Amazon Echo. The home automation hub can control your devices, play music, and order products online — all by voice commands. Speech recognition software is not a new thing, but what this represents is important — the shift of technology companies to focus on accessibility. For healthcare marketers, this opens the door to communicating directly with consumers in a new, user-friendly way.

The rise of voice technology in consumers' daily lives means a change in the approach to writing paid search ads and ensuring best-practice search engine optimization (SEO) is continually updated and implemented. Instead of typing “family doctor near me" into the Google search box, users will instead be asking in a more conversational tone, “Which doctors are open near me?" Using an active tone in SEO writing is always a good idea, but it is particularly recommended for a 24-hour emergency care center to highlight the currency of the information that is being returned in the search. The rules of Google local search still apply. Another thing to remember is that the devices will be speaking back to your customer, so write your terms and phrases for speech, not text.

The sheer amount of work to be done to produce marketing content for all of these platforms can seem overwhelming, but the key thing to remember is integration. You can organize your integration strategy by applying design thinking to your marketing plan. Think about good user experiences such as auditory and sensory medication prescription refill reminders for wearable devices; hospital websites with phone directories that can be navigated on a mobile menu; or ensuring your appointment booking app sends the appointment to the user's calendar.

Remember, these are things to be included into your existing marketing efforts, and you certainly don't have to add them in all at once. It's a journey. Want to see how your current digital marketing efforts stack up? Request a Free Healthcare Marketing Assessment.