Posted: December 6, 2017

SEO. Local listings. Mobile. Content. Design. Analytics. KPI’s. If you're like most digital marketers, these are just some of the issues keeping you awake at night. But if you can get a handle on the trends, and see where to put your focus to get the most out of your efforts, you might rest easier. The 2017 Econsultancy/Adobe Digital Trends report surveyed more than 14,000 marketing pros and provided market insight that helps healthcare marketers refine outreach and engagement strategies.

The Big Takeaways

1. Consumer Experience is Priority #1. About 20% of respondents ranked optimizing consumer experience as their single biggest priority for the year ahead. Other highlights of the report include the need to differentiate consumer experiences; the use of design to better engage users with your brand; and the need to improve content delivery via mobile apps and social media. “These respondents are looking beyond mobile to focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR)," says Scott Rigby, head of digital transformation at Adobe.

What this means for healthcare. For healthcare marketers, particularly in smaller organizations, prioritizing the online experience for both current and prospective patients is challenging. Marketing teams are typically small, tech budgets are even smaller, and/or an over-reliance on IT may be impeding digital transformation efforts.  

Where to begin? Start with understanding your consumers on a deeper level by developing personas for key service lines. Be sure to include consumers’ preferences for digital interaction and communications and then create journey maps that document the steps they go through when choosing a healthcare provider. From this, you can design a roadmap for consumer experience and build on successes as you learn—the key is keeping that customer-centric approach across your efforts – from campaigns to web interactions to future technologies.

Keep an eye on those more cutting edge technologies – like AR/VR – as they develop and are more widely adopted by other industries. Some applications might not apply to healthcare in the beginning, but you must watch how they affect consumer experiences and expectations and shift when and where it makes sense.

2. Don't Forget the Importance of Data. “Some organizations have taken their eye off the consumer-experience ball: The role of data has fallen way down marketing's priority list in 2017," says Rigby. "Without strong data analytics, marketers will fail to understand their customers, and this will hinder their ability to optimize the all-important customer experience." Respondents reported improvements in gaining access and control over their data, but lack of analytics technology and training are still impediments. The report suggested that companies that can make gains in data analysis may give themselves a competitive edge in the marketplace.

What this means for healthcare. For healthcare marketing managers, “Understanding data enables a company to refine its customer segments," says Rigby. “This process requires additional creative content in real time to engage these new segments – what we call content velocity. This is where design-centric businesses with robust technology will outperform those that haven't invested in the resources." The Digital Trends report says 82% of those surveyed put a high value on creativity, and 75% said they are investing in design to differentiate their online brand presence.

But, one of the challenges cited by those surveyed was difficulty in implementing new website designs that align with their strategy of improving consumer engagement. Engaging and converting consumers goes beyond just how a website looks. In other words, you need to understand your data to know how to personalize content and design to better engage your consumers. You need an integrated process. Your healthcare CMS, healthcare CRM, and healthcare marketing automation tools need to talk to each other and offer a continuous feedback loop of data and learning.

3. Strategy Will Win the Day. The Digital Trends report underscores the results of an earlier Adobe survey which found that 66% of those marketers surveyed tied organizational success to having a digital marketing strategy. In that report, Digital Distress: What Keeps Marketers Up at Night, other key issues included reaching consumers, understanding whether digital campaigns are working, proving campaign effectiveness, and demonstrating marketing return on investment.

The 2017 Digital Trends survey also revealed multiple perspectives on the impact of company culture in regard to supporting digital marketing initiatives. While 12 percent of respondents reported that keeping the consumer at the heart of all outreach initiatives was their most difficult task, 13% said it was the easiest. This difference in perspectives may reflect an organization's ability to deliver a consistent consumer experience.

What this means for healthcare. For healthcare marketers, an important takeaway from the Digital Trends report is to develop a cohesive, consumer-centric digital marketing strategy that factors in market trends and includes buy-in from leadership across your organization. While there are clearly plenty of challenges ahead when it comes to digital marketing, an understanding of key trends should help you develop strategic goals, and might just help you rest easier at night.

Want help developing a long-term healthcare marketing strategy that delivers real results? Request a free Healthcare Marketing Assessment.