I’ve spent more than a decade in digital marketing and publishing, and for many years my focus was not on pageviews and ad impressions, but conversions and all things related to e-commerce. Ten years ago, I remember reading that a successful e-commerce website needs to think in terms of a “sales funnel” that you onboard prospective customers into, since they are unlikely to visit your site once and make a purchase.
Just to make sure I had remembered this axiom correctly, I did some follow-up research, and all of the more recent studies still support that hypothesis. A study by Rakuten Marketing reveals that on average, online shoppers “make 9 visits to a retailer’s site before deciding to buy,” and that they are not using single channels to shop, but multiple: “the average number of channels used before conversion has also risen from 1.25 in January 2010 to 3.25 in 2014.”
Of these 9 visits, how long is the time lapse from the time of first discovery to a purchase/conversion? In e-commerce, it can be quite long. In an article from the Nielsen/Norman Group, author Jakob Nielsen states that according to research, among customers who weren’t yet set on what exactly they wanted to buy, it “took much longer” for these conversions to take place: “Orders didn’t reach the 90% mark until 12 days after users had clicked on the advertisement, and it took four weeks to reach 95%. Thus, the last 5% of orders happened more than 4 weeks after the initial click.”
The driving force behind the delay in making a purchase is that consumers leverage the internet to conduct their own market research. According to SocialTimes, “Eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. Sixty percent begin by using a search engine to find the products they want, and 61 percent will read product reviews before making any purchase. On average, a consumer will visit three stores before making their purchase.”
If you’re in biotech and deploying strategies for approved therapies or recruiting for a clinical trial, is there any reason to believe that patients are not doing the same due-diligence before they reach out to enquire about a drug or clinical trial? While e-commerce features such as shopping carts, product reviews, and checkouts aren’t species of online biotech marketing and promotion, there are analogues to all of these things: patients mine patient blogs, news articles, videos, and social media before even considering becoming a “conversion” for biotech marketers. In this way, the biotech industry needs to get prospects into a similar-type sales funnel via web assets that foster multiple touch-points with customers that keep them coming back to the source of information.
New Content Yields Return Visits
Legacy health websites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic can certainly drive massive traffic to their web assets. Their content, which is largely composed of static resource and info articles that explore pathogenesis, symptoms, prognosis, and diagnosis of conditions and diseases, have such domineering visibility in search and in direct traffic via brand recognition that they are often a first stop for sick people who are new to the process of being sick with whatever ails them. However, for those with chronic or rare diseases, how much return traffic can these fundamental info pages engender?
If you want patients to buy into a therapy or consider reaching out to get information on a clinical trial, you need to keep them coming back to the source of wherever your ads or calls to action are positioned. Remarketing technologies give advertisers the opportunity to have ad messaging “follow” users past the source, but where are these ads appearing? Are they consistently showing alongside relevant content? If a patient is interacting with therapeutic or clinical trial recruitment ads alongside political news or consumer-oriented content, the messaging is lost in the fact that it doesn’t correlate with the reader’s own train of thought.
Biotech campaigns online need to live on informational websites that provide patients with fresh, updated content that is published, promoted, and distributed daily. The constant cycle of disease-specific content, distributed through multiple channels and presented with an emphasis on patient engagement, is precisely how new content yields return visits that draw prospects father down into the sales funnel toward conversion.
Onboarding + Passive Traffic Channels = Conversions
Patients who live with a chronic disease already know the fundamentals of their disease and are unlikely to return to basic disease informational pages. Rather, what they are in search of are the latest perspectives into disease management, new therapeutics, and perspectives on living with their disease. Moreover, patients are looking for passive delivery of this content so that they don’t have to go searching for it everyday. As a result, biotech advertisers should be looking to partner with online publishers who can deliver by pairing ad and content campaigns with multiple content delivery channels.
What are the optimal content and distribution types for bringing return traffic to interact with ads and calls to action?
- News Content: The news remains a largely uncovered content type online for many rare and chronic diseases. Chronic disease patients often see their specialist only once or twice a year. In the meantime, they search for the latest science and research news online, only to find press releases and puff pieces. The hallmark of BioNews Services’ content offerings is science and research news presented in a format that patients can easily understand. We’ve found that for most diseases there’s enough new research to write 3-5 news stories per week. The news becomes the fodder for content distribution.
- E-mail Subscription: Many publishers boast having a subscriber list, but what kind of content is typically served to those subscribers, and to whom? Publishers need to be able to demonstrate what segment of their list pertains to your target audience, since e-mail lists are only going to deliver steady, pertinent visits if they are patients or caregivers. Moreover, non-branded content such as news is the perfect material for weekly e-newsletters, which consistently draws in weekly readership.
- Social Media: Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter become an extension of news distribution for billions of users worldwide. Liking pages gives users an easy, passive flow of fresh news that hits their wall or account. Publications need to be investing in their own pages and accounts in social media as a distribution hub for content. But ask yourself: are the accounts niche? Are they able to target the people who your campaign is looking to speak to? In addition, has the publication invested in their accounts beyond auto-posting content? Is there an interaction taking place between the publication’s community managers and those interacting with the content?
- Direct Traffic: A substantial portion of return traffic lives with the “direct” traffic channel, where users have a publication in their menu bar, or are accustomed to typing it into their browser. Direct traffic is the domain of return visitors, with 75% of it accounting for return visits on BioNews’ disease-specific websites.
A flow chart of content through daily and weekly channels can look something like this:
When choosing online partners for advertising in biotech, make sure the publisher can deliver on fresh, niche content that is effectively distributed to the patient population being targeted. Boasting large traffic numbers will deliver ad impressions, but will it give you the conversions you’re looking for to substantiate digital ad dollars? Only if you get the same pool of people coming back for more each day.
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