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How e-pharma companies use technology to acquire and retain customers

Authored by Advait Suhas Pandit, Director & CTO, Netmeds.com.

Technology is the force that drives the e-pharma and health-tech industry. The burgeoning Indian pharma sector with an annual growth rate of 18% is at the helm of technology-driven solutions. It is playing a key role in transforming the online healthcare sub-sector. Cutting edge tech solutions like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have not only helped the e-pharma companies understand their consumers, they have also helped predict trends and build a preventive healthcare ecosystem.

Here’s how technology drives consumer acquisition and behavior at Netmeds:

Building a complete health platform: In the already crowded e-pharma space, the only other way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors is to provide a holistic health platform and not just do the delivery of medicines. . Creating a complete end-to-end healthcare product is the need of the hour. Driving consumer’s healthcare and healthcare-related decisions and identifying their needs from doctor consultation, health insurance, diagnostics to patient community and health advice is the 360-degree approach to online healthcare that Netmeds is striving to fulfill. Additionally, constant innovation and adding new offerings and services help retain consumers.

For these offerings to be relevant, they have to be tailor-made to a customer. Apart from looking at just customer buying behavior, there are other aspects such as the medical condition of the customer, demography of the customer etc that play a major part in creating and selling these offerings. Therefore, profiling of a customer along multiple dimensions becomes extremely important.

Recommending non-pharma products: There are certain subtleties related to the pharma vertical which is very different from traditional e-commerce. A good example would be that of recommending products to a customer while browsing the site. We cannot recommend pharma products to a user. Therefore, we use ML and analytics to profile customers and recommend FMCG products or products that do not require a prescription that complement the pharma products the customer buys. For example, we would recommend a diabetic drink for a customer who falls under the profile of a diabetic. Similarly, we would recommend medical devices such as glucose monitors to a customer who has been profiled to be a diabetic.

In this industry, there is usually one person in the family who buys on behalf of the entire family. Each person who he is buying for could belong to a different profile. Therefore, based on the patterns that the person is adding products to his cart, recommendations could differ for the same customer, based on what type of profile the algorithm notices. This kind of personalization helps in pushing up the basket value, and also introducing new products and services to the customer.

Subscription and refills: Subscriptions and refills are big on our list of things to improve in 2019. Building a robust and intuitive system/process that reduces the time needed for a customer to refill his medicines every month, is the best way to improve customer retention and build trust in the service. Subscriptions in e-pharma, being a new concept in India, requires a certain level of human interaction to give the customer confidence to purchase. We are working on messaging bots and IVR solutions which will help improve efficiencies and remind/nudge customers about their upcoming refills and subscriptions. Along with this, we are also looking at innovative methods to make the process of paying for these subscriptions and refills easier for the customer.

Engaging Healthcare related content: Apart from just selling products and services to our customers, we also want to keep our customers engaged. We have a Health Library section which is a great source of engaging video and text content. We use the same customer profiling techniques to display relevant content to the customer while browsing this section. In addition, we link this content back to products on our platform, and vice versa. This improves engagement, time spent on our platform and helps push sales.

Advait Suhas Pandit, Director & CTO, heads the Technology, Delivery Systems and Online Services for Netmeds.com. and is an integral part of the leadership team to drive strategy, sales and delivery. This includes all software dealing with customer facing touch points across mobile, web, brick and mortar stores, procurement, logistics, pharma related statutory operations, data analytics/sciences, as well as IT infrastructure.

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