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In order to stay current, the market research sector needs to take a more digital approach, and this is no more pertinent than within the Pharma industry. One of the biggest digital phenomenons of the past decade has been the heightened use of the internet and social media, and pharma market research companies need to ensure they are using these platforms successfully as a means of understanding how their clients are performing, if they are not doing so already.

Increasingly, patients are educating themselves about their diseases and conditions via internet searches and online discussion boards. The healthcare industry, in particular within pharma market research, needs to adapt their current ways of working to look at these topic boards etc. to see how patients use their medicines, how they respond, what they think of them, and what else they do to help their condition, as well as becoming more accountable and responsive to patients via the internet.

It is becoming more obvious that even patients who suffer from the same disease do not discuss their condition in the same way – they all have different opinions and assumptions on what works and what doesn’t. Researchers need to ensure they’re taking note of this “patient-led revolution”. This will provide them with vast amounts of real-world evidence while allowing them to continue to appraise the safety, efficacy and value of medicines over the full cycle.

So how best can pharma market research companies utilise this digital transformation?

According to some, the use of online technologies will enable market research to be conducted through much smaller groups. Before, thousands of participants could be required for one product – but if participants are active and influential on several disease-specific internet sites the level of social engagement could have a collective reach of over 800,000 people.

Michalis Michael, CEO of DigitalMR, a ‘next generation’ market research company, recently announced his 10 predictions about the digital future of the market research industry:

1.      Traditional market research agencies that refuse to change will go out of business

2.      DIY market research will catch on even more and will democratise our sector

3.      Social listening analytics will be a must-have for every marketing and market research manager

4.      Agile research will become mainstream and will be facilitated by online communities

5.      Micro surveys and intercepts will eventually replace long monthly customer tracking studies

6.      Processing behavioural data in motion and delivering real-time micro insights will be a core competence of any insights expert agency

7.      Adjacent marketing services such as customer engagement, enterprise feedback management, customer advocacy, will become solutions offered by the market research companies of the future

8.      Data scientists will be the new insight experts, utilising a lot more predictive analytics than rear-view mirror analytics

9.      The code of conduct of market research associates such as ESOMAR and MRS will be revised as it does not apply to the digital economy

10.   Nielsen will no longer be the largest market research company in the world

However, it needs to be remembered that there are some aspects of face-to-face market research which are much more insightful than online research. The digital world may give a much larger pot of ideas, comments, suggestions etc. but it cannot show someone’s body language or tone of voice.

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