Tracking Pharma Consumers Online

Apr 01, 2008
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Manhattan Research interviewed more than 5,000 consumers for its annual ePharma Consumer study—a report designed to uncover behaviors and traffic patterns of consumers researching pharmaceutical information online within the past 12 months.

Web Trends The number of eHealth consumers doubled since 2002; the number of ePharma consumers tripled.
After every site visit, consumers were asked a battery of questions: why they visited the site, whether they are already on the therapy, whether they are using a competing product, or if they have been diagnosed but aren't taking any product.

Pharm Exec talked to Meredith Abreu Ressi, vice president of research at Manhattan Research, to learn more about the study.

How can a pharmaceutical company use this data?

Therapeutic Snapshot: Diabetes Which of the following actions did you take after visiting this product Web site?
A pharma company can segment and understand the visitors to its Web site. It can see what other sites they are visiting, as well as their likelihood to take certain actions after they leave. We wanted to understand what is driving consumers to these sites, what they are looking for, and which sites are most successful within a given category.

The product-site data is only a piece of the overall finding. We also look at specific Web sites that consumers are going to, e-mail newsletters they are receiving, corporate sites they visit, and Web site features they prefer. You can segment the entire study based on visitors to a given product site, for instance.

Is pharma making it easier for consumers to find information on the Web?

Pharma has really caught on to the Web a lot more in the last two or three years. Any company I visit knows that having a solid online strategy is important. Product sites with a lot of content is the norm now, and the number of consumers going to pharma product sites has skyrocketed in the past two years. Nearly 50 million consumers visited a pharmaceutical product site in the past 12 months—double the number that went to a pharma product site two years ago.

How can pharma companies continue to grow online?

Where I think we are going to see a lot of growth is in the way that companies leverage their properties. The product site is no longer the only place consumers visit for information. They are more likely to be going to a WebMD or a search engine than they are to be going directly to a product site. There's a push now to target the product site content and make sure that it's relevant. Companies also need to understand why consumers are visiting their Web sites and how they are getting there. For instance, we found that consumers are more likely to be driven to a product site by their physician. Of course, that changes by the product.

Was there anything surprising in the results?

Cialis and Viagra have been very successful in driving product requests after consumers visited the product sites. Also, Chantix certainly drew a lot of traffic this year. Pfizer came in and swept the smoking-cessation category with that drug this year—which is not surprising. They had a great campaign that got control of that particular market.

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