Health care companies today are following in the footsteps of the retail-oriented, information based financial services industry.
What financial services companies have discovered is that in order to build their business, they must build a personal relationship with the consumer. They accomplished this by creating a consumer-centric database, monitoring shopping behavior through reporting and analytics, motivating activity through multi-channel communications and launching a loyalty program to reward consumer spending,
I was part of this customer-centric transformation as the Director of Database Marketing at GE Capital, which provides private label credit card programs for Disney and Apple, to name a few marquee brands. My cross- functional team started with the consumer in mind. We envisioned the experience that our retailer customers needed to deliver to their consumer card holders to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and capture a larger mind share and business share.
This is the same path that health care companies are marching down to get ready for new customers.
Consumers Are Coming! Health Care Companies Invest in Retail Strategies
In their report on “The Era of the Health care Consumer,” Accenture describes the shift in responsibility from the employers to the consumers and the resulting health care company investment changes from BTB to BTC. Accenture cites the opportunity to learn from the retail sector, especially the segmentation, profiling, loyalty and cross channel communications.
A few health care organizations are making the needed investments to move closer to the consumer in order to better understand their needs for information and tools to support health management. Aetna, for example, has partnered with Best Buy to sell wellness programs to consumers within the retail store and deliver their wellness coaching program online. In addition to store fronts, Florida Blue (previously BCBS Florida) has invested in their Guidewell online initiative to build a relationship with consumers beyond their member base.
Most health care companies, however, are still trying to figure out where to begin.
Barriers for Data-Driven Retail Health Care
There are several key barriers that Health care companies must overcome in order to effectively engage these retail consumers.
- Knowledge about the New Consumer: Health care companies have limited or no information about their newest customer that is either considering their health product/service or has just come onboard. As a result, the interaction can feel less satisfying. Using best practices from the financial industry, health care organizations can utilize segmentation and profiling to deliver a more personalized experience while gathering knowledge about the consumer through each touch.
- Knowledge about Consumers' Data Needs: During their recent research, IDC Health Insights learned that “despite large investments meant to extend the organizations’ consumer-centric model, health plans know little about how consumers want to consume information…”. Financial Services companies remain aligned with their customers by inviting them to participate in their own private branded online research community. The company captures consumer input and feedback on their product road map and new marketing initiatives.
- Knowledge about Proactive & Personalized Communications: Many health care organizations wait for consumers to come to their online marketing destinations including their website and social media and then wait for them to return. Although these companies maybe have tools in place to capture the contact information of interested consumers, they tend to send out the same information to everyone. Financial Services companies segment these target consumers and stream content of interest across their preferred communication channels to bring them back and engage.
- Knowledge about Developing a Personalized Incentive Program: One way that health care companies can differentiate themselves is with an incentive program that rewards a consumer for healthy lifestyle behaviors that fit her profile. One of the reasons that some credit card loyalty programs (e.g. American Express) are so effective is that they target personalized offers based on each consumer’s spending behavior profile.
Health care companies can learn from the leaders in the Financial Services industry about how to leverage technology to build a retail consumer relationship through ongoing personalized communications and programs which are aligned with the consumer’s ongoing data needs.