Lack of Consumer Trust Hampers Online Drug Marketing

Despite the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies pump into offline direct marketing efforts, online budgets are meager and will likely remain that way for some time, according to a survey of health industry executives by Jupiter Communications.

The few dollars that do go toward online pharmaceutical marketing will probably be ill spent, according to Jupiter, to enhance product-specific sites and capture consumer data. The problem here is that Jupiter’s research found less than 25 percent of online consumers would share personal information with drug makers.

More than 50 percent of health industry executives who responded to a Jupiter Executive Survey said they plan to increase their current online marketing budgets by only 25 percent or less in the next year. When asked why they would not raise their online spending further, many respondents cited poor ROI as the biggest barrier. More than 80 percent of executives who are increasing online spending said their companies would provide additional online outlays for on-site customer relationship management efforts primarily, including deepening site-specific content and adding email newsletters and value-added features, such as calorie counters and behavioral diaries. Meanwhile, spending on initiatives such as third-party health site sponsorships will increase only moderately.

A Jupiter Consumer survey found that less than 20 percent of consumers indicated an interest in sharing any personal information with pharmaceutical sites. The survey revealed that consumers express interest in getting a wide range of information from pharmaceutical sites–on everything from drugs they are currently taking to brands they are considering switching to, to information about a condition itself. They regard the information with guarded skepticism, however.

“To create the greatest impact on consumers, pharmaceutical marketers must let go of their heady dream of controlling all consumer data, and instead reach consumers where they want to engage in ongoing health relationships online,” said Claudine Singer, a Jupiter analyst. “Simply put, this means that marketers must work closely with third-party health sites.”

Jupiter is not the only company with research to show consumers are weary of sharing their private information online when it comes to their health. According to Cyber Dialogue’s report “Consumer Privacy in Online Healthcare,” among the 37 million online users who do not currently use online health information, 6.3 million are not doing so primarily because of privacy and security concerns.

The Cyber Dialogue survey also found that consumers are uncertain whether personal health data are protected by law and confused about whom should regulate Internet health information. Online health consumers are most likely to trust their physicians, medical institutes, and associations to maintain the privacy of their personal health information. They are least likely to trust pharmaceutical companies, Web portals, and online drugstores, according to Cyber Dialogue.

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