A comprehensive guide to learning why content marketing in pharma E-commerce is crucial

With E-commerce developing away from a technology-driven sphere to an increased user-driven focus, E-commerce as a whole has become interchangeable by definition with communication, strategy and business practices. In terms of the pharma industry, E-commerce contributes a more efficient manner of purchasing which allows for a greater competitive advantage and sustainable growth.

Additionally, the informed and emancipated modern-day patient holds more value on personalisation, transparency and a greater convenience while they are taking more control of their own health. Due to these developments in the pharma sector, it is vital for the E-commerce leaders to provide the patient with personalised educational and informational content in order to satisfy their specific needs.

Content Marketing is conceivably one of a marketers’ most vital amenity, as all forms of communication connect the pharma companies and their patients, therefore delivering information, satisfying the customers need and improving health and financial outcomes.

With this in mind, it is unsurprising that content marketing for pharma E-commerce has been significantly improving and activities have been growing. On the other hand, this poses the question, of how pharma marketers are planning on managing the amplitude of digital content.

pharma content marketing

Why do E-commerce companies in the pharma sector need comprehensive content strategies?

In order to understand if a pharma company truly needs a content strategy, one must first understand what content marketing is. A leading global content marketing education and training organisation, “The Content Marketing Institute”, has provided the following definition:

"Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

In terms of e-commerce, content marketing can significantly alter the success of the business, while it also plays a critical role in engaging and activating patients. Demand Metric and ReferralCandy  both conducted studies in which they found the following results:

Major Challenges of content marketing in the pharma industry

The first major challenge of content marketing in the pharma industry is content marketing itself.

An estimated 31% of a total marketing budget is spent on content marketing overall, yet in the healthcare and pharma industry, only 23% of the total budget is spent on content marketing, already signalling that there is less focus on this channel.

When I attended the Digital Pharma Conference in London in January 2017, a question was posed by a speaker: “When did you update the content on your website for the last time?” The majority of the participants could hardly remember their answer, therefore further proving that content marketing is not focused on.

Additionally, the pharma industry and pharma e-commerce specifically, have not yet succeeded in determining the optimal use for content marketing. The sheer lack of a comprehensive content strategy and its’ objectives therefore also puts the increased investment into pharma e-commerce at risk.

This is especially alarming when reading figures such as 58% of pharma/biotech and 60% of medical tech companies spend more than $50 million on content each year, that without a content strategy will not yield a positive return on investment.

By the same token, content strategies and objectives are not clear to most marketers in the pharma industry, with only 11% of marketers in the pharma and biotech industry reporting that they have a clearly documented content strategy which meets their current and future needs. This is staggeringly low in comparison to the 42% of marketers reporting such content strategy across all industries.

Accenture Interactive conducted the “Inaugural State of content survey” in which concluded out a four-way tie for the predominant reasons as to why the pharma industry is contending to create and manage content strategies:

Which type of content is needed in the pharma e-commerce sector?

In order to understand which type of content will be necessary for a successful content strategy in the pharma industry, one must understand the patient. Research has shown that patients are more inclined to use online social networking forums in order to feel supported and knowledgeable. The same research further shows that these patients have more advantageous clinical outcomes.

It is on forums such as “PatientsLikeMe” that have shown the individual to ignore privacy concerns in order to benefit from the social support and expertise of fellow patients. Therefore it can be assumed that facilitating a connection on such forums between the pharma industry and the patient and in doing so providing objective and relevant medical information, the patient-to-patient discussion would be better informed, but also increases the value of the PEP.

The 2 Pillars of Successful Content Marketing in the Pharma e-Commerce

In order to be successful at content marketing and first and foremost create a sound and comprehensive content strategy for the pharma industry, one has to build the content around the “Two Pillars”.

pillars of pharma content marketing

It is clear these are not the only factors for a successful content strategy, but in my opinion, they hold the most weight and are most crucial.

Pillar 1. Understand the audience

To understand the audience, you must ask yourself the following questions:

To answer this, creating a patient profile or buyer persona is hugely helpful. A buyer persona is a term for creating a character based on types of customer that the e-commerce business already has or is striving to acquire.

Pillar 2. Mapping the content for the patient journey (in inbound methodology, it is a buyer's journey)

To be a successful content marketer in the pharma industry, creating content that meets the needs of the prospective user or customer at each stage of the funnel is of huge importance.

The Awareness Stage

During the awareness stage, while the user is at the beginning of researching, content needs to increase the brand awareness and be customer-centric. At this stage of the content cycle in pharma e-commerce, the focus should be on creating a framework for the users’ illness or problem, therefore describing symptoms, signs and causes of various condition on the site.

Formats for this stage could include: blog articles, white papers, educational webinars and infographics.


While the user has not yet made a decision and is not yet ready to convert, the user understands the condition they may have and is therefore actively looking for a solution. Valuable content at this stage of the cycle would be adding treatment possibilities, medication checks and clinical studies concerning the effectiveness of the medication.

Formats for this stage could include: Clinical studies, videos, infographics and treatment guides.


While the patient is now near to making a decision and converting, the content should make it as easy as possible for the user to choose this particular service and product over a competitors’.

Useful content here would be unique selling points, brand selling points and also the security of buying with a reputable company.

Picture Source: goodrebels.com


Overall, a shift in perception of content marketing in pharma e-commerce is needed. As explained above, content marketing in the pharma industry has much more to offer than a simple medication summary and an un-engaging blog post about clinical trials. The content is not only there as a marketing channel to promote the site, but also to attract customers at each and every step of the journey, beginning with the awareness stage. The content should then persuade the user all the way through the transactional process and therefore is a viable marketing channel for increased return on investment.