What Life Science Companies Can Learn From Consumer Products

Carol Mackenzie

It’s no secret that the life science and consumer products industries are blurring, as empowered patients are increasingly driving the bus when it comes to managing their health – in practice and personal health information management.

The “age of the consumer” is now blurring into the “age of the patient” as patients understand their power related to their health information, to directly influence life science companies and healthcare providers. Activities that were once considered solidly in the domain of the consumer or shopper – magnifying consumer loyalty, building brand trust, enhancing engagement – must now be considered table stakes for any life science company.

For an industry that has traditionally focused on one-size-fits-all economies of scale, observing regulations and providing shareholder value, shifting to a patient-centric organizational culture requires reimagining the business and being willing to innovate. The writing is on the wall: Innovate or die. It has been estimated that 75% of the life science companies currently in the Fortune 500 may be displaced by 2023.

To be successful in this new patient-centric economy, life science companies should consider embracing these consumer products best practices:

1. New business models

Non-traditional new competitors (technology companies, data services providers, insurers, retailers, etc.) are entering the field and rapidly disrupting existing models. Life science companies need to create new business models to compete differently – focused on patient safety and convenience and leveraging data insights.

Consumer products were squarely hit by non-traditional competitors – digital innovators. These are smaller, more agile competitors that are entering the market and challenging the old order. For them, speed is the new big. These companies focus on reaching and engaging consumers directly in moments of opportunity, transforming the consumer experience in the process and becoming the new engines of category growth and innovation.

Look at Halo Top – the number-one pint ice cream in the U.S. and the number-five fastest-growing private company. Taking cues directly from social media and creating indulgent flavors and textures with low calories and high protein, the company innovates relentlessly and quickly.

2. Patient and customer engagement

Providing better tools to inform patients and B2B customers about therapies and drugs and how to manage conditions should be considered a mandate today across the healthcare ecosystem. Engaging directly with patients, on their terms, can directly impact adherence.

Gaining real-time feedback on drug usage and lifestyle attributes can direct the life science manufacturer to provide further targeted communications, improving the patient’s outcome. Just as the shopper’s journey is not linear, life science companies need to map the patient’s holistic journey to provide a continuum of meaningful engagement points with content specific to each step. Paying greater attention to patient and provider information and delivering it where and when it will be consumed will improve adherence, patient overall health, and brand impressions.

3. Personalization

Much like my ability to freestyle Coca-Cola or design my own Levi’s or Nikes based on my preferences and specific sizing needs, the genomic age is driving the age of personalized medicines. EvaluatePharma World Preview 2017 estimates that specialized medicines will contribute 52% to the top 100 product sales by 2024.

Beyond the obvious R&D complexities, administration of the therapy to the patient poses new challenges for logistics, manufacturing, and patient engagement. Entirely new processes are being devised by life science manufacturers as we speak in support of the personalization opportunity.

In summary, life science companies can benefit from adopting best practices from the consumer products industry to put the patient top of the pyramid – ultimately leading with more flexible, personalized therapies that enhance patient safety and enable longer, healthier lives.

For more on digitalization in the life sciences industry, see How Life Sciences Organizations Can ‘WIP It Good.’


Carol Mackenzie

About Carol Mackenzie

Carol Mackenzie is Vice President of Business Development for Consumer Goods Industry Solutions at SAP. In this role, she works with consumer products firms, partners, and industry thought leaders globally on driving innovation into their operations utilizing the SAP Consumer Products solution portfolio.