Category Archives: Tech

What will the future look like?

The Robot Will See You Now. How Pharma Can Approach Using Chatbots.

Innovation can be defined as ‘the production of something original and useful in order to create value for society, business or both’. In line with many of the other great society changing landmarks that have occurred in our age of technology, such as the birth of television, the creation of digital music or the evolution of the mobile phone, we can find an intersection of how technology and a human need collide—which fosters the innovation.

One of the most common examples of human demand which has now been extrapolated in the internet digital era is the need to ‘access information’. But we are becoming lazier in our ever increasing busier lives, and looking it up in a book like when I was a kid is pretty obsolete. Humans tolerate less delay these days; we want it NOW, instantly and requiring limited effort. Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) are innovations which are already changing and will continue to change, allowing humans easier access to information through advanced AI platforms.

Messaging continues to dominate

That’s great and all, I hear you say, but isn’t it just another passing phase? Why is it important? Why should you care? Isn’t it just another ‘channel’ of info? In the last couple of years messaging platforms (FB Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.) have surpassed the big four social media network channels in terms of size of audience, and clearly this is one of the main reasons that the Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks of this world are sinking billions of dollars into developing their offerings in this space. Now, stop and think about that for a second, and what an impact the current social platforms have had on society and the way we engage with each other today; that’s a pretty big deal, and now there is something that’s bigger!! With audience adoption of these messaging apps being so pervasive, it would make sense if you’re a digital business that’s interested in reach of any sort for this to be part of your channel strategy mix. The pharma industry needs to start aligning with the new consumer on-demand mindset that has been set by online businesses such as Netflix and Amazon. However, don’t include new technology just for the sake of being able to say you are doing it; you still need to put user needs at the centre and make sure you’re creating something that is relevant, valuable and useful to users. Otherwise, don’t bother. 

Technology in this space has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few years.  The rate of machine learning evolves quickly and this technology will only continue to get smarter, faster, more relevant and human-like in its operation. Working in the pharma sector, we know that traditionally this industry as a whole is somewhat of a laggard against more ‘innovation’ leading industry sectors. I think many understand where these blending of human and machine interactions can create immediate efficiencies, convenience and customer experience, so there certainly is an appetite for it. Healthcare is predicted to benefit greatly from this technology evolution and in an increasingly patient/customer-centric world, one of the questions we are constantly asked by our clients  is ‘How do I use this for my customers and in my pharma company?’.

Doing it for pharma

For all pharma organisations, naturally, control and risk mitigation are important factors. The thought of relying on an accurate Siri response to a customer’s question is enough to scare the life out of the typical pharma marketer, or at least elicit cries of ‘code breach!’. However, chatbots can actually be deemed a safe, secure channel, as they can (platform choice dependent) act in a one-to-one environment with customers, rather than social media’s typical one-to-many configuration. Part of the challenge of implementing innovation in a regulated market is about tackling the ‘folklore’ head on and also following successful examples set by your competitors. There are usually ways around these barriers, though, and it doesn’t have to start with anything overly complicated to set your own company precedent for these activities.

At Nitro Digital, we have found there are three typical approaches which pharma can take when addressing chatbots; which of these is the right choice for you really depends on the nature and objectives of your business:

  • LINEAR MODEL
    This operates a curated and controlled experience, with predetermined answers and scripts defined and approved for use. It it limited in scope but is currently a model which pharma marketers favour as they begin to explore this space.
  • INTELLIGENCE MODEL
    This model is machine learning driven, and it works by delivering natural language responses to questions and queries through learnt behaviour. This can, however, be unpredictable and its level of sophistication currently will still cause concerns as to the degree of control that can be kept.
  •  HYBRID MODEL
    The third option is a mix of the previous two. It allows for the gathering of insights and builds on the knowledge base which customer interactions can offer by capturing these queries and storing them. This way, we prepare for the technology advancement in the platform without losing any of the rich learnings, which is something that pharma will typically do before jumping in. It is a more risk cautious method of approaching chatbots: whilst you are offering a curated experience,  you are also building the datasets of learning to apply to your development at a later date.

Of course, there are still challenges for the industry, like obtaining content approvals, ensuring the Fair Balance Act is upheld, observing privacy laws, etc., but these are obstacles with workarounds rather than showstoppers. However, as we have advised many eager and ambitious clients wanting to be the first to bring chatbots into their organisations—’Let’s not do this just for sake of doing it’—we still need to fill a user need, and it is still an activity which requires a commitment and needs ongoing maintenance and improvement.

‘But isn’t machine learning really difficult and expensive to do?’ you may ask. The truth is that creating a successful automation bot is more of a user experience (UX) challenge than one of technology complexity. And in that respect, it should be approached like any other social or digital activity. Think about the goals you want to achieve; what is the problem you are solving for your users; what is in it for them; what could be automated; what efficiencies can you make; what risk mitigation could this help with; is this something that will deliver cost saving: are all good questions to ask yourself. Start simple, learn, test and evolve the process.  

It’s evident that chatbots are another great technology which can help deliver value within digital marketing—and especially so for pharma and healthcare brands looking for a shortcut to offer value and information to their customers. Examples of instances where chatbots can provide value and enhanced patient care are doctor discussion guides, benefits verification support, medication and refill reminders and overall customer support and content delivery that the user can access whenever they want, 24/7, personalised for their needs. Artificial intelligence has advanced greatly in the last few years, so anyone with some coding smarts can do this, and, in addition, there are already lots of platforms and tools to leverage. Nitro has a 40+ strong team of keen software developers looking to experiment with this tech to solve problems for you.

So, start thinking about this now as this needs to be part of your digital strategy, not a bolt-on, nice-to-have afterthought. And you need to be thinking about this now for 2018, not 2020, as by then the market will be saturated and you’ll have missed the robo-party. You can read more about how chatbots can benefit  your marketing strategy in general here.

For any help exploring this area, please get in touch with us directly at www.nitro-digital.com/chatbots, we would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

2017-Nitro Digital-vision-graphic

2017: The Life Sciences Marketplace and the Imperative for Change

Let me start the year not with a retrospective, but with a call out to what we want to build at Nitro.

First off, it’s worth stating what we believe, or rather hypothesise:

  • That a fundamental shift must occur in the way the life sciences industry approaches marketing.
  • That this is necessary in order to make healthcare sustainable. Life sciences companies are major contributors to R&D, and their participation in society is not only necessary, but vital.
  • That the companies that are best placed to contribute will not be just those with the right drug at the right price, but those which, having got that mix right, are then able to combine it with collaborative HCPs and a layer of digital and communication services that support either real work outcomes, professional collaboration or patient care.
  • That the way to achieve this goal is not simply using sales reps as glorified delivery men and women. I’d go further, and say that few doctors want to see reps anymore for product information alone.
  • That creating a new promotional and educational distribution model for the pharma industry is not easy, nor is there a single silver bullet. Healthcare is, so far, reluctant to see the rise of an Alibaba or Uber in its sector; perhaps it will come, but perhaps the system is too fragmented, complex and non-commoditised for that. (although, if you continue the Alibaba analogy, that would make it ideal for a bit of disruption. . .which brings me to my next point nearly).
  • That everyone wins if a more efficient, digitally enabled, two-sided market emerges in healthcare.
  • That technology is essentially borderless and has the power to effect global change in our industry as much as it has in others.

We started Nitro 15 years ago based on these beliefs. We believe them now. Achieving a solution to the issues created by the challenges above has proved elusive, but I genuinely believe we have developed the scale and expertise in what is an ever moving tech and process stack that means we can take major steps forward in 2017 towards helping our clients find more efficient, tech-enabled ways of engaging with HCPS, patients and other stakeholders for better healthcare overall.

Of course, the journey will not be competed this year, or the next, or perhaps ever. But maybe that’s part of the fun of it.

So, all that being said, we think we have—through some deep and testing experience—a clearer idea of what the makings of a two-sided marketplace for life sciences looks like and what this means for the sales and marketing model for the sector. We refer to this as life sciences social closed loop marketing (CLM), and at the heart of it is a powerful combination of a BuzzFeed-esque content marketing model, a tech stack configured to cope with the regulatory and global nuances of our industry, and a data-driven understanding of customer experience and the means and modes of acquisition and retention. Ultimately, to us it’s about helping life sciences companies build up their own proprietary distribution channels.

Here’s what it could look like:

Life-Sciences-Social-CLM-diagram

In our opinion, life sciences companies need to work iteratively (emphasis on iterative collaborative working) to build the following business processes and tech stack to compete effectively in the world that awaits us.

  • A Content Engine that contains the people, processes and tools to deliver high quality, targeted, relevant (to the audience’s needs) and consistent content in a variety of media types. It should produce creative and ethical content backed by science, and conforming to modern internet content marketing techniques: think Buzz Feed meets the BMJ! Notably, the resulting items should be incredibly timely and published more frequently. There should be a mix of interactive, service-based and information communication, most of which will be curated and created by KOLs. This content engine is not just about production, but also technologies that facilitate the creation, curation and publishing of content, like Nitro’s own proprietary ULTRA Buzz system, the Veeva Vault or web services like Grammarly.
  • A Multichannel Publishing System, whether it’s an owned media one using a CMS-like Drupal or Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or using earned platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • An Acquisition Strategy, since we know from having built thousands of sites that ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work in the life sciences sector. Marketers, therefore, must (in our humble opinion) have an effective user acquisition strategy in place using a mix of media tailored specifically to their target audience’s needs, to be able to reach them where and when they want to be reached. Nitro’s media effectiveness database assembled using over a decade of data-driven experience allows for easy budget optimisation across a range of disparate media channels and across a full range of therapy areas.

All of the above creates visibility for your online assets, but as the cost of media in our industry is relatively high, it’s critical to provide an engaging interaction and to extend the ROI beyond the first visit. To encourage this ‘stickiness’  you’ll need:

  • A Measurement/Analytics plan, as well as a Customer Experience and Data Management strategy, whether it’s gathering feedback through net promoter score usage or other surveys; data from interactive services,; creating cookie-dropped user tag lists; email capture or sign up; or analytic services such as Google or Adobe using their respective tag managers. This activity is primarily to ensure you deliver and can measure the value you are providing but also about allowing you to segment and augment data so that you can:
  • Pull data back into and sync with your CRM (Veeva, Agnito, Salesforce) (data extension strategy) and enable your KAMs and other colleagues to leverage it, and;
  • Critically—and so far largely absent in our industry—a retargeting strategy utilising not just valuable and relevant high frequency content (see 1 above!) and email, but also cookie and data-driven and programmatic retargeting marketplaces. Talk to me any day about the relative ROI of buying media in this way compared to the cost of initial acquisition. This is the realisation of a core internet economy principle, the development by brands of their own proprietary distribution channel.
  • Finally, the output of all these efforts can’t be directly about shifting ‘drug product’ through share of voice (through that last point plays an import role in acquisition). It’s about (again, in our opinion) building genuine advocacy through listening, responding and partnering. This builds trust and will at scale be reflected in content creation which if you follow the logic through will create a virtuous circle fuelling the company’s content engine (see the diagram above!). Beautiful!

So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a simple vision, way more complex than just content and communications but, if successful, way more valuable for all concerned. It would be amazing to build a company that delivered on this.

That’s our plan. 2017 and beyond.

programmatic for hcp marketing

It’s Time Pharma Realised the Potential of Programmatic Media Buying to Reach HCP Customers More Intelligently

 

Programmatic is alive and well. It has cemented itself into the daily process of digital communication practices across the world and there are the numbers to prove it. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the programmatic display ad market will be worth £2.67 billion by the end of 2017, up 44% from 2016 (source: emarketer)

There are industries where programmatic has become standard practice, but there are some, such as pharma, that have been slower to adopt automated media buying to deliver their marketing campaigns. Whilst there is a lack of understanding on how the technology works, the concerns around regulatory risks have prevented pharma marketers to take a chance on programmatic technology. Adoption, however, rather than being technological or legal needs fundamentally to be focussed on customer delivery. If as a brand marketer all you want to do is deliver product messages, programmatic will not help you (for now, at least).

Why won’t it help you?

  • Because the vast majority of medical publishers and communities do not serve programmatic advertising;
  • Because, as a pharma marketer, you are probably still too focused on marketing the product features and benefits rather than delivering value to your customers and wider stakeholders, where programmatic media can be served. 

The world has moved on from features and benefits, and you need to too. However, we are now seeing a shift in consideration taking place. We know the landscape for targeting healthcare professionals is narrow and expensive. But the modern customer journey has become increasingly complex. We live in an age where customers are always connected, engaged and want to see relevant messages. In order to deliver a seamless experience to customers, pharma is recognising that it has to catch up and embrace the shift towards customer experience and with it the latest in responsive technology to deliver on their needs cost effectively.

Marketing starts with understanding the customer, and what programmatic advertising has to offer is a rich layer of audience insight on top of what we already have. The door is open to target precisely and verify advertising exposure to a defined list of healthcare professionals, and this is what is now attracting pharma clients’ attention. It means we can reach audiences outside the standard environments whilst adding greater intelligence to the media we buy to ensure we are connecting with the right people and at the right time.

Programmatic advertising is not just about satisfying top of the marketing funnel either. The ability to build and reach new audiences, on top of retargeting existing and engaging existing customers proves the value of programmatic in delivering both top and bottom of the conversion funnel.

At Nitro Digital we believe in and champion the many benefits programmatic advertising can deliver for pharma and we have highlighted the top advantages for why programmatic buying should be integrated into pharma digital marketing strategies:

Greater transparency
Greater visibility on media performance means campaigns can be better refined and optimised. In the past, when working directly with publishers we were completely reliant on the limited insight they could provide. We now can see what is delivered, and where, whilst learning what is working and what is not.

Greater data and insights
Data is at the heart of the programmatic process. So, not only do you minimise wastage from purchased inventory by targeting the right audiences, but you are also getting greater insight to better understand your online customers. And those learnings are happening in real time, which means campaigns can be optimised throughout its duration and the value of this can also increase a return on your investment.

Improved tracking capabilities
With programmatic technology it is easier to track and analyse data more efficiently from advertising views, to interaction through to website visits and actions. Audiences can be intricately segmented, which makes targeting messages in the right context, and at the right time far more effective.

Consistency across multiple channels
Programmatic can be thought of as a centralised buying platform. What this means is that we have the ability to combine the power of data to deliver effective communications where the audiences are active – across desktop, mobile, tablet, video and social channels.

Our conclusion

At Nitro Digital we have proven the value of running programmatic campaigns for our clients in pharma. We have successfully delivered greater exposure, at lower price points to highly targeted healthcare audiences. And the quality in targeting is demonstrated in the increase in responses we are seeing. Because, ultimately, we are delivering the right message at the right time and to the right people.

Meet Leka, the First Toy Designed Specifically for Children With Autism

That sounds futuristic, and yet it is true! A French start-up has designed a rolling robot capable of engaging children with special needs, particularly children on the “autism spectrum”.

Child-Hugging-Leka2

The future is coming

Shaped like a ball, it has an endearing ‘face’ that changes expressions, and uses sound, light and colours to interact with users through adaptable games that improve cognitive and motor skills. More than a tool for caregivers and educators, Leka is described by its developers as a “robotic companion”. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), connecting with others can be challenging.  The robot is able to guide children through a range of activities, helping them to improve their communication skills and ability to learn.

Leka may also help parents and caregivers, by providing data on how children interact with the device and enabling data sharing across a social network. It will provide understanding on the type of guidance that is more helpful to the child to complete a task. All of this information is displayed in graphs in the shared interface and parents or caregivers can comment on them, communicate with each other or share notes on a child’s use.

How can a robot change things?

ASD affects about 70 million people worldwide. In order to develop an efficient toy, Leka’s developers worked closely with children with ASD, parents and educators, to determine their needs and the role that the robot could play. The developers realised that children with ASD respond especially well to robots. Why? Because for these children, repetition and predictability are essential. Performing the same activity over and over can be hard for parents or educators.

Doing the same thing over and over is proper to robots. “The robotics help by repeating the same thing every single time and providing the child a sense of safety” – Ladislas de Toldi, Leka’s CEO and co-founder.

The rolling robot may also help child development by being controlled via Bluetooth and programmed through an app (available for both iOS and Android). Leka responds to a child’s participation in games, supplying positive images and sounds — for instance, showing a smiling face — to reward progress and encourage confidence. Currently programmed with three educational games, Leka will offer a total of seven activities toward 2017.

Adaptability is the key strength of this rolling robot. Caregivers can adjust the level of stimulation to fit each child’s needs – by changing the settings – , allowing the child’s progress to be tracked over time. Meanwhile, handling the spherical Leka provides children with a uniquely tactile interactive experience that they can’t get from a touch screen.

“Our mission is to help exceptional children live exceptional lives by reducing the learning inequalities that many children with different developmental disorders currently deal with” – Ladislas de Toldi.

Both these features justify the Leka’s cost of $699, say its developers. The robot is priced between an iPad Air and the iPad Pro… which are not exactly cheap, however the Indiegogo campaign (152% funded)  would enable mass production of the device and make it more affordable.  Besides, the start-up claims that the developers are looking for a solution for parents who can’t afford such a price but do need a Leka.

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The initiative highlights how a robot could enhance our way of living. Do you think robotics can change lives too? Do you like the article? Leave a comment then!

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Meet the Nitro Digital Team

Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with the Nitro Digital team! Here we meet Piotr Sikora (Lead Front End Developer) who talks about cutting edge IT, increasing services for clients, his new book, and connections between breakdancing and developing!

Piotr

Hello and thank you for being interviewed for the Nitro Digital blog!

Firstly, please tell us about your role is at Nitro, and where you fit in the team? How long have you worked here?
Hi all! I’m glad that I can give you an interview. I’m a lead front end developer at Nitro Digital. I started working here 3 years ago (in 2013) when the Polish department was about 7 people in a small office.

Could you say more about your role and the sorts of projects you’re involved in?
Currently my role is related mainly with Front End logic and web technologies/languages like HTML CSS and JavaScript including frameworks like Foundation, Angular, Phonegap etc. I’m a lead developer so I’m looking for new technologies we can use as a team, and I’m supporting all developers in the team. I’m working on the parts of projects which the client can see in a browser – so for example this can be interactive websites, and also mobile apps and email templates.

So looking for ways to improve interactivity and user experience has led you to write a book on Professional CSS3 – tell us about this! Is it very related to your work aims?
Yes exactly it is strictly related to my work aims. I started working on the book about nine months ago. The funniest thing about working on book is the main question of each good developer: “who has time to write a book?” So I had a time to do that because I wanted to share my knowledge with other developers.

This book is for people who want to get more knowledge about CSS. If you are a beginner you can read this book as I’ve tried to explain all aspects of CSS as simply as I could. If you are a pro developer you can find some tricks which I use, and rebuild them for your needs. Hopefully this book will be helpful for all people who wants to know more about CSS.

It’s great to produce something technical that will be useful to all levels. I see you’re a b-boy (break dancer) in you spare time – please say more?
I’ve been a b-boy for about 17 years. I started dancing when I was teenager with a friend from my neighborhood. It was easy for me to start dancing because I trained in Karate for about 10 years and my body was ready for it. Break dance showed me how to use the foundation of dance with my own creativity to create my own style. It made me more aware who I want to be and how can I make myself better in other areas.

I’m still dancing and try to teach kids and teenagers. It gives me big satisfaction that some of my students are now dancing like pro b-boys. I’m a judge too. After a years of passion, it’s great to see how this culture is still evolving and how young people are creative.

So it takes a lot of discipline?
Yes for sure but I’m not so radical right now. When you are a contender you need to keep your training routine. Now I’m making it only for my enjoyment. I’m happy that when I’m dancing in home my daughter is trying to do it too. And she is so happy when she is doing it!

Sounds like you’re someone who’s interested in developing – dance, sport, technology. Is there anything front end you’d like to see in the future, or think will develop? Anything we should look out for?
The technology is still moving forward. Back in the day I was a Flash Developer and I’ve been involved in projects which were based on augmented reality. I hope it will be possible to make it in JavaScript in near future. I’m still trying to be on time and one of things which I like right now is Internet Of Things (IOT). I bought Raspberry Pi about 3 months ago and made a simple application in Node.JS. So maybe it can be a project related with IOT. It’s rather hard to make an application for dancers but maybe some day I will find a way to do it.

Is IOT being used in the healthcare/media sector?
Yes – there are a lot of ideas and products related to IOT and healthcare. This is a rising branch in IT and hopefully it will go a little bit out from IT sector.  I recently heard about projects related with diabetes which helps to dose drugs. As I mentioned this is still a rising branch and I hope it will revolutionise IT. We as developers just need to find the niche and create some extra products in this sector.

The Poland team has expanded a lot over recent times! Are you able to provide different services or projects now?
When I started working in Nitro Digital Poland there were 7 developers on board. All of us were working on our current workflow which was evolving to work on maximising our efficiency. We are still scaling and we are working on culture of work inside our company which is very important to keep the team motivation.

I think that the main difference is that we learned a lot on previous projects. We’re able to provide new products with new technologies and with better efficiency than ever. We have more time for research. We have a great QA team! The team has developed and is the best QA team which I could dream of. They are supporting developers in their work and for sure are the very important support of the development process. I hope that this evolution (almost revolution) will be kept and we will still be working on better projects which will satisfy our clients.

What would you say is your biggest success so far?
The biggest success is that we build so big team is such a short time. In last 12 months we made the Front End team from 3 to 16 developers. It was possible because of great people with whom I work everyday (thanks Marcin, Katarzyna, and all FEDevelopers @ Nitro Digital, Pete and Jules for all of possibilities). I think that this is the one of biggest successes. And I believe that this is just a warm up before something bigger!

Nitro Digital at the 1MoreChild Charity in Uganda

About a month ago at this time we were packing our bags to leave for Uganda, to teach senior boys at the 1MoreChild charity some practical IT skills. Full of excitement and massive bags filled with laptops, we arrived in Entebbe late at night and headed straight to our hotel to get rested for our drive to Jinja the next day.

Abdulla, our driver, came early in the morning and after 6 hours of driving, or shall I say being stuck in traffic for the most of it, we finally reached our beautiful guesthouse in Jinja. Harry, the founder of 1MoreChild, came to see us in the evening so we could talk more about the boys and our plan for the next few days. After a couple of beers and lots of laughs, we said goodbye to Harry and headed back to our rooms to get ready for our first day with the boys.

And so it all began the next morning, when we finally reached the house where we were to spend most of our time in Jinja. Sixteen excited boys came to greet us outside, which at first seemed like a lot, but after all the introductions we got to know everybody and it wasn’t as scary anymore. Their eagerness to learn and extreme thankfulness made it very easy for us, as well as the fact that we had two supervisors – Benson & Jimmy, who were with us at all times making sure we are ok.

Gilberto began by covering computer basics, and then Duygu and myself got to the fun part – the Internet. The concept of Google got everybody confused, but by the end of the day it was clear to everybody that google is not some old wizard that can’t be trusted.

After a long day we decided there was not much else we could do and called it a day. Harry and his wife Hen, as well as their 4 lovely kids, took us out for dinner that evening to talk more about our plans and life in Jinja, as well as our newly gained respect for the teachers, even after doing it for only a day.

In the next few days we got to know the boys a lot more, as well as their abilities, so we were able cover a lot more topics. This ranged from creating email accounts and sending emails, to using word and practising Google searches more and more. This was particularly centred on using Google to expand their knowledge about computers when we leave.

It was such a humbling and eye opening experience, and we hope the boys will carry on learning with amazing support from Harry and Hen. For us, this is definitely not the end of the journey. Our Managing Director, Jules, is committed to keep on supporting 1MoreChild. We will be preparing remote teaching plans in the coming weeks, and hope the boys will follow them until we see them again the next time we go.
Please support this great charity too by donating here.