It is not the strongest of the species that survive
Nor the most intelligent,
But the one most responsive towards change.
Need for market research
Market Research is extremely critical for pharmaceutical companies to understand customer insights, competitive intelligence, behavioural tendencies and product positioning. Market Research acts a key link between the R&D and Marketing functions. The top Pharmaceutical Companies worldwide understand the significance of market research and utilize market research for understanding their changing behaviours of their customers, the need for positioning their new and existing products in the market and to understand the marketing strategies of their competitors.
Market Research methods utilized by pharmaceutical companies vary based on their product mix, their in-house capabilities, human resource and of course their budgets. Some of the market research methods employed by large pharmaceutical companies are primary research via focus groups which helps them get qualitative feedback. Companies also utilize secondary desk research techniques to understand certain aspects of their products, to gather competitors’ activities and for having a general holistic picture of their products with respect to market research.
There are no available sources which indicate how much companies spend on market research. However, according to market research agencies which map pharmaceutical industry product performance and their customers’ attitudes and behaviours are of the opinion that there is a budget “allocated” for market research by all pharmaceutical companies. Most of the market research conducted by pharmaceutical companies is done by qualitative methods
Market Research initiatives by pharmaceutical companies in the challenging environment have the following goals:
To share findings and provide an opportunity for greater insight and improved new product delivery and service provision, based on all customer feedback, in a holistic manner.
Some of the key points are:
Gathering feedback from all customers
It is one of the most obvious but an extremely critical factor required to be taken by Pharmaceutical companies in fixed and defined time intervals.
it is essential to conduct a wide variety of surveys and research studies across all customer types to help organizations identify and prioritise which issues will have the biggest impact on the company’s success.
Some of the most effective surveys include:
- Physician satisfaction surveys following education seminar attendance
- Store/hospital product satisfaction surveys
- Patient/care giver satisfaction surveys following contact with the patient assistance department
- Patient pre-and post-clinical trials surveys.
Monitoring of customer feedback at every touch point
Pharmaceutical companies need to offer different ways for customers to share their comments and multiple feedback channels to improve both the quantity and quality of the feedback received. To facilitate optimum responses, survey links should be shared digitally with all prospective customers.
Taking feedback with a market research angle is an integral part of business operations and key performance objectives, to ensure that the management team has given the programme its full backing. Feedback obtained via market research can make a strong contribution to the development and evaluation of new initiatives
Pharmaceutical Market Research mechanisms for feedback survey can be done by the following methods as these have a higher success rate :
- Pop-up and passive surveys on company websites for both ordering and bill pay
- Digital surveys in the field used following physician education seminars
- Email to web surveys following any form of email support
- IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition) surveys following phone support.
- Google forms
Market Research initiatives to accommodate diverse customer base
Global reach and multi-lingual deployment is therefore likely to be a ‘must-have’ requirement for any Market Research initiative. Collection of feedback via online surveys globally across diverse customers can help identify different “tastes” and scrutiny of unmet needs of the customer. This helps to improve overall competitiveness and international market profile. Pharmaceutical Companies should deploy surveys in the local language of the customer/ region in order to ensure faster and effective response rate.
Challenges faced by Pharmaceutical companies in the conduct of Global Market research initiatives:
- Which countries should be targeted for the survey?
- Which languages are available as standard in company’s market research preferred survey platform?
- How to cater to the nuances and contrasts that arise across cultures and languages in order to localise research?
Lastly, Internal communication and action are the keys to success of Market research initiative by a pharmaceutical company.
Real-time, role-based reporting and dashboards can help companies to drill down into the data gathered by MR initiatives and not only identify, but also prioritise, issues in a much more efficient and effective manner. Using these same dashboards can also help to streamline communication across departments and regions, encouraging insight to be shared by teams and country offices.
Market Research Industry: Global Scenario
According to a data analysis conducted for 311listed members in the ESOMAR Directory in terms of location, Market Sectors and types of services offered, Age of the market and number of employees. Following were the key inferences:
- Market Research globally has been evolving industry since 1936. The pace in the growth of the Market Research industry picked up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s with countries namely United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Germany & United States contributing as major growth drivers
- India ranks 18th in the list of countries in the Esomar listings in terms of number of companies.
- In terms of Number of employees in terms of the ESOMAR Directory listings, range of employee listings range from as low as 2 employees to as high as more than 2500 employees. This true for all companies in the ESOMAR Directory since the year 1936. 225 companies listed in the ESOMAR directory donot specify their employee count.
- Top 10 countries in terms of largest number of locations worldwide are: United Kingdom (GB), Italy, Japan, Germany, United States (USA), France, Spain Greece, Mexico, and Canada as per the listings in the ESOMAR directory out of the total 83 countries where Market Research services are available globally.
- Top 16 Segments in terms of Market Sectors as per the listings in the ESOMAR directory are as follows: Advertising / Public Relations, Foods / Nutrition Financial Services, Telecommunications, Healthcare / Pharmaceutical Beverages, Automotive, Cosmetics / Hygiene,Consultancy,Travel / Tourism / Sport / Leisure, IT / Software / Hardware, Public Sector / Government, Durables / Electrical Goods, New Products, Consumer Services, Tobacco / Cigarettes, Media, Retail / Wholesale and Demographics. 165 Companies do not list their market sectors in the ESOMAR directory. In the ESOMAR Directory, Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals emerges in the top 10 Segments of Market Research offerings.
- The key research services provided by the ESOMAR companies are as follows: Analytical Services, Biometrics Research, Consultancy, Data Collection / Field Services, Database Development, Mobile Research, Panels, Qualitative, Quantitative, Research Software, Social Media Research and Support Service provider.
Market Research Industry: India Scenario
According to a data analysis conducted for 80 MRSI Member companies, in terms of location, Market Sectors and types of services offered, Age of the market and Number of core Market Research services. Following were the key inferences:
- City wise MRSI company location spread : India: Mumbai and Bangalore are the hubs of Market Research companies in India
- Market Age: Year wise registration of Market Research companies in the MRSI directory (80 companies). The years 2018-2020 recoded the highest number of registrations.
- Membership type available on MRSI directory is of 2 types: Fully corporate and Associate Corporate.Nominated members in the Associate Corporate membership category in the MRSI directory are generally less than <2 per company.Nominated members in the corporate membership category in the MRSI directory are generally in the range of 4 per company.
- In terms of Industries catered to by the Indian Market Research companies spread across, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and other metro cities, the Quantum of services offered are as follows:Out of the total 27 industries catered to by the MRSI registered companies, Mumbai and Bangalore companies emerge as leaders and are the hub of market research in India. Life sciences and Pharmaceuticals industry feature in only 2 Market Research companies services out of the 80 Companies in the MRSI directory indicating a lacunae of offerings in this segment.
- Top 20 companies in the MRSI directory in terms of Number of Market Research offerings are as follows:
Emerging Trends in Market Research
Market Research with Primary data collection is the first and foremost method which is preferred by companies, clients, individuals, researchers and any area/avenue /person with an inclination to pursue a research objective.
However, challenges with primary research are many. Some of them are as follows:
- Time intensive
- Sample size
- Sample size coverage
- Quality of data collection
- Population selection
- Regulatory /Governance/political & Economic scenario
- Uncontrolled factor/s
All of the above-mentioned challenges may cause delay in the achievement of the market research objectives in some way or the other. Organizations which are large and have the financial muscle can cope with the impact of the above factors. However, organizations face the impact of the changing business environment and rising competition too on their market research budgets. They hence forth resort to the following alternatives
- Hire/ Outsource market research agencies for fixed objectives and budgets
- Hire market research agencies who have the wide customer reach and large sample spanning wider geographical coverage
- Conduct customized research only for a limited time period with limited budgets
- Utilize internal resources for doing surveys
- Utilize Digital survey techniques for data collection
- Increase reliance on secondary desk research data and information
These methods are generally used by large pharmaceutical companies with sustainable budgets with long term growth forecasts. The small and mid-sized companies in the segment are increasing their reliance on secondary data sources to optimize both time and cost. Some of the quick methods for qualitative analysis is done via social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook in the contemporary scenario.
To summarize and conclude:
Market Research is a much-needed function, tool and activity for pharmaceutical companies
Market Research is an essential part of product life cycle management activities in pharmaceutical industry
Market Research service providers world-wide are spread across sectors globally but life sciences and healthcare market research providers are considerably less in proportion to other domains.
This is mainly because Market Research requirements in the Pharmaceutical industry is complex and deep understanding of all phases of the drug development value chain, Pharmaceutical Market diversity is essential for decision making.
Increasing reliance on secondary desk research and online sources for Market Research is the key driver of Market Research in Pharmaceutical Industry.
Overall, the Market Research for Pharmaceuticals and Life sciences Industry remains an untapped segment for many market research agencies worldwide.
(Author of the article is Rashmi Pant is an independent Market Research Consultant with over two decades of experience in helping companies in the Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research industries find optimal, unexplored, and sustainable growth opportunities in the market. The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author in his private capacity)