Life Sciences Podcast

The Digital Journey

What steps and phases are companies going through as they make progress across their digital journey?

Life Sciences and Analytical Instruments practice leaders, Arshad Carim and Sean Higgins explore the four stages of the digital maturity model and the key investments in commercial roles and initiatives needed to align with customer expectations.

Arshad Carim: I picked up on something he said, which I think is key, that merging of the online and offline experience for the customer and to me that really kind of signifies and is the true example of being everywhere for the customer, right? And the customer-centric kind of omnichannel model.

Intro: It’s time for another episode of the Alexander Group Revenue Growth Model Podcast. Welcome and enjoy.

Arshad Carim: Hi everyone. Arshad Carim here from the Alexander Group along with my colleague Sean Higgins. We’re both leaders in our life sciences and analytical instruments practice here at the Alexander Group. Alexander Group is a revenue growth consulting firm. We help companies figure out their most vexing commercial issues and problems and how to optimize their commercial models. And we’re here today to talk about the latest and greatest in what we’re seeing with our clients and our research around digital. And what are companies doing related to digital in terms of a maturity model that they’re going through? What steps and phases are companies going through as they make their digital journey? We’ve seen a lot of evolution here over the last few years through the pandemic and a lot of acceleration of investments and focus areas on digital. So we wanted to share with you today that maturity model and some examples from that which Sean will talk about. And then we’re going to share a little bit about some of the key roles and initiatives that we’re seeing companies invest in as it relates to digital. To kick it off here, I’m going to ask Sean to talk a little bit about this digital maturity model that has come out of our most recent research.

Sean Higgins: Yeah. Thanks, Arshad. Our latest research suggests companies typically go through four stages. These are aligned with customer expectations, transitioning from reliance on physical channels to expectations of omnichannel or that seamless online-offline experience. Each stage of the digital maturity model includes different commercial activities across marketing, including e-commerce, sales and service. For example, e-commerce platforms are pushing Amazon-like experiences, “others who bought this buy this,” to having integrated workflows. This could include a lab director beginning their purchase experience via e-commerce on an online instrument configurator before asking for more personalization where they can call a sales rep and pick up where they left off. Many organizations in life sciences have really yet to implement something this seamless. But they are trying to replicate the early success of retail and technology companies. Another example includes service organizations. On their roadmaps, this includes an objective to evolve from a cost center to a profit center, transitioning from reactive call centers to gated self-service communities, which we will go into a little bit more detail later on. And eventually, automation, where IoT is feeding proactive system triggers to conduct preventative maintenance. There are still some challenges to IoT in life sciences and what can labs really share with vendors. But the collection of this data is very important not only for R&D and product but also for commercial organizations trying to use data science to be a little bit more prescriptive.

Arshad Carim: Yeah, Sean, I picked up on something you said, which I think is key that merging of the online and offline experience for the customer. And to me that really kind of signifies and is the true example of being everywhere for the customer, right? And the customer-centric kind of omnichannel model. But yeah, I think some of these things are aspirational for some of the companies in the industry, but we do see a lot of companies pushing that edge. Why don’t we move ahead and talk a little bit about some of the key roles that companies are investing in? I’m hearing about these too and working with clients on some new roles.

Sean Higgins: Yeah, roles and initiatives. I think before we go into specifics, just would highlight when organizations think about the roadmap and what they’re including, they are focusing and positioning investments internally on the customer experience. Investing in digital is expensive, and we heard from leaders during the research interviews that companies must prove the ROI of some of these investments. Focusing on customer experience shows that we can actually make this profitable and creates a groundswell to keep the investment coming in. So you mentioned jobs. So what are they investing in? Two new jobs have really come to the forefront with one existing job that companies have really prioritized over the past year. The first is an Omnichannel Experience Manager, someone who owns the digital roadmap and brings the funding and digital vision to life. They actively monitor and assess the customer experience across multiple touchpoints, addressing gaps and future opportunities. The second is the Omni Channel Program manager who owns agile initiatives. They drive the execution and shoulder up with cross-functional stakeholders. Think of sales, marketing, I.T., finance on projects that actively monitor the customer experience. But they also report on progress and KPIs and work very closely with that Omni Experience Manager. The third, which many have heard of this role in the past, is the Data Scientist, those who work with I.T. to build and maintain data environments. They team with functional stakeholders to find high-impact applications for data, assets, and power that predictive machine. Many organizations in the past, at least in my experience, Arshad, have invested in Data Science, but they have really yet to invest in the former two roles of the Omnichannel Experience Manager and the Program Manager, which I think limits some of the success of this new online-offline experience we’re starting to see.

Arshad Carim: Right, Sean. One thing that’s important, I think, on those omnichannel roles, is the fact that they really have to span the entire buyer journey. Whether I’m just out there looking for some information or I’m in a post-sale environment and looking to get some specific information about an instrument I may have or a set of consumables that I’m using, that omnichannel role, or those roles, are a crystallization point, right? And they’ve got to be thinking across the marketing, sales, and service continuum of the commercial model in the context and lens of the customer. That’s what we’re hearing there, right, with the omnichannel role, Sean?

Sean Higgins: Yeah. If you think of the past roles of digital marketing manager, you could potentially feed some talent into this role there, but it would actually be someone that has experience not only on the digital forefront of marketing, but also some sales or service experience. So they are thinking holistically of the customer experience across all of the commercial teams.

Arshad Carim: Yeah. And like you said, they’re orchestrating that roadmap. They’re looking at the funding for initiatives. So kind of driving what that omnichannel experience can and should be for the customer. Right. Well, why don’t we go to our third topic here, which is what are some of the key initiatives that companies are actually investing in? I think we’ve got some interesting ones to share here. Some companies are pushing the edge a little bit and out in front. What are you seeing there, Sean?

Sean Higgins: Commercial leaders commonly cited three specific initiatives in their roadmap. The first is integrated quoting, enabling customers to bounce on and offline when getting a quote. We’ve referred to this many different ways earlier through the conversation. The next is auto-replenishment, which delivers innovative ordering experiences to existing customers and prioritizes inventory by enabling customers to opt-in for automatic purchase of used consumables or scheduled service based on an observed use. So you’re bringing in some of that data science components there. The third are those immersive portals where companies nurture an inside-out relationship between themselves and their customers. These are places where customers can log on via their mobile device, PC, iPads or in the product itself and do just about everything from seeing their buying history, checking the status of orders, viewing pricing discounts, rebates, or accessing value-added content. And certainly engaging with their sales and service team members and much more. So those are the three top initiatives that leaders have really commonly cited through our research so far.

Arshad Carim: That auto-replenishment one, Sean, really reminds me of my Amazon subscribe and save with that monthly shipment that shows up with paper towels every month. But I can imagine that being very effective for reagents or consumables or what have you for our customers out there in this industry. The portal, I think, is interesting for clients that I’m working with. That’s really a place where companies are investing, and we’re seeing the leading edge going there. But it’s a hard one to put in place, right? Requires a lot of thinking, investment, etc. What’s your thoughts there on the portals? How many companies out there are really doing it in the way we’re talking about?

Sean Higgins: Companies have started here. I think it’s something that’s easy to create a gated community where you do put in some YouTube videos and FAQs and how-to guides. But really showing the value to the customer has been something that leaders thought would have led to a little bit of more ROI or some self-service. Unfortunately, we are hearing that many customers are still calling their sales reps and giving inundated with things that are on the portal itself. But it is clear from some of the voice of customer research we’re hearing from these leaders that we need the gated community, we need the self-service portal because it does add to the customer experience, although we haven’t seen the ROI we expected when we initially invested in these portals. So organizations are still investing, improving the experience there overall.

Arshad Carim: So maybe a bit of a longer-term play than companies originally thought. But still, the value is there for the customer and for the company. Okay, great. Well, Sean, it’s been great chatting with you and talking about these latest digital insights. To learn more, please visit our website at I want to thank everyone for listening to us, and we look forward to sharing more as we continue on this digital journey.

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