If your organization is in the process of developing a new health App, you might want to hit the “Pause” button and consider the following. There are an estimated 2+ million Apps available on Apple and Android platforms. Smartphone users today have an average of 25–30 Apps on their devices. Only 4–6 of these get used on a daily basis. In fact, 70% of the total usage of apps can be attributed to the most popular 200 apps. So why are so many Medtech companies developing Apps like it was still 2010?
The Evolution of Customer Communication
It used to be that Marketing was all about pushing stuff out to people and broadcasting promotional messages ad nausea. This is commonly referred to as Outbound Marketing and is still the norm for many businesses today. The last 5–10 years, however, have seen a gradual shift towards Inbound Marketing which espouses a philosophy of “If you create quality content, people will come to YOU for it.” Many companies are in overdrive trying to create fresh content for their blogs and websites in order to gain a privileged position in the minds of their customers. This new-ish approach has its merits but what both Outbound and Inbound marketing fail to deliver is an engaging dialog and personal conversation with users or customers. Social Media was supposed to be the answer to patient engagement but sharing GIFs, updating a Facebook page, commenting on posts or tweeting in 140 characters have done little to create a truly bi-directional & personalized dialog between a company/brand and its audience.
Apps: 2007–2017 RIP
The next frontier in customer service and relationship management will revolve around meaningful and bi-directional conversations. These will primarily take place via smartphones (Note: 75% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be mobile based) and likely involve AI-powered Chat Bots. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Chat Bots are all the rage at the moment, even if they haven’t quite hit the mainstream yet. The appeal of Chat Bots stems from their engaging ease of use and because well, they aren’t one of millions of other apps. Today’s mobile users are more interested in instant communication and are less and less inclined to consult an infrequently used app on their phone. Similarly, users are less likely to rely on websites for information if they can instantly chat with a company using ubiquitous messaging apps from the likes of Facebook, Apple or SnapChat.
For comparison, Chat Bots outscore Apps in every perceived (customer) benefit. The main perceived advantages being:
1. 24-hour service
2. Quick answers to simple questions
4. Easy communication
While face-to-face conversations are still seen as the preferred communication channel, Chat Bots come in a close second, ahead of e-mail and telephone and even further ahead of websites or Apps. (Source: Myclever Survey 2016)
Chat Bots and Medtech
It might be tempting to assume that little of this has any applications for the Medtech industry. But it would be a grave mistake to dismiss Chat Bots as merely another consumer fad. Be they for internal uses or for external customers, Chat Bots represent an exciting new tool for engaging with patients & caregivers and, perhaps just as importantly, for gathering insights into their needs or concerns. Chat Bots are ideally suited for providing timely information (e.g. specifications, news, usage questions…), training (How Tos, best practices, tips,…) and even a significant degree of support, empathy & encouragement to those struggling with a chronic disease like insomnia, diabetes or depression. Be they for internal only uses (e.g. HR, IT, Sales Support) or external applications (Patients, Care Givers, Families,…) Chat Bots can be designed to add a whole new level of personalized & interactive communication with key stakeholders in the delivery of therapies or in the accompaniment of novel technologies. This is true in the acute care setting and even more so in the growing home health field where patients and care givers alike, need fast, easy and ongoing communication exchanges. Such personalized, contextually rich and regular communications may also hold the key to better outcomes and improved satisfaction.
It’s all about AI
A major reason why people are bullish on Chat Bots is because of the incredible progress we have recently seen in Artificial Intelligence. Google, Microsoft and IBM are just a few of the big players in the AI space that have showcased just how good the systems are getting. That doesn’t mean that they are perfect yet or that Chat Bots will be a resounding success the minute they are launched. There is much learning and fine-tuning to be done before AI Chat Bots can fully manage every interaction and every likely scenario they face. We, humans, will have to teach them what we know and allow them to continually learn and adapt to the unexpected. It will likely take 1–3 years before new Medtech Chat Bots can confidently handle (unaided) the majority of scenarios and questions they get presented with. Unsurprisingly, understanding questions is seen as the bigger hurdle for Chat Bots to overcome. A good rule of thumb is that at launch, AI-powered Chat Bots will only be able to handle around 20% of interaction. The other 80% will still need to be supported through human intervention. Over time and with learning, however, it is not unreasonable to expect Chat Bots to handle upwards of 80% of all interactions. That’s when the efficiencies will really kick-in.
Only for Millennials?
And lest you assume that smartphone-based conversations with Chat Bots are the domain of younger, millennial-type users, think again. A May 2016 UK study showed that it’s actually Baby Boomers who appreciate Chat Bots the most, scoring their benefits higher than Millennial in 8 out of 11 categories!
In conclusion, Apps are either dead or in a death spiral. Time to look ahead at how AI-powered Chat Bots can help Medtech businesses create deeper, richer and more personalized engagement with target audiences. What are you waiting for? Get your Bot moving!
Andrew Hyncik is an International Strategic Marketing & Product Innovation veteran with 20 years of experience in the MedTech, Healthcare and Pharma industries. For more original Medtech insights and innovation ideas, visit Medtech Mojo. Medtech Mojo is a team of international Marketing and Technology experts focused on innovative, AI-powered solutions for Health & Wellness.
Image by Owen Smith via Getty.
Andrew Hyncik and Pascal Malengrez are International Strategic Marketing & Product Development leaders who amplify classical medtech marketing with digital startup thinking.