e-Commerce Developing Fast in Southern Europe

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As more and more countries go into lockdown to enforce social distancing, the way that consumers do their shopping is of course having to change dramatically. Some countries are better adapted to this change than others – according to a recent report in the Financial Times, southern European countries like Italy and Spain currently only have low e-Commerce penetration, with respective shares of 4% and 5% of total retail revenues (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic).

France (10%) has a higher share than the two countries at its southern border, but still lags behind other markets in Europe (20% in the UK) and globally (36% in China). However, this situation looks set to change fast, with Covid-19 leading to a revolution in e-Commerce sales of groceries in southern Europe – for example, according to the FT report, supermarket chain Carrefour stated that its online customer base in Italy has already doubled to 110,000. Is this a trend that will outlast the current crisis?

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And what impact will Covid-19 have on online sales of consumer healthcare products? Our recently published Digital Marketing & e-Commerce Report outlined the Top 20 leading internal & mail order markets for CHC products, with China and the USA the clear leaders, followed by Japan, Germany and the UK. Inevitably, the projected growth rates for 2020 will have to be revised, especially given this fast-changing crisis could also lead to changes in regulations governing the online sale of OTC medicines.

For example, Europe’s largest e-Commerce pharmacy group, Zur Rose, today submitted a request to Switzerland’s Federal Office for Public Health calling for a temporary exception that would allow mail order sales of OTC cold & flu medicines (at present, all non-prescription medicines can only be sold by mail order if specifically approved by a doctor). As well as owning Germany’s best-known pharmacy brand, DocMorris, Zur Rose is also active in France and Spain, and could be at the forefront of overcoming strict regulations governing the sale of OTC-registered medicines in those markets too.

For an in-depth look at the rising power of e-Commerce in the CHC market, order a copy of Digital Marketing & e-Commerce: Tapping the Potential of Online Sales and Digital Promotion in Consumer HealthcareThis report also explores social media, which CHC brands are employing effective digital marketing strategies, and the opportunities and challenges e-Pharma faces. For further details, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

CHC Adjacencies Fuelling Digital Marketing Innovation

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A new report from Nicholas Hall examines effective digital marketing strategies for consumer health players and the fast-growing online channel for OTCs. In this week’s blog, we examine which consumer healthcare categories, brands and companies most fully embraced social media marketing in 2019, and summarise the report’s findings.

Given the tight regulations surrounding the promotion of registered OTC medicines on social media, it’s no surprise that the subcategories where we’ve recorded the most digital marketing activity in 2019 – using our OTC New Products Tracker tool – were adjacent categories in Lifestyle OTCs, VMS and dermatologicals. Cannabis / CBD recorded the highest number of innovations backed by social media promotion in 2019, followed by lip care and probiotics.

Of the Top 20 brands that recorded the highest number of innovations in 2019 backed by social media promotion, lip care products Eos (Eos) and ChapStick (formerly Pfizer, now GSK) were at the top of the tree. For example, Eos Vampire Kiss was supported by an Instagram campaign in the run-up to Halloween. CBD companies such as Hilo, CBDfx and Ignite – the latter backed by professional poker player and social media celebrity Dan Bilzerian – have also used digital marketing in 2019 to support their new products. Among VMS brands, Irwin Naturals, Zarbee’s Naturals (J&J) and Olly (Unilever) were all well-supported on social media, especially Facebook.

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Below are some of the findings from the new Nicholas Hall report:

  • It is vital that approaches to digital marketing are differentiated across digital and social media channels
  • Most consumers trust social media for healthcare advice, making an engaging social media strategy critical
  • Rapid adoption of digital technologies and evolving shopping behaviours are transforming e-Commerce into a key channel in consumer healthcare
  • Consumers will generally shop where it is most convenient, so understanding where they are shopping online is vital
  • Mobile is consumers’ constant companion so all content should be accessible on mobile devices
  • Since the virtual shelf is infinite, standing out from competitors online requires orchestrated brand communication

Comment from Ian Crook, Managing Editor, Nicholas Hall’s Reports: When considering how to target consumers via digital channels, marketers must note that different demographic groups use different social media platforms, and in diverse ways. Content consumption is diversifying just as audiences are broadening; the modern consumer leads a very busy life and can be easily distracted, posing challenges to effective engagement. Fostering consumer connections is vital, and whichever means of communication is used – live streaming, chatbots, social media messaging, etc – interacting with consumers is essential. Marketers cannot win everywhere or invest in all platforms, so choosing the appropriate medium is an important step in planning an effective digital campaign.

The new report features many more findings, backed by relevant case studies, including a look at consumer influencers, the benefits of a direct-to-consumer strategy, the digital strategies of the OTC Top 10, as well as the differing regulatory situation for online sale of medicines across markets, plus much more. To purchase your copy of Digital Marketing & e-Commerce, or for more details, please contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

App helps cancer patients extend life

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Scientists have discovered a new medical intervention that can extend the lives of cancer sufferers by a number of months. The discovery is not a novel drug or therapy, it is an app. Patients who reported their symptoms via a tablet survived for five months longer than those who did not, according to a large study which was presented at the world’s biggest oncology meeting yesterday.

The research highlighted the role that cheap and simple tech can play in providing healthcare at a time when drug makers are suffering controversy for the ever-rising cost of prescribed medicines.

Patients were told to report 12 symptoms such as sleeping and breathing difficulties using the app, which was referred to as an electronic patient report system or ePro. If patients took a turn for the worse, an automatic push notification was sent to alert a doctor or nurse. “The system proactively monitored symptoms, so that the care team was able to intervene earlier and catch things before they became more severe,” said Dr Ethan Basch, an oncologist and professor at the University of North Carolina, who led the trial.

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Dr Basch said patients using the app were able to stay on chemotherapy “for substantially longer” than others because they were less likely to turn up to the hospital in a weak state and as a repercussion, not be strong enough to handle the punishing treatment. The ePro patients were also less likely to be admitted to hospital, meaning they did not become bed-bound or acquire an infection like C. difficile while on the ward.

Oncologists have long believed that ePro apps can improve a person’s quality of life, but this is the first time that is has been proven to boost survival in a large number of patients with a broad and varied range of cancers. Patients who used the purpose-built app typically survived for 31 months versus 26 months for those who did not, according to the research, which was unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco).

Are wearables wearing thin?

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The wearables market has had a rollercoaster ride in recent months. This time a year ago analysts were penning multi-billion dollar forecasts for the developers of health trackers and smartwatches. Apple was setting the stakes high, brazenly selling a gold edition of the Apple Watch for US$10,000.

More recently though, once popular fitness tracker brand, Jawbone, confirmed to TechCrunch that it would be leaving the consumer market in order to focus on healthcare providers. Microsoft have also removed its Fitness Band from its online store (although it is still available on Amazon); most significantly they will no longer provide the Band developer kits.

Fitbit remains a leading brand name, and is still very much the heart of the fitness tracker revolution. Fitbit recently acquired one of its rivals, Pebble Watch. However, on the downside, it was reported that the company were making staff cuts and founder James Park said the firm had experienced “softer than expected” sales during the 2016 Christmas period.

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Numerous devices claim to measure heart rate, sleep activity and count calories. Counting steps is seemingly the most common use for wearable devices, which has been edifying for many in terms of daily exercise expectations. Recently, though, experts have questioned whether the golden goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is actually worthwhile, and a US study concluded that health trackers did not aid weight loss.

Mr Bryant from Futuresource says many wearables aren’t yet independent enough and rely on being tethered to a smartphone, or replicate functionality, such as step counting, that the handset already has. However, Mr Bryant believes that while wearables may be down, they are not yet out.

“We feel the slowdown is temporary and the market will accelerate this year,” he said. He thinks that improved power, appearance, and mobile pay options could give them a boost alongside a maturing user group.

Wearable Devices will be one of many themes explored at our 28th Annual OTC INSIGHT European Conference & Action Workshop, being held in Munich in just over a month! The wider conference will focus on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology. To reserve one of our final few places, please contact lianne.hill@NicholasHall.com

Ice Bucket Challenge Creates Medical Breakthrough

Holly Parmenter, Digital Projects Executive: Back in 2014, the charitable craze of dosing one another in ice-cold water (better known as The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge) went viral. This was all in aid of raising awareness and research funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

The incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease predominantly affects the brain and spinal cord, resulting in entire paralysis. Physicist Stephen Hawkins is a well-known sufferer and helped raise awareness during the ALS Challenge as his children gallantly participated on his behalf.

Though seemingly buried deep within the vast world of social media, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has resurfaced; not with ice but with results. The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115m (£87.7m), which funded six research projects.

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One of these was Project MinE, an extensive study involving more than 80 researchers in 11 different countries. This study examined ALS risk genes in families affected by the disease and, thanks to the funding for research raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, an important scientific discovery was made – the identification a new gene that contributes to the disease, NEK1.

The identification of gene NEK1 means scientists can now develop a gene therapy to treat it. Although only 10% of ALS patients have the inherited form, researchers believe that genetics contribute to a much larger percentage of cases.

Online eating in-store sales in Germany?

Despite OTC growth in Germany remaining sluggish in 2014, online sales are starting to make serious advances. Online sales now account for a little over 10% of the country’s total OTC market, according to industry sources.

While market share is still relatively modest in traditional categories like cold & flu and GIs, online turnover for a variety of lifestyle and VMS brands – for which there is no desperate need for immediate face-to-face interaction with a pharmacist – is around 50% of that generated through pharmacies and drugstores. While convenience is, of course, a major factor, price is also significant, as consumers are often able to save €15 on premium supplements online, with savings growing further on jumbo packs. It is also noticeable that many of these double-digit sales increases are being made by products positioned for Germany’s older consumers, in particular eye vitamins with Age Macular Degeneration positioning, joint health products – now equivalent to two-thirds of pharmacy turnover – as well as herbal memory & brain health, with several premium ginkgo-based options chalking up huge increases in 2014. For the potentially less mobile consumer in the 65+ age bracket, a steadily growing demographic in Germany, the home delivery element is crucial.

So just who are the online retailers making headway? German marketing agency Dr Kaske completed a survey analysis of the 15 largest in April 2015, scoring them according to price on a select basket of common OTCs, search engine optimisation, customer service, user-friendliness and, of course, actual visitor numbers. Leader in all categories was Shop-Apotheke, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Europa Apotheek Venlo, although the more widely known DocMorris – sold by Celesio to Swiss pharmacy retailer Zur Rose in 2012 – was a close contender, featuring the best SEO. Medikamente-per-klick and Sanicare are also noteworthy, with the latter investing heavily in TV advertising in 2014.

For more insight into trends and developments in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, why not enquire about our monthly OTC INSIGHT Europe publication? Contact nino.hunter@NicholasHall.com.