The Rise of Segmentation

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Customer centricity and the promise of digital health

There are a myriad of reasons why healthcare has been slow to adopt technology and the rich data that comes with it-cost, time, accuracy, privacy and regulation to start. Payers took the first step and moved into the online space, gathering basic information about their customers and their needs through those early-stage digital tools. Now, healthcare companies are able to see the unique personal, health and wellness data for each user. But there is an opportunity that most companies have not taken full advantage of yet: customer segmentation.

Digital-enabled health and wellness products are still fairly generic as many are just getting started in their direct-to-consumer products programs. Despite having access to extensive data unique to each consumer, most companies are still creating generic digital health products without asking consumers what they want or need first. In fact, most healthcare companies don’t have experience marketing directly to consumers at all. Because consumers usually buy products that resonate with their needs directly, companies are failing to see the growth they expect from their products, especially as the digital health market becomes increasingly crowded.

It’s completely essential that companies turn their strategies upside down to tackle this problem, learning to target their product offerings directly to specific customer segments first. Without segmentation, growth and profit is not likely to occur.

This admittedly isn’t easy, especially for clinical laboratories. Most healthcare companies are traditionally built to think inside-out-focusing on products first-rather than outside-in with a lens on humans. Despite the fact that the healthcare industry is becoming increasingly consumer-friendly, most traditional entities have little experience selling products directly to consumers. They look at the products they have and try to define their users by the product listings, rather than looking at consumer interests, needs and traits first. But directed segmentation from beginning (research) to end (marketing) in laboratories, especially in the genomics arena, will be the key to success.

This new future could take on many forms:

Blood tests that can optimize athletic performance

The market for blood tests is huge. Recently, a company developed a tool for easily testing biomarkers in athletes. These are identified and paired with well-researched interventions (diet, exercise and lifestyle) that athletes can then use to optimize their performance. That company is now thrividatang because their test audience-athletes-is a large and highly active group. They’ve been able to segment their large data pools to get a more refined view of each audience they serve and they continue to build better-and more specific-products tailored to gender, age and activity levels.

More precise precision medicine

Genomics have had a huge impact in healthcare, raising the attention of its potential all the way to the White House. As promising as genomics and precision medicine are, though, companies are struggling with momentum because consumers are struggling to understand why they need a test.

Different people are interested in genetic tests for different reasons. An individual may not care about buying a test for himself, but he might be much more interested in ordering genetic tests for his children. With this understanding of buyers and needs, the company at hand would be better able to target their research, advertising and product capabilities toward the needs of that specific segment. The needs of young parents inform everything about this company’s product decisions-from beginning to end.

Condition-based products for those with diabetes or thyroid conditions

These are small segments, but often successful products built to target even smaller segments within these condition groups-early stage diabetes patients who have recently been diagnosed, for example, or people who have lived with thyroid conditions for most of their lives but aren’t adept at using digital tools. Again, the segment choice here determines almost everything about the product itself, from the method of delivery (print versus digital) to marketing strategies.

So, where does a company start if it wants to quickly develop and utilize a segmentation strategy?

Reverse your way of thinking. Instead of beginning with the products, begin with the people. Identify the segments you are most interested in working with, and then prioritize which segments might be the best fit for your business’ mission and goals.

Talk to the people with whom you hope to work. Go out into the world. Do market research. Find out what your chosen segment needs. Ask questions about what people value, what they struggle with, what they hope for and what they are curious about. Be open-minded.

Begin product development with rigorous testing. After conducting significant research with focus groups-and only after that research-you should begin to design market solutions for your chosen segment. Once your product has been developed, test it over and over again, especially within the targeted segment. Use qualitative and quantitative tools. Ask questions. Most importantly, listen to (and learn from) constructive criticism.

Continue to alter the course as you move into the future. The work we do is never done, as segments continue to grow and change over time. As you continue to develop and refine your products, don’t forget to look outside of your immediate bubble to ask questions about how to work smarter, more efficiently and with more direct targeting. As you develop a marketing strategy around your product, remember the changing landscape. Remember who you’re working with and how the world continues to change what they want and need.

The digital healthcare field has seen drastic evolution in the past 10 years. It’s an exciting place to be-full of endless insights, many data points and new tools and technologies-but remember that products are about people first. When you’re building something new, everything depends on the people in your segment, what they want out of life and how you can help them get there with ease.

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