The next year for pharmaceutical firms will continue to bring along evolution in how pharma goes about its business. Accenture recently surveyed 200 senior executives at large US-based pharma firms, and their findings revealed some interesting trends and expectations for 2013 and beyond. The biggest theme was cost reduction, which most thought could be accomplished in a few “modern” ways, focused heavily on digital marketing and analytics.

Of the 83% of executives that cited cost reduction as a top priority, over 60% said improving multichannel and digital marketing and analytics comprised the best opportunity for cost-cutting measures. And, while direct sales and traditional media will still play a prominent role for pharmaceutical firms, 26% expect their digital interaction to increase in the next two years. This is coupled with the recent 25% decrease in the size of pharma sales forces since 2011.

The above statistics, and the accompanying infographic below, tell a consistent story about where pharma marketing is heading – into a more multichannel, measured approach. Firms must reach as many touch points as possible with all parties – from healthcare providers to patients to pharmacists to payers and even caregivers. For many, this means an overhaul of the status quo for their firm’s organizational structure.

Focusing on so many channels with an array of content necessitates a great degree of communication and integration across all departments. Maintaining a consistent message, targeting and retargeting relevant audiences, and evaluating each product’s or campaign’s most effective channels are all integral for getting the most bang for one’s buck in this new, cross-channel era.

Source of data and infographic: Accenture

While the digital landscape has, in some ways, added to the workload and complicated the way things have been done for decades, it has also permitted unique opportunities to measure and analyze the effectiveness of promotional channels and to adjust on the fly. Agility and cross-department integration are the new norm in business and particularly for pharma, with its unique mix of market segments that make these traits more important than ever.

It’s vital to note that this is not a trend for 2013, it is the new norm. To stay on top of the competition this year and beyond, pharma must hit every channel and embrace digital, whether it happens internally or, as the data suggest, with the assistance of a third-party agent. Ready or not, the future of pharma is here.