Back to overview

Why recommendations of healthcare professionals matter

Brand recommendations made by healthcare professionals (HCPs) are of high importance for consumers and a relevant reason for making a purchase in the consumer health market. Despite of, or because of, the overwhelming number of digital information sources that can often be confusing, the high relevance of a personal brand recommendation given by HCPs is a top reason for a consumer’s purchase decision.

A GfK Medic*Scope study on the purchase behavior of consumers in German pharmacies showed that 16% of all over-the-counter (OTC) product purchases are influenced by a doctor’s recommendation. This means that a physician’s recommendation in the area of self-medication is almost as important as one from a pharmacist.

The study provided a deeper analysis of consumer’s purchase reasons – based on 174 OTC markets broken down by conditions (e.g. heartburn, flu, pain). It revealed that the role of an HCP recommendation has an even greater impact in some markets. In such HCP recommendation-driven markets, a doctor’s brand recommendation is more supportive of sales than those given by a pharmacist, although the pharmacist is often directly involved in the OTC selling process.

Three key effects of a physician‘s recommendation on OTC brands

OTC brands whose purchase is influenced by a doctor’s recommendation benefited in three different ways. And according to shopper analysis conducted with GfK’s Medic*Scope panel (covering consumer purchases in German pharmacies), a physician’s recommendation:

1. Often levers the price acceptance significantly: Depending on the product type, the average prices for purchases influenced by a doctor’s recommendation are between 5% and 54% above the average price.

2. Results in a higher fulfillment of demand: The number of purchased units in the area of curative and preventive products rises significantly.

3. Is long-lasting: Recommendations given by doctors are more sustainable than ad messages (depot effect).

The topic of HCP recommendation is increasingly the focus of OTC brand manufacturers

The high relevance of HCP recommendations in the market for consumer health is also recognized more and more by OTC brand manufacturers. A study of 45 OTC manufacturers in Germany, conducted by GfK and Sempora Management Consultants in 2015, showed that more than three-quarters of them consider HCP recommendations as “important” or “very important” during the customer’s purchase journey.

Almost two-thirds even expect the importance of HCP recommendations, and their relevance to the consumer, to increase significantly within the next five years. Therefore, it is no surprise that 75% of all involved OTC companies claimed that they want to intensify their efforts to influence HCPs recommendation behavior.

Measurement of success via HCP recommendation tracking

In the context of so-called “expert marketing”, the sales force is highly significant for generating brand-specific recommendations. This is cost-intensive, of course. That’s why a very good success measurement approach is needed. For that reason many companies implement ongoing HCP recommendation tracking.

For good sales-force performance measurement, it’s not only crucial to measure generated recommendation shares and rates, but also to cover qualitative components. For example, there are very often professional marketing claims that aren’t correctly assigned to brands by HCPs. So they do not support sales force activities appropriately. At GfK we’ve found that using a sophisticated HCP recommendation tracking tool can directly determine a sales force’s potential for optimization.

In addition, profound market expertise is also needed for good data interpretation.
Benchmark data across countries, markets and target groups are also very helpful.

Direct usage of HCP recommendation tracking results for consumer marketing

A few companies do more than just generate and measure their and competitors’ brand recommendations. They use, if study findings allow it, high-recommendation rates actively for their consumer marketing. Therefore, consumer-oriented claims are generated based on HCP’s measured recommendation behavior.

The oral health market is a good example for the usage of such claims. Typical claims are: “Brand X – #1 recommended brand by dental professionals” or “9 out of 10 dentists recommend brand X”. In this case, results of a HCP recommendation tracking study are even used at the point of sale (POS) for supporting sales.

The personal recommendations of HCPs are highly relevant as a top reason for a consumer’s purchase decision. And measuring recommendation behavior brings an even greater level of understanding that consumer marketers can use to intensify their sales strategies.

For more information on the importance of HCP recommendations in successful consumer marketing initiatives, contact

Download our free webinar

The compelling story of healthcare professionals’ brand recommendations

Back to overview

Write a comment

*required field

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment*