Across many verticals, omnichannel strategies have been a key part of sales and marketing programs for years or even decades. However, for highly regulated industries, an omnichannel sales approach has been much harder to implement.
When they have tried to go omnichannel, pharmaceuticals, financial services, and healthcare institutions have consistently found themselves at odds with compliance requirements. Companies might want their client-facing sellers to use omnichannel messaging strategies. But regulations have made this difficult. As a result, companies have played it safe and said “no” to channels like WhatsApp, instead limiting their communications to approved channels like phone and email.
However, with the most recent developments and mandates from regulatory bodies like the SEC, compliance should take a proactive approach to enabling new communication channels. With the help of the right technology driving automation and scale, regulated industries can now take an omnichannel approach with confidence, and without compliance worries.
Multi-Channel vs Omnichannel Approach
Before we dive into the modern sales process and its intersection with business compliance, we first need to understand the difference between omnichannel and multi-channel strategies.
Omnichannel sales mean fully integrating all your communication channels. It doesn’t matter which media you see – TV, on-site, social media, or communication apps. Companies try and use them all, and the messaging is consistent all throughout the brand. For example, a customer can receive a promotional WhatsApp message while they’re shopping in-store, or they might get retargeted on Facebook on the item they abandoned on their online shopping cart.
Multi-channel sales, on the other hand, do not require channels to be integrated with each other. It means your WhatsApp messaging may not be the same as your Facebook ads, and your email campaigns do not sound the same as your call center representatives’ talk tracks. Though all your channels adhere to the same regulations and compliance requirements, they do not interact with each other.
With these differences in mind, what regulated industries want is the message control of omnichannel sales. They want these new communication channels, like WhatsApp, enabled – so that they can align their sales teams and field force activity to their larger strategies. They want their reps to be able to share the same collateral and messaging as the brand channels.
But previously they have had no way to turn WhatsApp “on” because of strict regulations, and a lack of solutions that would give compliance teams the visibility needed in these new channels.
However, the pandemic forced companies to push their digital transformation agendas forward quickly. As digital transformation agendas have been accelerated, the push for larger omnichannel strategies is now unstoppable. The only question is how to get there in a way that keeps you compliant.
Influencing Modern Compliance in the Global Market
One example of a country that influenced a global response to compliance is Japan. Back in 2019, SafeGuard Cyber hosted a discussion about Japan’s updated compliance code for pharmaceutical companies. The country’s update on its regulations had a great impact on how organizations use social, digital, and mobile communication channels when doing business in the Japanese market.
The code, targeted at pharma companies, mandated the creation of a specific department that would handle and approve all marketing messaging across the entire organization, including third parties. It also mandated that records of all interactions be kept for compliance purposes.
We found, during the discussion, that over 80% of our attendees listed the Japanese market as critical to business growth. Naturally, most of the discussion centered around its implications for social, digital, and mobile channels. Japan’s regulations stipulated that compliance must be assured across all employees, all channels, and all partners.
Three years later, Japan’s compliance code still has a massive influence on the modern sales process, not just in the US, but worldwide. Why is this? If doing business in the Japanese market is critical for development, what does that mean on a practical level for ensuring compliance across your sales teams?
The Challenges of Omnichannel Sales
The modern sales process requires an omnichannel approach. It’s not simply a matter of your sellers picking up the phone to close a deal or checking in with an HCP. They spend their time doing outreach and business communications on the channels where your customers spend most of their time: LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, email, phone, etc. For sellers across regulated industries like financial services and pharma, these are crucial channels for engagement, innovation, and revenue.
For example, sellers that work for global pharma companies will conduct phone calls and emails to interact with HCPs they are doing business with within the United States. But teams working in Brazil are reaching out to doctors through WhatsApp. While conducting official communications across those channels, sellers also interact with potential customers and peers on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to establish themselves as thought leaders.
Here’s the compliance challenge: sellers can easily generate anywhere from 15-20 messages in a day. For a team of 1,000 sellers, that's up to 7 million messages in one year. If those teams are spread out across emerging economies like Brazil and India, that's 7 million messages that need to comply with these countries’ regulations.
The amount of digital data generated across multiple channels is hard to keep track of, especially when all communications must be reviewed to assure compliance. But that is the new approach for teams to keep pace with competitors: sellers conduct business on the channels that make the most sense for their customers.
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Recent Developments and Risks
In recent years, various pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations in Europe and the United States have introduced key compliance updates.
And it’s not just the life sciences industry; even financial services companies are going through compliance standard updates. In 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a new mandate regarding compliance requirements for social selling. Specifically, according to the SEC, “investment advisers must make and keep records of all advertisements they disseminate,” especially when they’re utilizing social media.
However, many companies are still stuck in the mindset that compliance is but a hindrance to innovation. Because of that, employees and even executives circumvent written policies, and leverage unsanctioned apps like WhatsApp and Telegram to continue delivering against goals.
We’ve all seen this in financial services, and the reckoning has been harsh:
- Several of the biggest banks in the US – including the Bank of America, Barclays, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and UBS – have been fined a total of more than $1 billion for the unsanctioned use of private messaging apps by their traders to talk about crucial business matters.
- The SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) fined JPMorgan Securities a total of $200 million when they admitted to allowing their employees to use WhatsApp to evade their regulators.
Evolving with the Global Compliance Demand
Thankfully, compliance solutions have evolved to meet business demands. Modern compliance now offers not only a solution but a transformation. Automation can rapidly reduce costs and time burdens for compliance teams, erasing the most common objection: “We’re already stretched thin as it is, we can’t take on another record of communication.”
Automation dramatically draws down risk but helps companies achieve 100% coverage rather than relying on sampling and proxy measurements. You can have a more accurate measurement of regulatory risk exposure and a faster time-to-value for investigations and discovery.
Cloud-based solutions scale quickly to cover international operations, helping compliance teams assess risks in multiple languages at once, against multiple regulatory frameworks. Scale allows for consistent policy application across email, mobile chat, and on to any new channels that are appropriate for target markets. No longer need to start from scratch for every channel.
Now, not only can organizations meet compliance standards from economies like Japan, but they can also create new business efficiencies by analyzing all data captured. We have clients who ingest thousands of messages of unstructured data to drive new business insights, all while reducing oversight resources by up to 90%. Learn more about how to free your data to drive intelligent engagement here.
Organizations looking to secure their omnichannel sales strategies and ensure modern compliance across social and digital channels can take it a step further while meeting the demands of modern business.
See our compliance solution for yourself!