To reach consumers, pharma companies are increasingly looking for ways to engage patients and prospective patients through digital channels. While this typically takes the form of marketing campaigns, in a growing number of cases, pharma companies are developing full-fledged online services.

The latest example of this: Regi, a digital marketplace and booking platform for beauty treatments created by Allergan, the company behind medical aesthetics Botox and CoolSculpting.

Regi, which can be accessed via a website as well as an iPhone app, allows consumers to find providers who offer a variety of beauty treatments, including lashes, hair, makeup, injectables and body contouring. Consumers who want to book treatments can register for an account and make requests,
which are handled through a team of Regi concierges.

Regi is currently available in Los Angeles and New York City. Allergan plans to expand its coverage to other American cities in the near future. While Allergan isn’t hiding its backing of the service, it isn’t co-branding the service either.

A number of medical aesthetic services that can be booked through Regi are in categories where Allergan products are dominant. Not surprisingly, providers offering medical aesthetics who want to participate in the Regi marketplace must have an Allergan account, use Allergan products and,
according to Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, senior VP of Consumer Strategy and Innovation at Allergan, “embody the Allergan spirit and demonstrate an understanding of technology and social media.”

But Allergan is also vetting providers of non-medical services such as salons and spas, highlighting the fact that Regi isn’t merely a fancy directory of medical providers who offer Allergan products. Instead, it is a real service that Allergan hopes will provide substantial value to consumers.

Allergan’s Wilson explained, “Consumers are accustomed to having everything at their fingertips – with digital apps and services providing access to just about anything imaginable. However, there wasn’t a place where one could book both a massage and an injectable treatment within one platform. We like to think of Regi as filling that space in the market.”

Building a new business to grow existing business

By filling that space in the market through the creation of a marketplace, Allergan reportedly believes that it can double the size of the medical aesthetics market within five to seven years. If anywhere near that successful, it would be a huge win for the pharma giant as the company already generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year each from Botox cosmetic sales and CoolSculpting.

The size of the potential gains Allergan sees explain why the company has invested in launching what is essentially a new business. But the market for beauty treatments fits into a broader health and wellness category that is ultra-competitive. Established companies and upstarts alike are vying for the hundreds of billions of dollars that consumers spend every year to look and feel better, which realistically means that Allergan’s investment in Regi will have to be ongoing if it wants to gain traction. Put simply, this isn’t a build-itand-they-will-come venture.

Allergan apparently understands this and is already investing in paid Google search ads for Regi in the geographic markets it serves, a wise move.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Allergan’s investment in Regi will pay off, but the strategy of building robust standalone offerings to promote products to consumers in less direct ways is one that the pharma industry is likely to see a lot more of in the coming years.

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