Why Shifting Consumer Priorities Mean Every Brand Needs to Care About Wellness

Wellness products, services, and brands — especially welltech, or wellness technology — are everywhere right now. Spurred by the pandemic and the associated telemedicine revolution, as well as concurrent trends in wearables and shifting consumer priorities, they have grown rapidly over the past several years.

There is, however, some confusion and overlap regarding the concepts of health, wellness, and well-being. Health is typically described primarily in terms of physical ailments, whereas wellness refers to a more holistic picture that also captures mental and emotional fitness. What’s more, health is often seen as the absence of disease or disability.

Wellness, by contrast, refers to not just lacking signs of illness, but actively thriving and growing in both body and soul. Well-being, though not authoritatively defined by any one source, is generally regarded as an even broader category that describes not just personal health and wellness but also within the context of social interactions and communities.

In whatever words you define it, the larger message is clear: consumers are taking a more active role in their own flourishing… and they want their brands and tech to help.

“Happiness is no laughing matter.”

The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the world to recognize just how important the paradigm shift from a purely health-centric outlook to a more encompassing one that includes wellness is. In 2019, it established a National Wellbeing Observatory headed by a Minister of Happiness. Despite the sunny title, they take their job very seriously, saying on occasion that “happiness is no laughing matter.”

“Wellness refers to not just lacking signs of illness, but actively thriving and growing in both body and soul.”

Wellness and well-being are particularly of interest right now because they serve as an intangible armor against the stresses that surround us — and as stressors go, a global pandemic is pretty high up on the list of major ones. When we are feeling strong, healthy, sound of mind, calm, and confident (in other words, when we feel well), we are better able to deal with physical and emotional challenges, quicker to recover from setbacks, and better able to achieve in other aspects of our lives.

According to Gallup, that belief is borne out among the general public. 96-percent of people see a direct correlation between well-being, performance, and life success. A study by Ogilvy that surveyed 7,000 consumers in 16 counties confirmed that result:

  • 77% said wellness is very or extremely important to them
  • 80% wanted to improve their wellness
  • 59% agreed it’s worth paying more for wellness options

Ogilvy’s study also found that:

  • 67% said there should be more wellness options, regardless of what they’re shopping for
  • 50% expected car, banking, airline, and snack-food brands to offer wellness options

More than almost anything else, those facts drive home the reality that a true sea change has taken place. Wellness isn’t just a novelty or an option or a value-add, consumers want it to play a core role in virtually every product, service, and brand they interact with.

“Consumers are taking a more active role in their own flourishing… and they want their brands and tech to help.”

This development can also be seen in online search activity. Consider that, according to Google Trends, search rates for a number of topics related to health and wellness have seen outsized growth. In 2019 alone, even before the pandemic pushed greater adoption, searchers were up in the triple-digit-percentages for the following:

  • Virtual fitness solutions (+242%)
  • Holistic healing (+285%)
  • Breathing apps (+219%)
  • Wellness retreats (+182%)
  • Healthy and functional food (+220%)

So, it’s no surprise to trend watchers that a major shift in consumer habits is occurring away from reactive healthcare treatments and towards a proactive search for wellness solutions, and technology is playing a major role in that new development. A growing array of welltech devices are measuring our physical and behavioral output and providing personalized analysis that informs better performance. That means better sleep, focus, and energy levels; stronger immune systems; and more positive mental states and moods.

Wellness in Work and Play

Companies are also increasingly taking an interest in wellness because it may prove to be a better indicator of the overall health of an organization than even financial metrics. Companies with better employee experiences see less absenteeism, greater productivity and job satisfaction, lower turnover, and higher levels of productivity.

Given those facts, welltech has emerged to fill a growing need in the marketplace — and it’s moving fast. So fast, in fact, that it can be difficult to quantify. “The total magnitude of investments into this space is hard to measure because these companies often sit at the intersection of a few fields such as medtech, hr-tech, etc.,” said Natalie Novick, Research Editor at Tech.eu. “The magnitude of the investment is likely to be even higher than the estimates,” she concluded.

“67% of consumers said there should be more wellness options, regardless of what they’re shopping for.”

Wall Street has also taken notice. Calm, the mindfulness and meditation app, raised $116 million without trouble, immediately earned a multi-billion dollar valuation, and won celebrity investors and endorsers like NBA star Lebron James. Other wellness apps appear to emerge almost daily to address every conceivable human need:

  • Online talk therapy
  • Suicide prevention
  • Sleep tracking
  • Virtual fitness coaching
  • Weight loss aids

A secondary factor fueling the welltech trend has been a growing desire among wellness consumers to take more control over their health journey. The decision-making process is more shared and a range of self-help tools are springing up. This new focus on “personal enhancement solutions” has pushed valuation for the “Self-Care” sector up to $11b, according to Harvard Business Review.

In many ways, the wellness trend is an offshoot of the phenomena known as the experience economy, which posits that consumers no longer want mere possessions; they demand products and services that enrich their lives (e.g. they didn’t just buy an SUV, they bought the freedom to explore, or they didn’t just buy an Apple Watch, they bought deeper insight into their bodies).

Columbia University management professor B. Joseph Pine II, who is credited with coining the term “experience economy,” directly ties the two concepts together: “There is no more economic value you can create as a business than to help someone achieve his aspirations, so we see a great expansion of companies in the Wellbeing business, including WellTech.”

The Takeaway

The global wellness industry is now valued at an incredible $4.2 trillion. It’s no longer a niche market, it touches virtually every sector and industry. Consumers are taking a proactive, rather than reactive approach to their health, wellness, and well-being, and they want their technology and their brands to support that mission.


Want to learn more about trends directly affecting wellness brands right now and their impact across industries? Talk to the brand experts at Hanlon.