With the Pandemic on the Wane, Consumers Are Eager to Invest in Wellness

Which Products, Services, and Brand Strategies Are Connecting With Them?

 

Wellness used to be a somewhat nebulous and niche term. Few understood exactly what it meant, how to achieve it, or what products and services in the marketplace were true in their claims to deliver a better, healthier life.

That reality is no longer the case. Today’s consumers are well schooled in the need to protect and enhance their physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, inside and out. They want to not just avoid illness but to feel and look the best they can.

It’s a sea change occurring globally and at a rapid clip. A McKinsey survey of 7,500 people in six countries including the U.S. found that a large majority (79-percent) of consumers say that wellness is important to them; 42-percent said it was among their top priorities.

Hence, it should come as no surprise that numerous brands are springing up to serve this lucrative and expansive new segment of consumers. The global wellness market is currently believed to be worth roughly $1.5 trillion dollars and is forecast to grow at 5 to 10-percent annually.

79% of consumers say that wellness is important to them; 42% said it was among their top priorities.

In such a crowded marketplace, only well-developed and strategically positioned brands — those that deliver authentically on their promise to further wellness and to act responsibly in accordance with that mission — stand a chance of winning mindshare and sufficient attention and loyalty to sustain brand growth.

New Consumer Priorities and Behaviors

Wellness is larger than just health, but health is still a major component and top of mind for wellness-seeking consumers. Traditional market segments devoted to health like medicine and supplements continue to grow, as do more recent product and service classes like consumer medical devices and health trackers.

The broader trend has been a shift away from hospital and doctor directed treatment towards self-care that consumers themselves take charge of. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong and seeking advice, they are seeking out solutions in advance online and soliciting advice from their social networks.

With the Pandemic on the Wane, Consumers Are Eager to Invest in WellnessThe tools to enable them to be the boss of their wellness journey have reached a degree of maturity where pretty much anything they want to do, they can do themselves. For example, wellness consumers are:

  • Booking their own health and wellness appointments in proprietary apps
  • Purchasing prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements online
  • Monitoring their own sleep, vital signs, and behavioral patterns with wearables

The pandemic was simultaneously a huge wakeup call for consumers to take their wellness more seriously and also a major obstacle to achieving it. According to Harvard Medical School,  39-percent of patients gained weight during the pandemic. Stress eating, too much delivery service and too many fast food drive-thrus — as well as lack of access to gyms, yoga studios, and many sports and other healthy activities — were all part of the problem.

Several brands rose in prominence as solutions addressing that latter issue. When fitness centers had to close their doors or limit occupancy, stationary bike makers like Peloton and smart mirror home gym brands like Tonal and Mirror found their moment, and many consumers decided to stick with them even after the lockdowns eased.

Finding Comfort in a Better Night’s Rest… Not the Cookie Aisle

There has also been a reshuffling at the supermarket. At the start of the pandemic, when uncertainty was highest, some long-standing trends in nutrition and consumer shopping habits — notably the rise in interest in organic, natural, and ostensibly healthy foods — saw immediate declines. Instead, comfort foods were the order of the day. Sales of cookies like Oreos spiked nearly 30-percent.

Call it a classic case of yo-yo dieting on a global scale, but that trend is reversing again. According to McKinsey’s research more than a third of consumers now say they plan to increase spending on nutrition apps, diet programs, juice cleanses, and subscription food services.

Sleep is also developing into a massive new wellness category all to itself. Everything from sleep tracking apps and wearables to mail-order mattresses and even weighted blankets and blackout curtains are being marketed as the secret to finally getting great, restful, and rejuvenating sleep.

The broader trend has been a shift away from hospital and doctor directed treatment towards self-care that consumers themselves take charge of.

The same is true of meditation and mindfulness products and services. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Soothe have sprung up with thoughtfully-designed user experiences that make getting your zen on a simple and enjoyable activity that is accessible anywhere. Wellness services in particular have also seen a drastic uptick. Personal training, emotional counseling, nutrition guidance have all become must-haves for a huge swath of wellness consumers.

Everyone Wants to Look and Feel Better

But who exactly are wellness consumers? For starters, they aren’t any one thing, but rather a set of diverse but overlapping groups:

  • Avid wellness enthusiasts are highly engaged on social media, follow the latest trends, and devote a substantial portion of their disposable income to wellness brands. 
  • Socially responsible wellness advocates will pay a premium for brands that espouse sustainable and ethical practices and are transparent about a clean supply chain.
  • Price-conscious wellness consumers are interested in wellness brands but much more likely to comparison shop and wait for deals before making a purchase.
  • Wellness loyalists are wary of new brands and innovations and more apt to stick with what they know and are already comfortable with.

Across demographic segments, however, certain trends persist. The word “natural,” for example has increasing relevance and desirability. Most consumers say if they have to choose between two products, one that advertises itself as natural versus one that doesn’t, they would select the natural option. That observation is true of supplements, foods, skincare products, and many others.

Another trend from the larger marketplace that carries weight for wellness brands is the desire of consumers to have products and services tailored to their unique needs. Simple data collection in the form of quizzes and user-submitted information is fed into analytic engines that develop personalized recommendations for fitness routines, suggestions for achieving better sleep, diet plans, and even beauty products that are especially well suited to an individual’s skin and appearance.

Growing Brands Must Continually Adapt

EY’s latest Future Consumer Index found that 57-percent of consumers want to make healthier choices in their product purchases, and not just in the wake of the pandemic but permanently. 43-percent said that they believe health will still be the most important criteria in purchasing decisions three years from now.

This consumer shift will affect brands with even a tangential connection to health and wellness, so the time is now for adaptive brands to consider how they can position themselves for growth and relevance in a massive wellness market that is still in its infancy.

 

Hanlon helps growing health and wellness brands develop strategies that connect with their consumers and stay ahead of changes in the marketplace. Find out what we can do for you.