By Dan Stanek
Healthcare has dominated the news lately, with most of the coverage focused on how to pay for it. Consumers have seen their share of medical costs rising, and regardless of national legislative outcomes, it’s inevitable they’ll continue to pay more out of pocket for treatment making them much more discerning about their medical options. And yet, while the pundits and politicians debate insurance plans and policies, an important lifestyle shift has emerged: an intense interest in moving away from reactive treatment and moving toward proactive wellness.
Consumers are informing themselves like never before, thanks to new technologies (fitness apps and trackers), online sources (from WebMD to podcasts), social media (Facebook) and media programming (The Doctors). They’re taking their health into their own hands not just because it’s their own money on the line, but because it’s vital to a better life.
This newfound control reflects a shift in attitude from the passive treatment of sickness to the more active avoidance of it. They’re declaring, "I’m going to be well." And this goal of wellness is extending beyond the traditional categories of exercise and diet. Today, consumers are seeking advice, treatments, and products designed to enhance and improve their mindfulness and sleep; they’re being more thoughtful about their skin and body care choices; and they’re intensely interested in the origins of products they consume and use opting for natural products whenever possible. Together, these six essential facets of wellness represent growth opportunities across a wide spectrum of industries, from hotels and cruise lines to retailers and consumer brands.
A Lifestyle Shift
To better understand this phenomenon, Natural Marketing Institute conducted a study that divided consumers into five segments based on their attitudes and behaviors concerning wellness. While useful, I prefer an even more basic segmentation that differentiates three distinct attitudes.
- This group pursues wellness largely in terms of avoiding doctors and medicines. They want to stay informed and do what they can to stay healthy and aware.
- These consumers believe there are better ways to manage health and wellness, and are interested in (and willing to try) non-traditional products and services, such as supplements, injectables or natural and alternative beauty approaches. They’re looking for easier solutions (more naturally) to optimize their inner and outer health.
- Wellness Lifestyle
- These are the true believers and the most passionate about being well. To them, wellness is simply a part of who they are and their daily routine and life patterns.
While each of these segments offers significant opportunities for brands, retailers, and medical providers, consumers who’ve adopted the Wellness Lifestyle are most interesting to me. They’re on the leading edge of this broad attitudinal shift and merit a closer look.
A Closer Look
A number of characteristics make the Wellness Lifestyle so attractive to retail and CPG brands. These consumers are:
- While this lifestyle has a broad reach, the most committed participants skew young. According to the Cassandra Report, more than 80% of 18-34 year olds spend 25% of their disposable income on health products and services, and 62% of Generation Ys believe that all brands will need a wellness component to survive. This is a coveted demographic for many companies looking to build relationships with their brands.
- Passionate — and habitual
- They are genuinely excited about wellness, and eating right and exercising are not seen as obligations or drudgery, but as a preference. Daily and weekly routines keep them on track, from meal planning and workouts to yoga and cross-fit. These patterns represent interesting opportunities — including a frequency behavior that is always good for retail. And even infrequent opportunities, such as special events and vacations, often place wellness at the center of their time. Wellness tourism — travel primarily motivated by wellness activities – is estimated to be a half trillion dollar industry worldwide.
- Expressive and social
- Some would even say fanatical. This is a group that strongly identifies with their wellness pursuits – they wear it with pride and dress the part. Which, according to Euromonitor International, is one reason the athleisure apparel market has grown at a rate 91% higher than the overall apparel market. These are like-minded participants who like to support one another’s goals, work out and enjoy meals together, and post their activities and accomplishments on social media.
Here to Stay
This isn’t a fleeting trend. These patterns and behaviors appear to be deep rooted, and inspiration for healthy living continues to broaden the market. It is also part of a new generation of parenting and will surely get passed down to their children. While overall retailing exhibits slow growth, the Global Wellness Institute reports the health and wellness market has grown at a 10.6% rate over the last several years. That momentum is predicted to continue.
This presents retailers and brands myriad opportunities. But taking advantage of this dramatic shift in attitude and lifestyle patterns will demand change as well. Today’s retailing environment does not speak to these consumers, need-states, and passions in a strong or compelling way. Stores and brands have an opportunity to rethink how this lifestyle is activated in the overall shopping experience. This may involve the need to tell new merchandising stories, define new categories and departments, explore new services and store formats – even consider new business models.
To prepare for and respond to these changes, it helps to ask some fundamental questions:
- How does my brand communicate emotional benefits vs. functional benefits, and does that demonstrate our understanding of this lifestyle/mindset?
- How can we think through a wellness lens to bring categories and departments together in-store or online?
- If consumers are seeking information and education on wellness, how can my brand messaging provide this to them?
These may be new stories for your brand to tell, but they’re crucial to aligning with the Wellness Lifestyle audience, building their trust, and meeting their needs.
The upside of all this change? You’ll appeal to an essential part of these consumers’ identities and build a relationship with them in a very personal and beneficial way. Wellness is emotional. Earning their faith and becoming part of their mission is very much a key to brand engagement and loyalty.
WD Partners has been serving the Health & Wellness market for many years, applying a blend of unique capabilities, thinking and approaches to this growing and evolving sector.
For more information on how WD can assist you with your Health & Wellness strategy please contact: