The relationship between consumers and their health is transforming at an unprecedented speed. From athleisure and cannabis to plant-based burgers and in-mall fitness centers, the trend behind so many of today’s breakthrough consumer movements is wellness. Consumers are seeking health innovations and depending on brands to help them achieve their goals. Regardless of industry, understanding these trends more deeply can help brands leverage this extraordinary moment.
While there are many societal shifts driving health and wellness today (e.g. rising healthcare costs, aging population), consumers are also playing a major role in the changing marketplace today as well – many shifts in people’s attitudes and behaviors are worth a closer look.
Stress and anxiety are rising at an extraordinary pace. Out of the 20+ concerns that GfK Consumer Life tracks annually, more societal worries have risen than declined since 2009 – from climate change and terrorism to economic inequality and the cost of healthcare. What’s more, one of the fastest-rising mindsets from just 2016 until today is the worry about personal safety and security. It’s clear that consumers are on the hunt for products and services that make them feel protected.
This has manifested itself in the rising focus on self-care and mindfulness. More than half of Americans are seeking control over their unpredictable lives, and over a third are looking for opportunities to pamper themselves, a sentiment that has risen significantly in recent years. But these desires are often not material – they are much more about mental and emotional indulgences, products and services that give people the safety net they’re looking for. Health innovations include meditation apps like Headspace and Calm, increasingly part of the mainstream, deliver on this need, providing a safe space that makes users feel empowered and centered.
Consumers are also telling us that safety and well-being are increasingly critical aspects of innovation. New offerings can take many shapes – from physical items that may offer new levels of comfort like weighted blankets to innovative textiles used by companies like Under Armour that convert your body heat into energy that is reflected back to you.
The impact of the rising cost of healthcare cannot be understated. Today, this is the #2 concern among all Americans, who often have to make tough decisions about what level of healthcare they’re able to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Experts believe that the traditional model of healthcare delivery is shifting to a preventative mode, where the focus is more on healthy behaviors and real-time monitoring. It follows, then, that almost 7 out of 10 (69%) Americans today are taking a more proactive approach to their health through their behaviors and the products that they choose to consume.
Many are re-examining their diets with this approach in mind and learning a lot more about the medical benefits of functional foods. For example, almost 3 out of 10 Americans today decide what to eat or drink based on whether pre- or pro-biotics are included. And in response, established brands like Tropicana now offer items that are friendly to the digestive system.
Detection will also be an important element in health innovations. GfK Consumer Life research shows that Americans share a growing strong desire for proactive identification of threats such as allergens, contaminants, polluted air, and much more. New devices and services that do better jobs of identifying these threats to our health will become more of a “must have” in the future.
More and more, consumers are playing the lead role in managing their own health, and the roots of this trend are in the evolution of the consumer’s broader worldview. Today, freedom (#4) and self-reliance (#9) are top-10 personal values in the US. What’s more, we increasingly define ourselves by more personal metrics of success (such as being true to ourselves) than our relationships with others, whether it’s as a parent, spouse, or friend. Autonomy, which has in many ways been accelerated by technology, is dictating more consumer needs today – but this doesn’t mean that brands can’t be involved as well.
This manifests itself clearly within the health and wellness space. Americans agree that their top physical concerns, particularly as they age, are closely tied to mobility and independence – it’s critical to them that they’re able to do what they want, when they want, for as long as they want. Brands that support this need for both physical and mental mobility will be successful in the future, like this concept of a “smart rehab” device from Nokia.
This shift of control from brands, retailers, and advertisers to customers is apparent across many other categories. This is due to not only how attitudes and personal values are shifting, but also the vast amount of information now available from our peers via social media, review sites, and more. This is one of the reasons behind the growth of the direct-to-consumer industry in recent years. Consumers are informed and self-directed, and successful brands of the future need to accommodate them as such. Recently, we’ve seen established companies such as Nike take advantage of this business model, selling more products directly to individuals and creating more ways for them to find community.
As consumers increasingly take charge of their well-being, brands of every kind need to track their changing desires and concerns to stay a step ahead of demand and build close relationships with their customers seeking health innovations.
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