Taru Inari Mäkinen
Taru Inari Mäkinen 13 July 2021

To Heal not Harm: Why the Future is Digital For Wellbeing Brands

In an era when we’re often told spending too much time online can be harmful for young people, the wellbeing industry is bucking the trend. During the pandemic many of us have paid closer attention to our physical and mental wellbeing. Add to this an increase in hours spent scouring the internet and it’s no wonder digital is becoming more of a focus for brands in the wellbeing space.

To get under the skin of this trend, we surveyed 900 participants between the ages of 20 and 30 across our three operating markets - the UK, Spain and Mexico - and interviewed many more, as we sought to understand what wellbeing means to them.

We also investigated how Covid-19 has changed the sector digitally, and opportunities for brands driven by emerging consumer behaviours. In this article we’ll focus on UK responses.

Recognise Social Calms

One of the most interesting findings is that more than a third of this age group use social media profiles and apps (35%) to access and manage wellbeing brands and content. This chimes with the high proportion of consumers using smartphones to help manage their personal wellbeing (84%).

One explanation is that, compared with Spain and Mexico where video is by far respondents’ preferred method of accessing wellbeing brands, the UK is a more digitally mature market with younger consumers more used to discovering products and services ‘on the go’.

Regardless of the exact reason, the research points firmly towards the UK’s 20- to 30-year-olds being at peace with their digital wellbeing routines - and that presents opportunities for brands in the space to build lasting relationships with these wellness spenders of the next decades.

Build Healthy Relationships

It’s predicted that by 2025 the global health and wellness market will have grown by 5.3% since 2019. Interest in self-development has been trending for several years - witness the rise of “wellness influencers” - and in combination with brands’ rapid shift to an online strategy this has led to the natural rise of digital wellbeing resources.

The closure of in-person services during the past year has also given wellbeing brands a chance to truly engage with their audiences in different ways, tapping into the power of digital. Only a minority of UK respondents (16%) now state they prefer in-person services, while 31% prefer digital services. Digital resources tend to be cheaper for consumers, and the threshold for trying them is lower.

Meanwhile, half of our UK respondents say they engage in more wellbeing practices now than they did before Covid-19. This, together with super digitalisation means the trend won’t end when the pandemic does; these behaviours are set to stick. They’re especially evident among the age group we surveyed, for several reasons. UK consumers aged 20 to 30 are:

  • Reaching a life stage where it’s important to look after yourself amid the pressures of establishing a career, perhaps getting on the housing ladder, or even raising a young family
  • Digitally savvy, completely comfortable with buying and building relationships with brands online across a range of sectors

They’re major internet users - and also the big wellbeing spenders of the future. Getting noticed by them now is the smart thing for brands to do; as this age group’s wealth will continue to grow.

The key reason that digital services are so popular for wellbeing is their accessibility both physically and mentally, and general affordability. Given young UK consumers’ predilection for using services on their smartphones, apps are an obvious way to reach them with information and offers.

A Quick Fix Won’t Do

So, when consumers seek wellbeing brands and content what grabs their attention?

The research shows this age group is looking for a holistic approach to wellbeing. Instead of offering a siloed approach - such as a standalone calorie-counting app or a protein shake subscription - an offering that takes into account an individual’s quality of life is much more appealing than a quick fix.

Wellbeing services must ultimately make the consumer’s life easier, rather than dictating goals, or the consumer will be unlikely to persevere with the brand.

Nike, Gymshark, Calm and Headspace were labelled by respondents as “wellbeing brands” that have consumers’ best interests at heart - brands that are inspiring rather than educating. Consider Nike’s campaigns with their key message of inclusivity and encouragement, not results. Calm and Headspace also play on a holistic approach to wellbeing, featuring a combination of mental, physical and emotional aspects.

Other brands are coming up on the rails. Little wonder, as 49% of UK-based respondents say clear communication of wellbeing values is more likely to persuade them to buy a brand.

Kellogg’s is a good example of reinvention as a wellbeing brand. It has gone beyond its traditional realm to help consumers look after themselves by connecting a plant-based food portfolio with physical, emotional and social health, “redefining nourishment”.

Finally, it’s vital to note there’s no need to profess your brand knows it all. For the sake of credibility, acknowledge the importance of the topic of wellbeing, and support and motivate your consumer - without claiming expertise.

To summarise, our findings clearly show that the pandemic has accelerated an existing trend, but the best thing a brand can offer a 20-something consumer is a service or product that will impact their quality of life.

Long gone are the days of single-minded wellbeing services – this generation appreciates motivation and a holistic approach to self-care. Brands must take note of this evolving trend and understand that the wellbeing sector hasn’t temporarily moved online - its future is truly digital.

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