Analysis: Why all retailers need a jab of health and wellness

good idea to broaden your horizon. 

Similarly, as retailers and retail marketers, we need to benchmark ourselves against more than just our direct competitors. The opponents we line up against every day (and their global equivalents) provide a necessary and useful comparison, but it’s not sufficient. Consumers don’t neatly collect and categorise their experiences into separate buckets. Instead, they have what are called ‘liquid expectations’ that are ‘fluid across industries’. Why then should we just navel-gaze at our own category or even our specific industry?

We should seek to widen our competitive set and the categories from which we draw inspiration and illumination. And I was recently reminded (while presenting to TerryWhite Chemmart) that one of the best areas for inspiration today is health and wellness. 

Before I turn to why, let’s look at the ‘what’. What is the category exactly? McKinsey & Co answers this question in the right way – that is, from the consumer’s perspective – and breaks down wellness into six dimensions: better health, better fitness, better nutrition, better appearance, better sleep, and better mindfulness. 

Health and wellness is a $2 trillion-plus category, growing at 5-10 per cent annually. Better health, which includes medicine and supplements but also medical devices, telemedicine, and remote healthcare services, gets the most consumer focus and spending.

OK, so the category is big and broad, but so what? Well, the fact is that in a post-pandemic world, consumers have been reminded more than ever that health is everything. Their liquid expectations are that, to varying extents, every brand should behave like a health and wellness brand and prioritise consumer wellbeing. Retailers across the world are responding to the call:

  • In the US, Petco has repositioned itself as “the health and wellness co.” for pets
  • In South Korea, Nike’s flagship Rise concept includes a zone called the Huddle, which offers group sessions and one-on-ones on “movement, mindset, recovery, nutrition, and sleep”
  • Back in Australia, Woolworths has rebooted Healthylife, a failing physical retailer, turning it into a digital destination for health and wellness 

Further, two years of Covid-19 have accelerated advances in connected and digital health, with some of the most interesting tech innovations anywhere now happening in health and wellness. For all retailers, this trend offers much to observe and learn from. For example:

  • Amazon has partnered with telehealth provider Teladoc in the US, to allow Alexa owners to talk to their device and summon up a doctor 24/7. What are you doing in voice activation and commerce, and how are you using tech to make it easier for consumers to interact with your brand?
  • Los Angeles-based Alo Yoga has created Alo Sanctuary, a virtual space to bring “wellness to the metaverse” on Roblox. Do you have plans for Web 3.0, and if so, how will you make your retail experience relevant?
  • Apple is rumoured to be adding a number of new health features to its upcoming Apple Watch series 8: “blood-pressure monitoring, a thermometer for fertility and sleep tracking, sleep apnea detection, and diabetes detection”. How seamless and well-connected is your ecosystem, and what additional services might be valuable for consumers?
  • Connected personal health data will enable the emergence of digital twins – accurate virtual replicas of patients – and transform healthcare, allowing health professionals to diagnose and treat patients with real-time feeds of their data. How could the concept of digital twins apply to your retail business? It could work amazingly well for fitting in fashion, for instance, assuming consumers were comfortable sharing live data on their shape.

Looking more broadly, the wellness-aware consumer now also believes that every brand should look after the health of its workers and the world. A global research study just being finalised now by VMLY&R shows that abuse of workers and poor working practices are the biggest reasons Gen Z would stop buying from a brand.

Enlightened businesses respond appropriately and in real time. A pertinent example right now is how some major retailers have reacted since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leading to abortion being restricted or banned in several states. Global brands including Apple, LVMH, Disney, Nike, and Adidas have promised to cover employees’ travel expenses if they need to leave a US state to access safe and legal abortion services elsewhere.

Patagonia released a statement on LinkedIn outlining its support for employees as well. 

“Caring for employees is the responsibility of business. Caring for employees extends beyond basic health insurance, so we take a more holistic approach to coverage and support overall wellness to which every human has a right,” the outdoor retailer stated. “That means offering employees the dignity of access to reproductive healthcare. It means supporting employees’ choices around if or when they have a child. It means giving parents the resources they need to work and raise children.”

The concept of health and wellness extends even further within organisations in the form of brand values and purpose. 

  • Walgreens Boots Alliance (the group behind Walgreens drugstores in the US and Boots in the UK) has programs and campaigns in place to promote a healthier community, a healthier and inclusive workplace, and a healthier planet
  • Outside of healthcare, Starbucks has a commitment to “do things that are good to people, each other and the planet”
  • Local online fashion retailer The Iconic speaks to the “social and environmental impacts of our organisation” and a commitment to create a “more sustainable and healthy world”

So, think outside your category and ask yourself some questions. What’s your angle on health and wellness? What can you learn from health and wellness brands in terms of their use of technology? And how are you ‘living health and wellness’ in the way you do business?

By thinking more laterally, and considering health and wellness, you just might end up with a healthier business overall.

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