The wellness industry, a multi-billion dollar business, is so amorphous and so fluid in its evolution, it's hard to get one's arms around it, as is its consumer. The attitudes and behaviors of the wellness consumer have been changing at an ever-accelerated pace for more than a decade. Therefore, as a progressive and essential industry, trends in the wellness market will echo larger cultural changes taking place in the American consumer's perceptions and behavior. In fact, events of recent years have forced these consumers to question, reflect, re-examine, explore and analyze on both an organizational and individual level.
Where Are Wellness Consumers Heading?
Consumers' behavior and purchase decisions are shifting to reflect what they feel is most important, what products and services they put a value on and what they are most willing to pay for or invest in. Alongside the reprioritization of values, consumers are also being pushed to redefine essential and non-essential needs, "Do I really need that new J. Crew sweater, when I already have 17 sweaters filling up my closet?"
The shifting of consumers' needs — material and non-material — will not only reflect a dynamic of "either/or," meaning consumers will not simply stop buying one product or service and replace it with a more valued alternative. Instead, this process of shifting will also act as a catalyst for the industry's expansion as consumer perceptions broaden to encompass a wider range of needs. For example, wellness consumers who desire to slow down, feel connected and simplify may dramatically increase their amount of total wellness consumption (measured in dollars as well as time invested) because they start to prioritize what they "really need" — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. For example, they may want to take more time and invest in personal fitness training or seek out local spa experiences.
The expanding consumer needs will mirror the intensification of wellness behaviors. In light of this, consumers will behave in less logical and predictable ways and, instead, do what "makes sense" to them. Determining what "makes sense" (both consciously and unconsciously) to a wellness consumer will be an ongoing challenge for the wellness industry.
Wellness Trends to Watch
The pursuit of a wellness lifestyle is not really "new" news given that currently more than three-quarters of consumers (76%) are engaging in activities to lower their health risks and prevent disease. And this marketplace continues to be fluid, constantly evolving and driven by a changing consumer; therefore, it is a complex entity as there is no one specific type of consumer and no one set lifestyle. Today's consumers pursue a life — and express themselves — in ways previously unimagined. These pursuits and expressions form the cornerstone of what we see as nine trends affecting the wellness marketplace in a big way.
- Globalization. This has had a dramatic impact on wellness rituals and trends through the introduction of global foods, beverages, supplements and practices. Globalization invites anyone and everyone to experiment with how they take care of their bodies, minds and spirits.
- Personalization. Consumers will shift towards wellness products and services that make their lives easier: places that are not so overwhelming that decision making becomes a chore, people that help consumers navigate through massive amounts of wellness information, products that are easy to understand, prepare and use and services that help meet their wellness goals on their terms.
- Diversity. Extensive choice (selection, variety, experience, etc.) is now the norm and expected. Diversity results from future consumers seeking out the "new," demonstrating little consistent loyalty to brands. While diversity increases the demand for information, functional benefits as well as emotional benefits, it also allows for intensified customization and personalization in daily living.
- Optimism. Consumers believe it is possible and desirable to do most things by themselves and to do so better than the "experts." Access to information systems and abundant choices make consumers more optimistic to prevent and manage their wellness lifestyle. Due to this reason, they will actively seek a supporting community of like-minded consumers and spend more time in activities that are more meaningful. These consumers will gravitate towards fitness professionals that provide them with community and experience, acting as trusted lifestyle advocates (e.g., providing networking opportunities to other effective wellness resources/events as well as connecting people experiencing the same lifestyles choices).
- Vitality. Over-taxed workers orient toward vitality in their health regimes. Focus on weight management and obesity issues has led to an accompanying focus on energy and exercise, domains where vitality plays a critical role. Vitality spans physical, emotional, mental and social domains.
- Simplicity. To live simply is to live well. Cultivating self-reliance and maximizing control over daily life minimizes dependence on others. Simplicity is an antidote to the perceived complexity and stress of modern life. The need to simplify will drive consumers to seek experiences rather than things.
- Redefining Quality. Quality equals healthier, especially as consumers are looking to make connections. Such quality is understood differently, depending on the product or service. Thus, evaluations are a function of interaction with the service and expert opinion (both independent professionals and publications as well peers' "first hand" accounts). Consumers are, in fact, willing to pay more for services that are perceived to be higher quality.
- Prevention. With continued focus on prevention, alternative medicine will grow as consumers integrate these therapies with conventional medicine. They will not turn away from the conventional medical approach, but instead, they will supplement it with new techniques and approaches.
- Self-indulgence. The spa services market will continue to grow and evolve as consumers search for small luxuries to indulge in that reduce stress and contribute to their overall health and well-being. We will see increased day spa visits made possible by more in-and-out spas in convenient locations, such as shopping malls, fitness clubs, airports and hotels. In addition, more Americans will choose destination spas for their vacations where fitness, pampering and fine dining is all-inclusive.
Laurie Demeritt is President and COO of The Hartman Group, a leading consulting and market research firm. For more information, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.