Hybrid health: how health and wellness brands are having to embrace change

Health and Wellness | 31/08/2021 | Written by David Angus

Health. There probably has never been a time in the modern era where it has been a topic of so much conversation. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic entered centre stage, health and wellness was creeping ever more in the consumer consciousness and governmental policy. Whether related to the food we buy, the exercise we take or the apps we use, there has never been an age where there is so much information and opinion available. 

When talking about accelerated shifts, 68% of survey respondents (Mckinsey) are thinking more about health and wellness after the onset of the pandemic than before.

With Mckinsey forecasting 5% to 10% growth within the health and wellness space a year, there has never been a time when health, wellness and fitness brands have sensed so much opportunity or felt so much threat. Societal patterns have changed faster than were either anticipated and this has led to a conundrum for the fitness and wellness sector. 

Fitness and wellness also span across a larger paradigm of factors. Mckinsey put this across 6 dimensions:

Interconnecting these factors now becomes a challenge and opportunity. How do they market to the new and emerging hybrid consumer? A consumer that has navigated lockdown through a host of apps, home equipment and hour-long runs. A consumer that has embraced agility within their wellness schedule. A consumer that now has the power of ever-evolving choice.

When discussing interconnection, surveying suggests that although 70% of people intend to maintain or increase online fitness habits, 95% of those surveyed are missing at least one element provided by physical venues. This is symptomatic of a consumer that is demanding flexibility and highlights the future fragmentation of the health and wellness space.

There are a few factors that Curated anticipate will shine through in the future of the hybrid health space.

Together, stronger

It’s clear that brands, particularly gyms, will see a threat to their footfall or the engagement that they may have got pre-pandemic. This does not mean that they won’t be able to reach their desired customer base, however, partnerships and collaborations will need to be stronger as the battle for visibility will grow. The winners from the pandemic (app and fitness equipment providers) will not go away and instead of fighting the tide, understanding how best to work with these providers will be key.

This extends to the role of influencers and ambassadors. Choosing the right people to align with the brand and brand partners is going to become essential to delivering brand value and equity across the sphere of dimensions, whether it is nutrition, fitness or mindfulness.

If you cannot be different, be distinct

The pandemic would have changed the consumers’ view on how and where they can train forever. For those who train regularly and continue to train through lockdown, new options have emerged. What can be executed in the home environment vs training at a gym? What can the gyms or fitness establishments offer that is unique from the norm? For some, it is easy: advanced equipment, community, skill-based classes. The distinction is becoming more and more important for gyms and being aware of how they play a part in a consumer’s holistic fitness journey is ever more important.

It is time to embrace the power of the consumer and the options now available to them. Brands need to give the customer something distinct to win their attention.

Not for everyone

The adage ‘we are not for everyone’ could not be truer now. Whether gym, app, equipment or nutrition company. Double down on your audience and do not chase a market that is not accessible. In the long-term, your prospects of greater LTV from a loyal customer base is incredibly important. Stick to your core brand message and live and breathe it. If you are a specialist, dine out on that fact. If your motivation is to just get people moving, ensure your offering and messaging is aligned with that and do not get distracted by shiny new trends that may be difficult to mobilise within the current strategy and configuration of the brand.

Embrace health equity

Although, do not forget the potential impact of health equity. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the divide between the haves and the have nots, not only financially, but physically. Surveying has suggested a physical activity gap is emerging with around 40% less active and 30% more active. 

Bearing in mind brands will have a clear idea of the profile of the target customer, there is a responsibility of health and wellness businesses in all guises to work together to champion holistic health and wellness. Whether that is offering a plethora of nutrition advice, concessions on sporting equipment or using ambassadors with the multi-market appeal, health and wellness have a role to play in closing the physical activity gap. This is much the role of the brands as it is the governmental policy.

Think like a publisher

Do not dismiss the power of content. Content and advice everywhere. Some of it is fantastic, some of it not so good. This stream of knowledge and advice usually emanates from influencers or ambassadors, however, how can a brand own this space? CrossFit is one of the best examples of this but they are targeted at a very specific audience. There are multiple cues on what people are looking for via digital channels – IG, Pinterest, Twitter, Quora, Reddit etc. These channels offer ample opportunity for a brand to engage on with quality, thought-provoking content., whilst using these platforms as an entry into the world of their end customer.

Take the changing room online

There is a huge opportunity for brands to establish their communities online. ‘Tribe’ building is not new, but when linking back to the importance of the target market we start to understand the power of the community. Give them a forum to speak and let that guide your decision making. What movement are they struggling with? Enter a PT. Why are they struggling with their diet plan? Enter a nutritionist. Why can’t they get deeper with their squat? Enter a yoga/mobility expert. Whether through traditional social channels or your own software, this is a goldmine of information.

Summary: wellness as a way of life

To put it simply, wellness is becoming a way of life. In a more fragmented and saturated environment, brands will have to work harder to cut through so the value they need to pass back to the end-consumer becomes more important. This means they cannot be dismissive of competitors, disruptors or potential partners as a route to market. Brands need to understand that the consumer has more power over when, where and how they train and need to facilitate these motivations. 

Given the pace of change, it is hard to predict where the industry will end up. One thing that is evident is that the opportunity is huge for wellness brands and those that can embrace the change faster, will win the battle.

Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our team today.

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