The wellness market is booming and is as holistic as its products are niche.
Vitamins, hand sanitizer, meditation apps, massage guns, face masks, essential oils, medicine balls, CBD oil, vibrators…
Wellness products saturate the retail market. It’s not taboo anymore for consumers to talk and share secrets about their physical, mental, or even sexual health, making the wellness market an arena of whole body feel-good.
This was true during the pandemic, where health became front and center whether we liked it or not. But with the lockdown in our rearview mirrors, the wellness market is continuing to expand at unprecedented rates.
It’s a market currently valued at $1.5 trillion, with an expected annual growth of 5-10%.
The spread of a virus isn’t only to blame. In 2021, Black Lives Matter protests and sexual harassment awareness did little to curb the interest in mental improvement.
And today, there is a remarkable push to deconstruct individual and collective trauma, placing mental and physical empowerment on a pedestal.
Brands have always matched their product offerings with the zeitgeist. In the 21st century, it seems more pertinent than ever that retailers participate in the wellness market. Not only to satisfy consumer demand but to be customer-centric by having a mindset that sells benefits over pushing products.
Why is it wellness such a profitable market? Which categories have come out on top? And which categories barely survive, versus the ones that thrive?
The holistic practice of wellness products
According to Pew Research Center, more than 70% of GenZ’s across all genders, races, and income levels experience anxiety and depression. Millennials and GenZ also notably require the brands they shop from to take a stance on social issues.
Wellness goes hand-in-hand with the environment consumers are interacting with on a daily basis. Climate change is met with eco-anxiety. Lockdown is an argument for protecting the collective versus the self.
It’s no longer imperative for brands to provide escapism through consumption. Instead, the wellness market becomes successful when its touchpoints provide natural and authentic ways for customers to improve their physical, mental, and sexual health.
This, coupled with the desire for more environmentally friendly products, is already putting things like natural, organic, and biological on a pedestal. Gone are the diet-seeking days of pharmaceutical success.
Today, shoppers are seeking real products personalized to their wellness goals, from every vertical like beauty, nutrition, and exercise.
After all, there is a connection between all these facets of wellness. Plant-based foods benefit immunity and metabolism, and a healthy, rested, and well-exercised body inevitably contributes to a better mental state.
Wellness is holistic, which is why the market is so powerful. Products that are sold independently of each other while staying in line with the individual shopper’s state of being. This, in effect, is the future of retail. It’s 1:1, customer-centric, and authentic.
Mind, body, soul…and sleep
BBC: Sleep Gadgets
In 2019, consumers in the US reportedly spent $16 billion on mattresses, making the marketplace for mattresses an increasingly competitive category. Sleep is a fascinating category for wellness.
While 86% of Americans have trouble falling asleep, more studies have linked sleep health to both mental and physical wellbeing. Sleep has become an easy and profitable category to target, with the opportunity to optimize and innovate traditional ‘sleep’ products.
In the first months of 2020, the meditation app Calm brought in $99.4 million in revenue. Their ‘sleep stories’ are a key pillar of their growth, and they now bring in celebrities like Stephen Fry or LeBron James.
It’s a simple premise – celebrities reading you bedtime stories. But it’s one that is changing the traditional parameters of healthy sleep, encompassing mindfulness, meditation, and visualization to challenge the customer to sleep better without the aid of medications.
The so-called sleep economy makes up a large chunk of the wellness market, and sleep tech can be anything these days from pillows to apps. It can also be anywhere. Nap York is a pod that provides a place to nap or meditate for busy New Yorkers. Airports now offer GoSleep pods to promote rest while traveling. It seems sleep is as holistic as it is prolific.
This is concurrent with the theme of wellness in general. The rise of the sleep market in the past few years is symbolic of what the wellness market as a whole represents. We’re now witnessing how no product is too niche, and brands that snooze don’t lose.
When we try to work out how to workout
This holistic approach to wellness applies to physical fitness and health, too. In 2020, Lululemon acquired Mirror for $500 million. Mirror is an interactive display that offers fitness classes for working out at home.
Mirror, along with many other emerging workout techs, caters to the ‘at home workout’ category, which (if the sale of yoga mats or workout bands is any indication of) grew exponentially over the past few years. Not to mention how successful Peloton was during the pandemic (+127% sales).
In the UK, 53.3% of consumers bought at-home workout products from 2019 to 2021. Yet, of the UK consumers that did home workouts, 31.7% say they did not exercise regularly before.
While it’s true that baking bread and choreographing TikToks can be attributed to pandemic boredom, at-home workouts reveal something deeper about consumer behavior.
Consumers want to feel better. They want to stay healthy, no doubt to prevent the spread of viruses, but also because they crave self-optimization.
Is this something the post-pandemic years will forgo?
At the end of 2021, AP News reported that Peloton sales ‘hit a wall’. Lululemon has already fallen back on their ambitious predictions for Mirror sales.
Where do brands go from here?
Running away or towards a wellness boom?
According to research from World Athletics, 13% of all runners started running in 2021, marking a notable running boom during the pandemic. The report continues to say that, “among the many benefits of running is the chance to experience the ‘runner’s high’.”
People won’t be quick to get rid of this high. Exercise is up 88%, and half of the world says they will continue to work out.
Where running shows a small glimpse of behaviors that are here to stay, the running market makes up a huge chunk of the exercise boom (much like mindfulness and sleep for wellness).
While many consumers have looked to wellness products to help cope with the grief and stress of the pandemic, others have indeed adopted healthy habits that will stick. Mother of three, Mathilde, agrees, saying,
“I started running in the pandemic to get out of the house and away from my problems. But there’s no shortage of stress in everyday life and, for many younger consumers, there is an uphill battle to overcome the trauma of the past few years.”
Retail therapy for the long haul
It can be said, then, that it’s not just movement and exercise that consumers crave, but a holistic feeling of wellbeing. If brands can continue to put this holistic approach to health and wellness at the forefront of their product offerings, they will continue to reap the benefits of such a profitable market.
When Lululemon acquired Mirror, their chief executive said, “this isn’t just about getting guests to buy apparel. This is about strengthening our community and our loyalty and our relationship with our guests and memberships.”
Consumers want to feel connected. They want to trust what brands are selling them when it comes to personal health and wellness offerings. At the same time, they want to see new and inspired products that disrupt traditional category expectations.
If brands can offer these three things when selling wellness – community, trust, and innovation – they will move away from the ‘quick fix’ of retail therapy.
Today, it’s a question of offering pleasing product experiences in line with a customer-centric brand ambition. This is not only true for the wellness market, but for all product offerings to come out of the pandemic.
It’s not about selling an idea of wellness, but an entire wellness experience to participate in creating a happier and healthier world.