HOW BRANDS CAN SUPPORT CONSUMER WELLNESS DURING ISOLATION

MINTEL | "The growing spread of COVID-19 is altering consumer routines – from spending time with family and friends to partaking in usual activities such as going to the gym – adults are bound to home isolation and forced to accept limited person-to-person interaction. In this time of uncertainty, adults are looking for some semblance of normalcy as they face additional and possibly first-time stressors, including financial insecurity, income loss, social isolation, health concerns and fear of the unknown.

Mintel examines consumer behavior through the lens of seven drivers, determining what is impacting attitudes and actions now and in the future. Mintel consumer driver, ‘Identity,’ explores how consumers understand and express their place in society. Adults find comfort in groups that share something in common. The unwavering desire for community drives people to band together and find connection in times of inevitable separation. Adults also feel a sense of identity and pride when they are in control of their health and wellbeing. With self-care being an aspect of health that consumers place a significant emphasis on, many wellness-focused brands are making a difference by providing an outlet for community, connection and support when the outside world feels chaotic.

At-home exercise platforms find their voice

What it means

In-person relationships are necessary to everyday life and are being compromised in the attempts to limit the spread of COVID-19. Instead, people are leaning heavily on technology to provide new connections and access to a myriad of brand products and services. With adults spending more time at home, fitness brands are taking this opportunity to strengthen their relationships with current users and enticing new users to stay active and healthy. Luckily, consumers are already accustomed to working out in their homes. According to Mintel research on exercise trends, more than half of exercisers report working out within their home, and frequency of at-home exercise is even more substantial for adults who are interested in digital workouts.

Brand response

During times of shelter-in-place, fitness facilities are challenged to stay relevant and profitable with their members. Some niche exercise franchises, such as CorePower Yoga, have turned to social media platforms to provide free, streamable classes for users to join at home. Equinox is maintaining engagement by sending daily check-ins to members through their app with exercise tips, self-care advice and health-forward rituals to continue during home isolation. Digital fitness platforms like Peloton, that already have at-home exercise content on hand, have found their stride with many by offering extended free trials to gain new members.

What consumers want and why

Adults who exercise at boutique fitness facilities are more likely to seek out a sense of community than those who work out in a traditional gym setting. Fostering a sense of community and belonging when in-person contact has been discouraged is even more critical to keep users engaged during and after COVID-19. Providing users with daily check-ins, unfiltered workouts and honest content can reinforce a sense of support, connectedness and relatability.

According to Mintel research health management trends, nearly half of adults say making activities fun would help them achieve their health and wellness goals. To move beyond the clutter of digital exercise offerings, brands can infuse some enjoyment and encouragement into staying active. Developing workouts that involve family or creating virtual challenges to reach a larger goal (ie competition where participation results in a brand donation to a charitable foundation) could keep adults even more motivated during shelter in place.

Mental health services cater to the masses

What it means

Exercise brands are not the only form of self-care services evolving quickly in response to heightened demand. Mental/emotional health apps are recognizing that many adults are facing new and daunting challenges with unclear solutions. According to Mintel data on health hurdles, nearly one-third of adults say their day-to-day responsibilities keep them from reaching their health and wellness goals. For some adults, everyday responsibilities may include at-home schooling and child care, cooking every meal, working remote, seeking a new source of income and more. Self-care brands have the opportunity to act as a simple tool for stress relief, advice and maintaining a sense of calm as consumers adjust.

Brand response

In mid-March 2020, popular meditation app Headspace announced free subscriptions to healthcare professionals through the end of the year; an offer for front-line responders who will undoubtedly need support during and well after the current COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Headspace partnered with Hyatt to unlock a collection of meditation and sleep therapy sessions free to the general public titled “Weathering the Storm.” Efforts are mirrored by many self-care companies to help adults find mental/emotional wellbeing during the crisis.

What consumers want and why

Before the threat of COVID-19, Americans were particularly aspirational with their health and wellness goals because they perceive health management as an ongoing process of improvementWith most adults already focused on bettering their wellbeing in some capacity, it is now time for brands to help consumers feel in control of their health: reinforcing that wellness aspirations are not out of reach amidst uncertain times. Brands should latch on to the power of human connection and support their community when day-to-day routines are compromised.

Areas of opportunity to provide consumers self-care and health security

Healthy living, from all aspects, provides security: Due to the commonality of widespread illnesses, it may be difficult for Americans to differentiate the symptoms of common ailments from symptoms of COVID-19. The threat of getting sick during a global pandemic may increase future proactive measures adults take to stay healthy. Consumers’ priority of healthy living will expand to include protection from illness and mitigating feelings of uncertainty. Post-pandemic, people will come back into contact with germs through daily commitments, such as use of public transportation, travel, exercise, dropping off kids at school and more. Living life doesn’t leave much room for avoiding contagions. Key players can acknowledge the inevitable occurrence of getting sick and encourage adults to make small, attainable changes throughout the year to better prepare for peak illness season.

Sexual wellness brands and relationship services can hone in on connection: In-person connection with significant others or casual relationships may be limited during COVID-19. According to the US Census Bureau, more than 35 million households in the US are people that live alone. Single adults may experience heightened feelings of loneliness and distance as shelter-in-place efforts become the norm. While this reality may limit sexual activity, consumers have a broad understanding of sexual health that extends beyond intercourse. Consumers report nearly even usage of contraceptives and sexual enhancement products (includes personal devices, personal lubricants or medication for sexual enhancement). Practicing safe sex is viewed as a necessity for some, but connection and experience are integral aspects of sexual activity. Sexual health brands are already working to diminish stereotypes associated with sexuality, but key players can use the current situation to highlight themes such as digital relationships, relaxation and self-love to help adults feel connected or trying something new.

The intersect of intimacy and technology has been criticized as some believe a reliance on technology promotes a surface-level “swipe left” culture and prevents face-to-face interactions. However, in times of forced isolation, using technology to enhance open and honest communication could build future acceptance of sexual wellness as a means of self-care."

Andrea Wroble is a Health & Wellness Analyst at Mintel. Andrea focuses on writing reports and providing consumer-driven insights for health and wellness categories.