Make Room for the WellTech Boom

Wellness products create healthy retail opportunities

Whether driven by the necessity to tackle obesity, the appeal of making a healthy lifestyle even healthier, or simply the desire to take responsibility for their own well being, consumers are taking a more active role in their health and wellness.

In doing so, consumers are seeking electronics that can help them. The wellness technology (WellTech) category is gaining momentum, and there’s an opportunity to encourage it at retail.

Being healthy isn’t just about physical fitness anymore. In a recent study from the Consumer Electronics Association, The New Role of Technology in Consumer Health and Wellness, found that more than half of consumers are consulting healthcare providers for recommendations on health-tech devices. Why? People want overall lifestyle wellness through products that help them achieve better health. By understanding the dynamics of this new market, CE retailers can effectively target the WellTech consumer.

Fitness still fits. A growing number of physicians and healthcare professionals are recommending exercise to patients. But instead of heading to the aerobics studio, more consumers are saying goodbye to long-term gym memberships and opting for at-home alternatives. The use of electronics, home gyms and even home furnishings can help achieve fitness goals without the time commitment of exercising outside the home.

In this arena, the TV has become much more than a home theater. When combined with a Wii, Xbox, Kinect or PlayStation Move and the right accessories, a TV becomes a personal workout tool. For example, products in the Nike+ line track every step, run and jump throughout the day, giving new meaning to moms who “run around” after their kids. Even furniture can be used to promote fitness – German designer Tobias Franzel designed a sofa, Champ, with a backrest that folds up into a genuine punching bag. Even TV mounts like OmniMount’s PLAY40 are being designed to get users up and interacting with their TV for fitness or gaming without the need for a dedicated gym room.

The crossover between fitness and tech gives retailers new merchandising opportunities, regardless of whether a store has dedicated sections for sports and fitness or technology. There’s an opportunity to develop an area that brings the tech and fitness worlds together, featuring products that directly and indirectly promote active lifestyles.

Wellness has worth. Even consumers who aren’t interested in fitness or naturally inclined to workout are still a major part of the WellTech market. Fit or not, they are seeking lifestyle changes to improve their health and alternatives to using medicine to treat conditions. Consumers’ interest in getting healthy goes beyond monitoring their weight; they want to know what’s happening with their body at home and at work and make incremental changes to improve it. It’s not a resolution to be fit; it’s the desire for knowledge that can lead to making better decisions. Consumers are seeking meters and gauges that measure health diagnostics, especially if the data can provide recommendations and motivate positive behavioral changes.

The BodyMedia FIT, Basis heart and health tracker, and Lark sleep system are all designed to track activities while awake or asleep and provide feedback. Products like these are becoming more wearable, portable and non-invasive; they easily become part of a routine. According to ABI research, the market for wearable devices is expected to reach more than 100 million units annually by 2016. And the key factor is that none of these devices require consumers to be active to start.

Products are also being designed to encourage wellness throughout the workday. Have you heard of sitting disease? Look it up. Sit-stand computer mounts are now available to enable users to effortlessly switch between sitting and standing positions for comfortable and healthy computing all day long.

The bottom line. The WellTech consumer wants products that fit into their established lifestyle and can help them gradually achieve health and wellness goals. Retailers can capitalize on the consumer desire for wellness by picking up product lines that offer health and wellness advantages. Use your circulars to drive the message home and encourage foot traffic to stores. Make WellTech products easy to find through the use of special signage and cross-selling, and be sure your staff understands the mindset of consumers in this market. Be aware of this growing market and develop a game plan for meeting the needs of the WellTech consumer.

The WellTech market is here. How are you going to lead the charge at retail?

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