The ultimate wellness business of the future will:
1. Provide solutions for specific problems
The successful wellness business will combine an assortment of products and services into integrated programs that help customers meet specific goals like weight management, healthy living, and personal fulfillment.
For example, a healthy living program might include metabolic assessments, lifestyle activity awareness, special food products, nutritional counseling, stress management classes, and family counseling.
That’s a huge change from the “Chinese menu” of services offered by most wellness businesses today, where customers often have to figure out what they need and where to start.
Businesses which provide individual services only (ex: nutritional counseling or personal training or yoga) will grow more easily through alliances with other wellness businesses and service-providers than by winning business one client at a time.
2. Incorporating healthcare know-how and technology
The most successful wellness businesses will integrate fields like physical therapy, dietetics, preventive healthcare and lifestyle medicine with fitness, mind/body, wellness coaching, and personal training.
Fitness and lifestyle improvement professions will gain credibility through greater collaboration with the healthcare community. We see a shift towards health maintenance and disease prevention, away from reliance on folklore, rules of thumb, assumptions about “average” customers, and less rigorous assessments (ex: calipers for body-fat testing).
Equipment for exercise and physical activity will migrate to the consumer market from the medical technology industry. As a result, wellness businesses will be able to make more accurate and reliable assessments of clients.
Client recommendations will become increasingly based on actual client-specific data and thus are likely to be more appropriate and effective. For example, inexpensive resting metabolic tests allow development of tailored eating and fitness plans.
Innovative wellness businesses will use new technology and equipment to focus on under-served markets (ex: aerobic equipment designed for the physically challenged).
3. Meeting customers where they’re at, not where we wish they were
The wellness business of the future won’t always require customers to go to gyms or buy special equipment. It’ll build on the success of “mobile medical” and portable fitness programs by taking specialized equipment to customers and neighborhoods.
It will not require customers to carve out time from too-busy schedules for “being healthy” by “working out” or by requiring adherence to quirky diets or food preparation rules. It will focus on incremental lifestyle change which builds on small successes and fitns naturally into the customer’s day.
It will integrate online services (for example, online communities that provide peer support) with brick-and-mortar or mobile facilities, allowing prospects and customers to buy and use products and services easily and quickly.
4. Responding to growing diversity
The successful wellness business will recognize that not all customers are the same.
Providing truly valuable products and services to many under-served groups will require collaboration with the medical community (for example, balancing diet, exercise, and medication) to provide truly valuable products and services.
Other needs vary by segment. For example, older adults may not be comfortable driving in winter, so serving them will require innovative approaches.
Lifestyle considerations—business travel or childcare, for example—affect how other customers buy and use wellness-related products and services.
Cultural, religious and ethnic variations matter. For example, in some cultures women and men are not comfortable exercising in the same facility. And ethnic food preferences, key in diet adherence, obviously vary wildly as well.
5. Learn from the lessons of other industries
Grocery chains: cutting service and selection does not lead to success. Albertson’s has closed stores in Texas while its in-state rival HEB thrives by focusing on service and local product selection.
Independent bookstores: Doing things the way they’ve always been done can lead to failure. Taylor Books failed because, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders, they didn’t realize that customers buy even more books if you can keep them in the store longer with comfortable chairs and latte.
Warehouse clubs: Keeping customers for life leads to success. Consider Costco, whose lower prices, higher wages, and consistent profits have created a “virtuous circle” of happy customers, happy employees, and happy investors.
Auto industry: A good reputation is irreplaceable. The auto industry created its worst nightmare—internet comparison shopping—by being perceived by many consumers as dishonest and unethical.
Bubble cities and flying cars? That’ll have to wait.
(PS. I originally wrote this article close to ten years ago. We just reviewed it in 2014. Didn’t change much!)