Personalization is coming to the health marketplace

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Matthew Oster

The COVID-19 pandemic has made its mark on consumer health. Categories promoting prevention, immunity, active nutrition and wellness — especially vitamins and dietary supplements — outpaced the rest of the industry. In 2021, consumer health is expected to show broad-based growth, and interest in vitamins and dietary supplements will continue to develop. As consumers have access to more data about their health, they are expecting more from the products with whom they engage. As a result, 2021 will likely see broader adoption of personalization techniques across a wide array of consumers.

Consumers have gravitated toward personalized products and services for a very long time, driving interest in one-of-a-kind offerings from fashion to foodservice. Demand for customized brands stems from the widespread desire to be distinct from others, to engage with the new and cutting-edge, and to engage with products meant for yourself and no one else. According to Euromonitor International, 54% of Millennials and Generation Z want products and services uniquely tailored to them. Recently, these personalized approaches have penetrated into the marketplace for health. These tools are only becoming more sophisticated and are now being met by widespread demands for more ownership of one’s own health activated by the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing the way toward the democratization of ­personalization.

Access to data

Improvements in technology and data collection in the form of wearables, monitors, artificial intelligence-based tools and digital learning tools have offered consumers more data about their body, health and lifestyles, with more concrete solutions to address concerns that arise from this information. Additionally, enterprising companies in health have developed their approaches for personalized products, allowing prices to come down enough for these products to serve a wider audience than simply the most niche luxury consumers. These dynamics open the potential for personalized health to serve more customers and integrate these offerings directly in the daily routines of consumers of all sorts.

Health products designed for a unique user require detailed information on user demographics, behaviors, goals and diet, among other indicators. But the pace of innovation in personalization is being met by a more accepting public, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the focus on health outcomes. Euromonitor’s 2021 Health and Nutrition Survey saw a jump in respondents’ comfort with a suite of technology-based services around health, including using health-based apps, engaging with personalized nutrition recommendations and even integrating genomic testing or similar technologies — like microbiome mapping — to inform personalized health and fitness products.

Though these demands are still outside the mainstream, they have gained steam since the onset of COVID-19, as many consumers see the benefit of services designed to be efficacious and tailored, with the goal to keep them fit, healthy and vibrant for longer.

Transparency and suitability

Consumer interest in personalized solutions in health is also tied up in dramatically accelerating demands for transparency and trust. Mainstream brands in health are facing more skepticism and pushback around efficacy, sourcing and the effects of continued usage that are pushing some to alternatives with ethical, natural and transparent approaches. Personalization increasingly fits into this movement, as it offers the possibility for the right combination of products for a consumer’s biology. This is tied to the concept of biocompatibility, whereby formulators are more able to cut unnecessary ingredients, provide efficacious and safe solutions, and build products that are both simplified and suitable.

This rising demand for transparency and suitability allows consumers various entry points into personalized products, with mass-orientated custom products already veering into offerings segmented by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and hair and skin types. Truly personalized offerings deepen that perspective, with more opportunities to engage with individual consumers across a range of traits, thereby building trust.

One company capitalizing on these trends is LemonBox, a Chinese start-up of personalized pill packs. Through WeChat and Weibo, the company promotes its high-quality imported supplement ingredients from the U.S. and demonstrates the value of products developed for individual health needs. Crucially, LemonBox includes a health questionnaire directly on these platforms; consumers can complete these surveys directly on the company’s WeChat and Weibo accounts without having to visit the company’s website. Integrating personalized health solutions with social media can allow for companies to build engagement quickly, facilitate interest among younger consumer profiles and ultimately streamline out-of-door costs that can help keep prices reasonable for new adherents.

Another example is Livvit, a personalized supplement option for the Australian market, launched in March 2021. Like other personalized pill packs, Livvit provides questionnaires on health goals and behaviors and builds daily multivitamins based on the responses. What is unique about Livvit’s offer is its commitment to sustainability, with all its products packaged in at least 80% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. Livvit’s emphasis on sustainability is an important signal that it identifies with consumers’ principles and beliefs. It also demonstrates that sustainability is a key differentiator in personalization, where consumers are more likely to stick with a company that meets their ethics rather than just selling them a product.

Increased investment in personalization in recent years signifies that global leaders in these areas are betting heavily in expanding interest in more customized approaches to health. As technologies and manufacturing processes of these products improve, the higher the likelihood that they attract a broader base of consumers moving forward. Within an industry of dubious claims, mass personalization offers consumer health the opportunity to lead with transparency, sustainability and science.

Matthew Oster is head of consumer health at Euromonitor.


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