Understanding the generation that makes wellbeing digital


17 May 2021

wp 3 7

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the concept of wellbeing has taken on a whole new life, especially for digital native 20-to-30 year olds, with whom looking after oneself resonates particularly well. For this generation, the pandemic has hit during a life stage marked by constant change, thus arising a particular interest for selfcare.  

In this context, the wellbeing industry is experiencing a digital boom, led by this generation, marking purchase decisions for the next decades and becoming the big ‘wellness spenders’. As they begin to build a steady income, it’s time for brands to connect with their needs and earn their loyalty.

the age of balance cover uk

Download our report “Age of Balance: Understanding the generation that makes wellbeing digital”.

Our latest research, which involved more than 900 participants across the UK, Spain and Mexico, has helped us understand the habits and behaviours that have emerged among said 20-something-year-olds in terms of digital wellbeing management, as well as gain insights on how brands can leverage the growing digital wellbeing market for the generation that is hungry for it.

The future of wellbeing is now, and it’s more digital than ever

The wellness trend was actually well on its way even before the pandemic hit, with the desire for self-improvement rising along with digitalisation and mental wellbeing becoming a hot topic, but COVID-19 has definitely accelerated it. 

In this line, our research shows that almost 50% of our participants engage in wellbeing practices now more than before the pandemic. Moreover, according to Statista, the global health and wellness market (already worth more than $4 trillion)  is expected to grow by 5.3% by 2025, so it is no surprise that 82% of participants consciously engage in wellbeing practices at least weekly, and half of them daily.

uk png 2

The increased interest in wellbeing and the coincidental closure of gyms, salons and other wellness providers, restaurants and in-person counselling services, however, is an unprecedented opportunity for brands digitally. In fact, only 16% of our participants prefer in-person services, and nearly 90% of them have used a digital wellbeing resource.

However, young people don’t use digital resources to manage their wellbeing purely due to the pandemic and the lack of in-person services. Of course, those who prefer digital products and services do so for their price and affordability, but according to our interviewees the main advantage is accessibility. 

Clearly, the digitalisation of wellbeing management is not just a byproduct of the pandemic but rather a broader sign of the times and its digital future. As Euromonitor points out, homes will continue to be wellbeing hubs, and “the short-term impact of quarantine and social distancing will transfer into long-term adoption across numerous wellness markets”, moving some segments from an early-adoption phase to mass-market appeal. 

If we look at how this generation manages their wellbeing digitally, in the UK the most commonly used resources are social media profiles and apps, with 35% reporting using each, respectively. In terms of channels,  the top ways this generation becomes aware of digital wellbeing services are online search, social media, digital advertising and word of mouth. 

image 3

A matter of balance

But what do we exactly mean by wellbeing? According to Euromonitor, the concept of wellbeing has significantly evolved over the past three years. While before it was mostly about avoiding illness and gaining physical strength, now the main priority is to feel good, both physically and mentally. Our research supports this trend: 64% of UK participants consider mental wellbeing as one of the most important dimensions of their wellbeing.

What about physical wellbeing, then? Although it is still one of the main priorities (55% set physical health among the most relevant elements for their own wellbeing), for this generation, exercise and nutrition are in a balanced relationship with mental wellbeing. This group is looking to break free from obsessing about their fitness progress and being compared to others, reaching for a goal that is always unachievable because it’s not personalised to them. 

uk png 1

In short, for this age group being well implies finding a balance between mental and physical health and leisure and obligation, as well as ‘me time’ and socialising. It is therefore no surprise that sleep and relaxation (61%), as well as money management 49%)and social relations (43%) are areas increasingly recognised as part of personal wellbeing management.

The role of brands

We know by now that young generations take a more holistic approach to wellbeing and manage it digitally, but we must also deep dive into their needs and expectations in order to understand how brands can respond to them. 

First, rather than isolated solutions and quick fixes, what this generation really needs is a comprehensive approach to wellbeing. So forget calorie-counting apps and gym trackers as stand-alone services, as they do not bring long-term value to customers. The best thing a brand can offer to a 20-something consumer, is a service or product that will impact their actual quality of life. 

However, we shouldn’t forget that this is a demanding generation when it comes to the accuracy and quality of information. They cross-check their sources, and trust mostly specialized websites and social media profiles of health and wellness professionals. In contrast, they don’t find the information provided by brands to be very reliable. They are mostly looking for motivation, so a brand should support and provide resources and inspiration, but not throw around claims or advice that should be left for experts.

uk png 8

And what about the brands consumers associate to wellbeing? In the UK, the top brand mentioned was Nike, followed by Headspace, Calm and Gymshark. Generally, the brands mentioned by UK participants were ones aimed at specific areas of wellbeing (exercise, mindfulness, etc.). In contrast, in Spain and Mexico, the brands participants associated with wellbeing were everyday consumer goods such as Nestlé, Danone and Nivea, and even IKEA. The brands in the UK were also predominantly digital, unlike in the two other markets.

This data reflects a different mindset around wellbeing in different markets.  In Spain and Mexico wellbeing seems to be more integrated into everyday habits and a less ‘conscious’ approach. In the UK however, wellbeing is clearly a ‘goal’, an achievement, something to actively strive towards, particularly for the generation that is currently between the ages of 20 and 30.

The opportunity

At this point, it is essential to point out that far from being a saturated market, the wellbeing boom offers a differentiating opportunity for brands that manage to understand the context and anticipate consumer demands. And this involves all kinds of brands, not only those whose product or service is directly related to health & wellness: half of UK participants say that they are more likely to buy a brand (of any sector) if it promotes wellbeing.

New habits in digital wellbeing management

Besides, the holistic understanding of wellbeing and the search for balance among different areas of life will continue shaping consumer behaviour for several years, even after the pandemic is over. 

To address these new needs, brands will have to respond to consumers’ changing perceptions of wellbeing. Here are some of the actions they can implement in the short to medium term in order to do so: 

  1. Rethink their social audiences. Social media is the natural habitat of the average 20-something. Their genuine interest in wellbeing is an opportunity for brands to redefine their audiences according to  their new consumption habits and touchpoints. The pandemic has accelerated behaviours and expectations like never before, and most sectors will have to rethink their audience maps or target personas.
  2. Develop Empathetic Content. Brands’ communication on social media must react to the increasing demand of wellbeing and address it in their campaign messages or their content strategy. Thanks to digital channels, they will be able to encourage co-creation, conversation and participation around the topic of wellbeing, which is highly relevant for certain brands and services.
  3. Involver internal ambassadors. Whether it’s through Employee generated content, Employee Advocacy or by creating new fluxes to obtain an internal storytelling. The Age of Balance will also change habits within your organisation, so we must ask ourselves: “How can my ambassadors reinforce my positioning?” and “How can they support my inward transformation?”
  4. Generate new movements. Brands that successfully capitalise on the ‘movement’ through earned voices, ambassadors or real, authentic campaigns will be better positioned in the new race towards purpose.

Brands who decide to follow this path will be able to connect with the 20-to-30 year old consumer. Not only is this target actively looking for brands that respond to their wellbeing needs, but they will also be responsible for purchase decisions over the next few decades. This implies a double opportunity for brands: first, developing a community of loyal advocates that share their brand values; second, better understanding their needs and nurturing a relationship that could eventually lead to conversion. 

Is your brand ready for The Age of Balance? If you would like to learn more, you can access our white paper for a thorough analysis -including a data breakdown by country and the main takeaways of the research- and discover the generation that makes wellbeing digital.

Shall we talk?