Is your wellness business making technology plans? Here are the top trends to watch in 2015.
Website development and content management systems like WordPress and Squarespace continue to make it dramatically easier to attract customers, run business operations, and maintain high-impact mobile-friendly websites without handing the Keys of the Kingdom to a cadre of tech-talking web wizards.
Squarespace is more suited to very small “mantra-preneur” wellness companies, and it’s considerably less flexible, sophisticated and scalable than WordPress. On the other hand, it’s a great choice for very small businesses with just one or two folks.
WordPress can handle just about anything. It’s used by outfits like the New York Times, CNN, Forbes, UPS, eBay, Best Buy, and Izod in addition to nearly every health and wellness business we work with.
Extremely affordable themes and plugins make it easy to handle online product sales, billing for services, website traffic analysis, email subscriptions, crossposting to social media, conducting customer surveys, and more.
What’s so nice about these tools? They allow you to snap on just the capabilities you need, which flattens your team’s learning curve, and you can web-enable your wellness business at your own speed, without total dependence on expensive and often flaky technical resources.
2. The truly mobile wellness business
Customers already use mobile devices to track their workouts, share progress on social media, and visit your company’s website. Even email is read more often on mobile devices than desktops.
This opens up a lot of doors for forward-thinking wellness businesses. Picture a customer texting his personal trainer for advice, or sharing activity tracker data with a coach, or sending images of food to her dietitian for feedback. Think of text-messages from your business to your clients, reminding them about discounted membership renewals or your upcoming meditation seminar. Picture health club members watching Netflix while they sweat it out on the treadmill, thanks to your free WiFi. How about beacons that give on-the-spot tips for equipment use? Now picture taking the whole show on the road for your next fitness boot camp.
That’s exactly the kind of thing that some companies in the wellness industry are already doing.
What’s changing is not the degree to which businesses in our industry are using technology, but the ways in which they think about it as part of their mainstream business operations.
As a fitness business owner, you’re no longer restricted to standing behind the register, behind a glass door, at a street address people have to drive to.
3. Raising the bar for social engagement
The days of magically attracting customers with “likes” are not only gone; they were never here in the first place. Recent changes by Facebook make it even harder to get your posts in front of people who “like” you.
Social media rewards relevance, specificity and engagement. Customers are out there. Successful wellness leaders will find them by going where prospects seek help, and listening and offering advice, not sales pitches.
That means that when consumers need marathon training rips, they search for “marathon training tips” and not “Sue’s Running Shoes.” They’ll tire quickly of pages with millions of followers who say nothing of value, and of the tirelessly self-promoting fan pages that post nothing but discounts, offers, ads and other marketing content.
Not convinced? Footlocker’s Facebook page has around 6 million likes. But most their posts have fewer than a dozen or two comments! Out of 6 MILLION likes!
So instead of focusing exclusively or even mostly on your business page in Facebook, seek out and actively participate in relevant groups. For example, virtually every city of any size has a variety of Facebook groups devoted to various sports and fitness activities. If you want to reach moms, Facebook is full of local mom groups.
In corporate wellness, LinkedIn is still the place to be. If all you’re doing on LinkedIn is occasionally updating your resume, you’ve missed the boat. Smart wellness businesses take advantage of LinkedIn to build authority, establish themselves as thought leaders, increase market presence and improve network depth.
4. Better use of the tools we have
As many wellness businesses spend precious time and resources chasing technological butterflies, wellness vendors will narrow the list of tools they use to only those which actually add measurable value to the business.
Few companies in our industry can afford to dedicate full-time resources to posting wellness factoids on Twitter or uploading instructional videos for their in-person training program. In the coming year, we believe that most successful wellness businesses will be too busy to even consider activities that don’t tie to revenue. And those who have the time may want to ask themselves if the “tool of the day” is truly a lasting investment in the business or just an overhyped distraction that they lack the know-how to fully utilize.
Growing wellness companies will continue to look at opportunities for operational improvement. They’ll continue to investigate different tools like CRM (customer relationship management) and ERMS (email response management systems) in the back office, and sales automation in the front. And those tools will become cheaper, more accessible, and easier to obtain.
Expect just about everything to be evaluated for its strategic value. Due to the sheer quantity of these tools, decisions will be guided by whether a new tool dramatically beats current technology and justifies both the financial investment and the opportunity cost.
5. It’s a tough time to be average
For many consumers, online healthy lifestyle and weight management programs and smartphone apps are viable alternatives to more expensive in-person options available in their communities.
The good news is that many of these folks will drop out of these virtual programs within a few weeks or months, primarily because they’re not getting the engagement and support that they’re looking for, which creates new, if slightly deferred, opportunities for wellness businesses. However, it’s an opportunity that mainly benefits those who offer highly engaging and compelling programs and services that truly meet the needs and interests of their prospects.
Blindly doing the same thing year after year is a recipe for eventual failure these days.
6. Where’s the breakthrough technology?
As we mentioned in our recent Websavvy column on digital health trends, tools and programs matched to specific customer fitness goals and metrics will continue to thrive. And those that provide game-changing insight will be breakthrough successes.
But then… there are the others. In Japanese culture, there’s a word for it: chindogu. It’s crazy stuff, like little umbrellas for your shoes to keep your feet dry, or dog booties that mop the floor after Fido tracks mud into the house. In other words, useless junk intended to solve a problem that nobody actually had.
Fitness tech has its own fair share of chindogu: watches that wake you up to tell you you’re not sleeping well, and swim goggles that use GPS underwater (GPS doesn’t work underwater) or tell you whether the jellyfish that just stung you was poisonous. Treadmills that roll down the road as you run (why not just run down the road?). I wish I were making this stuff up!
Before you decide to integrate the latest tracker or app into your programs, make sure it’s really going to move the needle — that it’s really going to give you and your customers game-changing, actionable, insight.
7. …Right here!
On the opposite side of the spectrum from chindogu are innovations that make a difference from Day 1.
Suunto just came out with a triathlon watch that incorporates existing technology from smartphones to do something truly innovative. In swim mode, it can tell not only what direction you are going, but how fast, when you turn, and whether you are lying on your back. Thus it’s able to calculate what percent of the time you’re sprinting, freestyling, backstroking, doing kick drills, and so on… all stuff that competitive swimmers care about. And it does it indoors and underwater, which traditional GPS watches don’t.
But wait, you say — I want my Suunto watch to do something else. No problem — you can write an app yourself, and download it to your watch.
A Kickstarter project created the Noxgear 360, a revolutionary, commercially successful illuminated and reflective vest for cyclists and night runners that can be seen equally well from the front, back, and sides–which greatly improves safety. If you think Fitbit is great, just Google “fitbit hacks” to get an idea of what else may be coming.
Consumer-driven innovation isn’t limited to fitness. People are also hacking insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors to add remote glucose-monitoring capabilities for diabetic kids.
Sooner or later, somebody will take this year’s pretty good idea and turn it into true genius.
These days, it’s even possible it may be one of your customers.