Wellness worldwide: Consumer insights from four countries

Four McKinsey leaders discuss highlights from our recent global survey on consumers’ behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.
Video

When it comes to health and wellness, many consumers now value personalization more than they did just a few years ago. The demand for natural and “clean” products is steadily growing. Digital and social channels are becoming more influential. And consumers are increasingly looking for wellness-related services, not just products.

These are some of the trends revealed in our latest research on consumer attitudes toward health and wellness. Listen as McKinsey’s Shaun Callaghan, Eric He, Sara Hudson, and Stefan Rickert share highlights from the research. An edited transcript follows.

Privacy versus personalization

Shaun Callaghan (United States): For many years, consumers had said they wanted personalization in healthcare offerings but really had trouble with the notion of giving up any privacy. In some of the research we did, we saw that consumers are increasingly willing to trade off a bit of privacy and data for a personalized solution to their health and wellness.

Stefan Rickert (Germany): If you look at German consumers, they say privacy is a very, very high value for them. Thirty percent of German consumers say it’s a top priority for them, and they place a much higher value on privacy than on the opportunities that personalization offers. That’s a different equation from what we see in many other markets.

Eric He (China): The Chinese consumers are different. They’re more likely to prioritize personalization over privacy; that’s quite different from many other developed countries. So what that means for global consumer-health leaders is that China can truly be a testing ground for new products, new consumer-engagement models, and even new business models.

A preference for natural and ‘clean’ products

Sara Hudson (United Kingdom): [Natural and clean products] are certainly something that we’re seeing become much more popular in the UK. We’re seeing a lot more focus on the ingredients. In beauty, you’re not only seeing more natural cosmetics, natural skin care, but also a greater focus on where things come from: What is the chain of the ingredients? Clean as well as natural? And I think that will only continue.

Eric He (China): Eating healthy has always been a very big thing here in China. We’re more likely to prioritize natural and clean products, if you think about the whole traditional-Chinese-medicine concept.

Stefan Rickert (Germany): Where German consumers really stand out internationally is in their appreciation of natural and clean propositions. Globally, they’re only topped by Chinese consumers on these dimensions. They really look for sustainable propositions, for clean products.

Shaun Callaghan (United States): Fifty-four percent of American consumers said “natural” was one of the major drivers of purchase when it came to health- and wellness-related products.

The rise of e-commerce and social media

Eric He (China): Building a digital-led business is more likely here in China than anywhere else globally. We have the highest e-commerce adoption ratio and a very sophisticated digital ecosystem that covers almost every aspect of Chinese daily life.

Shaun Callaghan (United States): Sixty percent of American consumers said they would be willing to purchase vitamins and supplements online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those numbers were closer to 40 percent pre-COVID-19. Some of those numbers will probably go back to pre-COVID-19 levels, but we expect the waterline to have shifted: consumers have become much more comfortable engaging in online purchasing for products that they were traditionally purchasing in brick-and-mortar settings.

Stefan Rickert (Germany): Certain categories have benefited quite a lot from e-commerce recently. Of course, categories like fitness wearables and tech devices are very high on e-commerce—about 70 percent levels [of online sales] for many of those products.

Sara Hudson (United Kingdom): Both e-commerce and influence along the purchase journey are going to become increasingly important in this space. In wellness, we’re still seeing a lot of the larger influencers [on social media] being really important. So, for example, in a UK survey, 36 percent of respondents said that their choices were affected by large influencers. I think it’s going to be something that companies really need to pay attention to—but in a way that feels authentic.

Wellness products and services

Shaun Callaghan (United States): Consumers no longer have a strong boundary between the services they’re taking part in and the products they’re consuming. They really see their wellness as a broader continuum of care. In many cases, what we’ve seen companies do is try to be the provider of both the products and services.

Consumers no longer have a strong boundary between the services they’re taking part in and the products they’re consuming. They really see their wellness as a broader continuum of care.

Shaun Callaghan

Eric He (China): More than 50 percent of respondents claimed that they will spend more on service categories, and that number is twice that of Western developed countries’ respondents. So we’ll definitely see accelerated growth in the demand for wellness services in the future.

Sara Hudson (United Kingdom): In terms of product-focused companies, a lot of them are looking at ecosystem plays. I think you’ll see ecosystems become quite important, and you’ll see product-focused companies getting more into that channel. Consumer health is still a very fragmented industry, so I think continued consolidation will change the landscape of the industry over the next ten years.

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