China's big health industry is entering a good era. With the improvement of disposable income of residents, the health worries brought by urbanization and the current situation of an aging society, the Chinese people have attached more importance to health and health has become a focus of government work and also the people's life. Meanwhile, the national policy is also supporting the big health industry. In October 2016, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Healthy China 2030 Planning Outline, pointing out that promoting the construction of healthy China was an important foundation of the comprehensive construction of a well-off society and the basic realization of socialist modernization. The favorable macro policy makes the big health market valued by local governments and the capital market.
Because of these factors, the big health market is expanding in size. China's health food market will expand by 100 billion yuan over the next five years, and China's functional food market will exceed 1 trillion yuan, according to data from Euromonitor, a market consultancy.
But Chinese consumers' demand for health has changed. Before the 1990s, working heart and soul to build the country was the main trend of thought. Today, the people's attitudes towards the body have changed dramatically - the body becomes the object of care and the carrier of quality of life. In the meantime, with the trend of consumption upgrading, Chinese consumers have shifted focus from functionality to value and emotion.
The traditional big health enterprises are still facing many challenges in the process of catering to the new consumer trends. Products are experience and vice versa. Enterprises including TRT Health have realized that with the trend of upgrading, the big health market needs new popular products and services. The main market is still dominated by traditional health care products, lacking obvious innovation in product forms, use experience and models of sales. If a company still focuses on providing a specific product for the consumers, then its brand will be unable to build a long-term, reliable consumer relationship.
We believe that all product and service innovations require going back to the deep needs of consumers and tapping the ideas and motivations behind the presentational needs. The consumers' changing demand for the big health market is in fact an awareness and recognition of their physical conditions. How to occupy a place in the course of consumers' health and strengthen and solidify the relationship between big health enterprises and consumers? How do traditional big health enterprises realize the commercial value of products and services by exploring the big health market? In 2016, S.POINT cooperated with TRT Health on an in-depth study of the health behaviors, needs and trends of consumers and the hidden opportunities to analyze the present situation and future potential of China's big health market and explore how big health brands could get a valuable "ticket" to enter this market.
Health is a lifelong career - The "health course" of consumers
We interviewed nearly 100 consumers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other important cities of China, conducted a total of more than 88 hours' in-depth surveys and kept more than 600,000 words of records in an attempt to understand their desire and anxiety, practice and confusion about health. Ultimately, our core finding is that health is a lifelong career for Chinese consumers. From the consumer's point of view, health is not a means, but a purpose of life. As the process of achieving health is difficult, many people have stopped halfway to handle struggles in life, choosing real life over a healthy life. As a result, many elderly diseases are increasingly seen in young people under the pressure of a fast-paced life. Making individual consumers pay attention to health problems before suffering from diseases and establish a correct concept of health is not only the vision of TRT over the years, but the goal we hope to achieve through this study. Meanwhile, for big health enterprises, sustainable and potential health product and service innovations can not only help consumers achieve health, but more importantly, reduce the costs and barriers in the health course.
The clear division and understanding of the consumer's health course is the basis for big health companies to understand consumer demand and gain insight into the consumers. Through extensive studies, we've summarized the 4 stages of the "health course" of consumers: wait-and-see, exploration, persistence and sharing. These 4 stages are an inevitable journey for consumers to grow from a green hand to a master of health as well as a process where big health enterprises can exhibit their commercial value.
The health course begins with the "wait-and-see stage". In this stage, consumers continue to improve their health awareness, but are yet to implement health plans. For example, consumers begin to pay attention to health and health food-related information, become conscious of exercise, but are yet to put health ideas into action.
In the "exploration" stage, consumers begin to consciously try some health-related activities, such as buying health products and paying attention to a balanced diet. Meanwhile, they will develop greater enthusiasm for sports, and regularly do sports such as running, anaerobic exercise and swimming. But at this stage, consumers still haven't formed a regular and systematic habit for a healthy life.
In the "persistence" stage, consumers select suitable activities from a variety of health-related activities and continue to carry out such activities. Based on the experience in the previous two stages, consumers have felt the positive energy that health brings to life, thus beginning to form a systematic and continuous health-related habit, such as using health care products, designing and implementing a fitness plan.
In the last stage of the "health course", consumers begin to share their experience and feelings with their friends or in a wider social circle. We call this stage "sharing". At this stage, consumers have gained some experience and feelings about health and become "opinion leaders" in this field and can share their views and provide consulting services for others. For themselves, reaching the "sharing" stage means they've completed a cycle of the health course and transformed from a green hand to a master of health.
Moments of progress in the transformation from a green hand to a master - trigger points in the health course
The relationship between consumers and health is a progressive journey. The consumers' moving from one stage to another along the health course is actually triggered by certain factors. We call these factors "trigger points in the health course". Various types of trigger points play a vital role in different stages of the health course.
According to our study, event, perception, knowledge, identification, and hobby are 5 types of trigger points that affect the health course of consumers. These 5 types of trigger points are of great significance for product and service innovations of big health enterprises. Enterprises can integrate these trigger points into their products and services to create more opportunities for interaction with consumers and lower the access threshold for consumers. For example, through trigger points such as event and perception, enterprises can strengthen the health awareness of consumers in a friendly manner and draw the attention of potential customers. And through trigger points such as knowledge, identification and even hobby, enterprises can strengthen the existing consumers' likability and loyalty to health and the brand and improve consumers' brand loyalty.
Health awareness brought by a health event - event-based trigger points: Consumers often don't put health on the agenda when they think they are healthy and will truly realize the importance of health only when they or other people close to them have a health problem. Event-based trigger points include a sick relative, aging and health problems brought by changes in work and life (marriage, childbirth, full-time mother and retirement, etc.). Event-based trigger points often occur at the transition from the "wait-and-see" stage to the "exploration" stage. Due to the occurrence of a health event to a close relative or friend, the consumers become aware of health, recognize definite and specific health needs for themselves and begin to seek solutions in the "exploration" stage.
Health needs to be perceived - perception-based trigger points: It is difficult to define health precisely. Even if consumers have no obvious diseases, their feelings about their health conditions are highly subjective. So, when there is a lack of theoretical support or objective evaluation standards, consumers will rely on perceptible physical signals. Perception-based trigger points such as pain in one part of the body, decreased physical ability, or mood swings can be formed from consumers' internal, perceived, health-related physical and emotional changes and sensory product experiences. Similar to event-based trigger points, perception-based trigger points often occur at the transition from the "wait-and-see" stage to the "exploration" stage, when consumers feel the changes in body function and actively seek improvement measures according to their own needs.
True" knowledge stands up to verification - knowledge-based trigger points: Consumers obtain health-related knowledge and experience from different sources, such as health-related articles on zhihu.com, advice from doctors, health knowledge from parents and knowledge verified on themselves. However, as there's general skepticism about current social credibility, consumers are more inclined to trust experience already verified by others, "true" knowledge cross-verified by different sources and knowledge verified by themselves. These information constitutes knowledge-based trigger points, which allow consumers to move from a lower stage to a higher one in the health course. Knowledge-based trigger points allow consumers to explore spontaneously, develop hobbies and share health information, speeding up their advance to the "sharing" stage or a higher stage in the health course.
Attitudes towards health that come from sharing - identification-based trigger points: Consumers gain other people's emotional support or recognition for their health-related practices, or even complete practices in company with others. For example, consumers will share their fitness results or the number of kilometers they ran among their circles of friends on WeChat. WeChat and other sports-based mobile applications have launched functions such as recording the number of steps and signing in for fitness to allow users to share their experience on the social network and receive "Likes" from others. Health has become a popular social topic for consumers in the new era and a good way to achieve self-identification. Identification-based trigger points are precisely based on the insight that consumers are eager to achieve their health aspirations through their identification. It also allows them to adhere to their health plans, advance to the "persistence" stage or even a deeper stage in the health course, and physically and emotionally feel a sense of gratification brought by a healthy life.
Becoming a master hobbyist - hobby-based trigger points: When the outside world is difficult to be changed, consumers love to get immersed in their own small world to achieve self-fulfillment through continuous exploration and improvement of a healthy hobby. They will complete health-related practices to meet their needs for a certain hobby. For example, "foodie" consumers will pursue new flavors when creating a medicinal diet and self-cultivating consumers like to set advanced goals. When health becomes a hobby, consumers see health consumption as a kind of value and emotional consumption. Health needs have changed from maintaining good health to an inner and outer lifestyle. The formation of hobby-based trigger points helps consumers become a master of health and advance to a higher stage in the health course.
Is it a task or an interest? - Choice of health attitudes
Health is not an easy condition to achieve. The 4 stages of the health course and the 5 types of trigger points can help companies and consumers better understand what experiences and processes they need to go through in terms of health. However, the health course is still a diverse and complex process and varies with people. Everyone has their own lifestyle and health concept, and needs different combinations of time and trigger points to go through different stages of the health course. We've found through analysis that the 5 types of trigger points are of different degrees of importance for consumers holding different values and experiencing different stages of their life and play different roles in different stages of the health course.
These differences between consumers stem from their different "compromising" attitudes towards health. In fact, they all face a kind of dilemma in the matter of health-they have to give up something in real life to live healthily; they cannot live healthily if they implement all of their responsibilities in real life. This seems to be a choice between "turning left" or "turning right", which requires compromise. "Turning left" means life responsibilities first and health second. "Turning right" means health first and life responsibilities second.
And in different stages of life, consumers will face such a dilemma. For example, for young people just entering the workforce, body is the foundation of their career. But in order to get a promotion or prove their value in the workplace, some of them will prioritize career over health. Also for the young parents, they need to adapt to the role of "parents". They long for family harmony and healthy growth of babies, but at this stage, they also need to choose between family responsibility and health.
As you can see, these differences and choices exist at different ages, and consumers have their own life motivations and anxieties at different stages. Therefore, we've further divided life by life scenario, identity and responsibility into three stages-newcomers at work, young parents and retirees so as to explore consumers' specific health needs at different life stages and the impact of different trigger points on their health course, hence gaining comprehensive and detailed insights.
Realistic goal-driven people and happy inspiration-driven people
For newcomers entering the workforce, they experience a change of life scenario from the school to the society and a change of life state from being arbitrary to involuntary. This involuntariness is mostly brought by work as careers have occupied a large amount of their time and energy. And this is also their new stage of life, bringing new vitality to life.
Some consumers prioritizing life reality at this stage of life are classified by us as "realistic goal-driven people"; they've temporarily "turned left" in order to be "arbitrary" in the future. Realistic goal-driven people see health as the foundation of their career and they have a strong desire for self-fulfillment and self-identification. Health is the tool and carrier they use to realize this desire.
However, another group of young people have a different attitude towards life and health. They like to try new things, pursue innovation, vitality and inspiration, and feel the freedom of life and active thinking. We call them "happy inspiration-driven people". Happy inspiration-driven people get the most out of life by arranging life reasonably, and gain a sense of superiority in the process. As a result, they are happy to take control of their life agenda and continuously search for new life inspirations and fun. The health course of these people is always the cycle of "looking for inspiration, trying and finding the next inspiration".
Harmonious family-driven people and exquisite family-driven people
From a couple to a three-person family, new parents are beginning to feel the pressure brought by the change of life role, and will transform from relying on their parents to actively assuming family responsibilities. We've found that after consumers become parents at this stage of life, family responsibilities become the most important theme of their life. Assuming family responsibilities have seriously squeezed other aspects of their life (self, career and social activities, etc.), so new parents are also facing the challenge of re-integrating the themes of life and adjusting the pace of life, and need to choose between real life and ideal life.
Some parents prioritize responsibility. They strive to accept and adjust their lifestyle, accept the role of new parents and achieve self-worth and satisfaction from family health and happiness. We call this kind of people "harmonious family-driven people". For them who play an important role in the family, health is an important capital that supports them to better manage the family and keep on working.
The "exquisite family-driven people" are different. For them, the role of new parents is a new opportunity to continue to explore the fun of life, and they will not compromise in the concept or aesthetic feeling of life. Instead, they are willing to invest more energy in controlling their lives and managing their lives more actively and effectively. The exquisite family-driven people have a health concept similar to their life attitudes and they believe health is one of the few ways to prove their ability, show their personality, gain a sense of superiority, and support them to explore more fun in life.
Easy later life-driven people and rich later life-driven people
Changes in this stage of life may begin with retirement. At the end of their careers, many Chinese consumers face a choice between two life attitudes. One is to delay senility and enjoy an easy life. The other is to have fun and achieve self-value through physical practice. We classify the two different groups as "easy later life-driven people" and rich later life-driven people.
The easy later life-driven people want to return to pure family life and take care of the family more meticulously. Simple and intimate relationships make them feel secure and comfortable. For them, health is the guarantee of a comfortable life, so they will pay attention to and prevent the potential risks of a major disease. For them, the aging of the body is not terrible, but physical illness will destroy the easy life they treasure.
As the elderly gradually enter the senility stage, delaying bodily senility becomes their primary focus. But for "rich later life-driven people", keeping the body moving and repairing problems is their primary goal. The body is the stage where they display their individuality and express themselves. Although they are old, they must maintain a bright and young mind and appearance. They desire to gain both material and spiritual satisfaction in their health course.
The trigger points in the health course, the attitudes of consumers at different stages of life and the choices they made all affect their demand for big health products and services. Consumers driven by different health attitudes are promoted by different trigger points in the health course. And these trigger points and demand are the key to enterprises' digging innovation and commercial value.
In their lifelong health course, consumers need to experience different stages and different trigger points, need to explore and persist and gradually grow towards a master of health based on their roles in life and health attitudes. From the perspective of big health enterprises, the results of consumer insight can produce a series of innovation opportunities. In the health course of consumers, big health enterprises should not be confined to the provision of certain products or services, but should play the role of health partners to help consumers complete their health course while attracting potential users, winning target customers, maintaining user loyalty and business expansion. As a pioneer in the big health field, TRT has explored new health models for years and based on TRT's actual front-line cases in big heath and the findings of this thorough consumer study, we've summarized 10 innovation opportunities in the health course, which can help big health enterprises to better position their roles and create innovative and suitable product and service models.
Awakening awareness of health crisis, an opportunity in the wait-and-see stage
As the health behavior of consumers in the wait-and-see stage is often passive, enterprises can offer experience services to awaken their health awareness in a neutral manner and make first-time contact with the consumers.
Opportunity 1: Popularization of health knowledge
Most consumers have a certain awareness of health, but easily get lost when facing a variety of useless information as there is a lack of an authoritative health knowledge system to help them learn the right way to respond. To address this pain point, enterprises can answer consumers' questions through innovative experience services to allow them to build a correct awareness of health, develop a reasonable response plan and embark on the health course. Addressing this pain point will help enterprises to gain more consumer attention through public services and continue to guide them.
Opportunity 2: Health risk assessment
In the early stages of the health course, consumers' perception of their health problems, health events that have happened to people around them, and objective evaluation and diagnosis by medical institutions are all important ways to awaken consumers' health awareness and help them understand their health problems. Based on this opportunity, if enterprises can help consumers understand their health condition, provide answers for their health problems, and timely offer consulting and support, they can draw consumers' attention to their brands for the first time and help them enter the health course.
Improving initial purchase rate, an opportunity in the exploration stage
In the stage of exploration, many consumers will hesitate at their first purchase due to a variety of products, a lack of standards for reference, doubt about the sources of products, complex forms of entry, a lack of pointed solutions and inadequate brand awareness. The opportunity for enterprises in this stage is to promote consumers' first purchase. If enterprises can solve the above pain points, they will have a greater chance of transforming potential consumers into actual consumers.
Opportunity 1: Shaping authority models
From the field survey, we've found that most consumers have a "model" and "consultant" around them and their dependence on such "model" and "consultant" affects their health decisions as they need successful cases or authoritative recommendations to persuade themselves into trying. Based on this finding, if enterprises can shape themselves as such a "model" and "consultant" to help consumers make health decisions, and provide them with long-term companionship, then they have the chance to become an authority during consumers' early purchases, which will exert a long-term impact on consumer decisions.
Opportunity 2: Lowering the threshold of attempt
When facing many choices, consumers tend to choose an affordable, simple form of entry and make the first attempt. In the study, we've also found that most consumers will choose an entry-level, lower-cost product for their first purchase and then gradually try other types of products.
Opportunity 3: Diversified solutions
This study shows that consumers have health needs for specific stages, such as pregnant women, children, people with high blood pressure, high blood fatness and high blood sugar, and people with sleep problems, and these needs are also valued by their family in their health behavior. Not only that, consumers will buy products from retail channels with the company of their family. Based on this opportunity, enterprises can provide customized experience solutions that meet specific needs of consumers in the exploration stage to address their pain points and facilitate purchase.
Increasing loyalty, an opportunity in the persistence stage
At the persistence stage, most consumers will give up because they haven't perceived any progress or have made some results, or because the process is boring. How to make consumers constantly feel motivated, and repeatedly purchase the products and services to enhance brand loyalty is the challenge for enterprises at this stage of the health course.
Opportunity 1: Perceiving health marks
At the persistence stage, consumers often give up because they haven't perceived any progress or received any recognition from others. In addition to health solutions, enterprises should timely respond to the perceptions of consumers, help them make adjustments and give them reasonable expectations so as to make them experience the change and insist on their health behavior, strengthen their confidence, and ultimately promote repurchase.
Opportunity 2: A persistent habit
How to help consumers persist after making some achievements? This study shows that in many cases, when consumers perceive an effect, they will stop health behavior and start practicing again when health problems appear next time. To address this pain point, enterprises may set periodic goals through retail experiences to help consumers stay focused on health, develop correct attitudes towards health and persist with health practices.
Opportunity 3: Continuous care anytime, anywhere
Staying healthy requires making constant effort and overcoming laziness. Therefore, lack of professional guidance and constant companionship is one of the major reasons why consumers give up completing the health course. If enterprises can offer consumers continuous help and encouragement during their health practices and even complete health practices with them, then they can make consumers feel the care and persist and develop a closer relationship with them.
Promoting community economy, an opportunity in the sharing stage
How to provide a platform or channel for consumers to communicate and share health experiences, and gradually increase efforts to expand brand influence? This is the problem to be addressed by the enterprises in the sharing stage. In this stage, the opportunity for enterprises lies in the formation of their brands' community economy and user circles to expand brand influence.
Opportunity 1: Cultivation from super fans to community
This study shows that consumers will share their successful health practices with friends and family, which has become a social activity. If enterprises provide effective ways for loyal consumers to become opinion leaders through sharing, they can continuously encourage more consumers to participate in health practices, can expand the brand influence and visibility more convincingly, and even make health behavior a fashion.
Opportunity 2: Health culture-related gifts
As gifts of health culture-related derivatives increasingly become a way of social interaction, emotional expression, and value delivery, consumers' experience of health gifts at retail outlets is also being affected. The health culture-related gifts can not only imperceptibly stimulate purchase, but make users a source of cultural diffusion. And personalized, customized gifts, peripheral services, as well as gift consulting and packaging design can all promote consumers to talk about health topics and share health behavior through gift-giving.
As the big health market continues to expand in size and consumer demand becomes increasingly clear, big health enterprises desiring to hold a place in this field must fully suit the trend of consumer and demand upgrading, and constantly develop new products and services. Product iteration and service innovation in the big health market should be based on a deep understanding of consumers. That's why when we talk about the big health market, the word "consumer" appears the most. The consumer-centered innovative thinking heavily underlines the value of people (consumer) orientation and the return to the most authentic needs and experiences of consumers.
For consumers, health is a lifelong journey. From a wait-and-see green hand to a master of health who is willing to share, consumers must go through all 4 stages of the health course and overcome all the challenges and difficulties in the process in order to achieve a healthy body and lifestyle. For them, health is a purpose rather than a means. Whether they temporarily pursue reality or desire an ideal life, they all want a professional, reliable health partner that knows them well to be there for them when they go through the health course and face a variety of health problems. The traditional enterprises should establish an unbreakable relationship with consumers in this shift of role and innovations to achieve greater commercial value, explore wider market possibilities, and promote more professional, standardized and high-quality development of China's big health field.
To stand out from this round of industry change and consumption upgrading, traditional big health enterprises need to abandon their single market perspective and see things from consumers' perspective. That is to say, instead of being just a provider that informs consumers of health product performance and effects, enterprises should strive to become a reliable partner that can convinces consumers and help them through the health course. Specifically speaking, big health enterprises can find solutions from the pain points of consumers. Enterprises may provide practical, entry-level and effective health products for people holding different health attitudes and experiencing different stages of the health course. Regarding retail services, enterprises need to change thinking, abandon the original role of product provider and communicate with consumers as a solution provider, a health course supervisor and a partner. Ultimately, enterprises should offer consumers a consistent, emotional and sympathetic retail experience through the omni-channel retail model that integrates different complementary channels.
S.POINT and TRT Health will continue to focus on China's big health market. We will continue to use our advantages and experience in innovation consulting and big health to conduct a meticulous and comprehensive study of consumers, explore the most authentic and detailed consumer insights and identify innovation opportunities for big health enterprises based on our consumer insights. We look forward to working with big health enterprises to promote the development of China's big health undertakings by adapting to the social and market trends, and to enable Chinese consumers to have a reliable health partner that brings endless creativity and excellent experience.
Zhou Yi, Founder and CEO of S.POINT
Jiang Yiming, Partner and Vice President of S.POINT
Jin Ge, Co-founder and CEO of S.LAB
Tang Xunbo, Creative Director of S.POINT
Ye Zhihong, Senior Design & Strategy Consultant of S.POINT
Sun Ke, Senior Research & Strategy Consultant of S.POINT
Hu Bin, Senior Research & Strategy Consultant of S.POINT
Liu Guangxin, Visual Designer of S.POINT
Brand Management Department of TRT Health