Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP
Not everyone wakes up with purpose these days. As the clock ticks relentlessly toward another expanse of (for many) open hours, more people are seeking wellness coping mechanisms. And more are finding them in tech-enabled, retail goods.
According to American Psychological Association, 47% of Americans are feeling anxiety, 44% are feeling sadness and 39%, anger. It’s not surprising that the digital therapeutics market, estimated to be worth nearly $2 billion in 2017, will reach a projected $14.5 billion by 2027.
Retailers can play a bigger role in aligning these technologies with their products and services, looking beyond the obvious to those smaller moments. This takes walking through the customers’ days with them, from sun up to sun down, in expected – and unexpected – places.
Finding Purpose In The Morning
Structure was among the first casualties of the virus, and it begins at daybreak. Research shows that from the onset of the pandemic (March 2020) to April 15, 2020, Americans were sleeping 20% longer.
One cause for sleeping in is hopelessness. In 2020, the number of people who sought depression screenings rose by 62% over 2019, according to the nonprofit group Mental Health America.
Retailers and brands can help replace feelings of gloom and mundanity with new experiences one would look forward to – think small sensory treats that stimulate the brain and body to move.
- A smarter, gentler alarm: Research has shown that waking to an alarm can induce stress. Smart alarm clocks can be programmed to wake gently by simulating the sunrise and sending emails and other information that will motivate wakefulness. Some smart clocks can provide weather and traffic updates, and send reminders. The Lenovo Smart Clock includes a high-definition screen that can display art, monitor home smart cameras and stream video.
- Bedside perks: A smart bedside coffee maker offers an immediate and aromatic morning pleasure that takes the jolt out of an alarm (one even includes an alarm clock that charges wirelessly). The Behmor Connected Coffee Brew System, one of many smart brewing options, links to Alexa to be programmed by phone.
- Feet on the floor: Small pleasures can make an outsized difference when crossing that territory from bed to reality. Under-rug, programmable heated mats make that first step warmer. And just beyond that warm welcome, a subscription-based smart mirror can encourage a few more steps by connecting with certified workout trainers (it also can connect family and friends).
Room And Bored: How Retailers Can Reinvent Routine
Many call it “pandemic fatigue,” but a simpler description of what many are experiencing is boredom. The regular coffee stops we made, those lunches with friends – these small events were exclamation points in our everyday narratives, injecting meaning.
Boredom, for many, is worse than pain. In one experiment, 67% of men and 25% of women chose to give themselves small electric shocks rather than spend 15 minutes alone with their thoughts.
Retailers can help out by presenting both essential and non-essential goods as tools that inspire goals.
Sobro smart table features a wireless charging pad, thermoelectric cooling drawer, and built-in Bluetooth speakers.
Photo courtesy of Sobro
- “Smart” organizing can be an outlet. Organizing instills a sense of control, as well as creativity. Ikea recently reported an uptick in demand for organization items, and some goods makers are designing smart furniture that can play music, wirelessly charge devices and even keep drinks cool.
- Creating meaning, with meaningful things. More than $590 billion is expected to be spent this year on toys, DIY and hobby products. Demand for sewing machines, including computerized smart models, is outpacing supply, for example (Singer and Brother both offer sewing apps). Smart tech can be added to pretty much any other hobby, and a machine is not necessary – think of automated chess.
- Learning as fun. Peppered throughout our days are small events that require attention as well, but may feel less meaningful in the absence of a routine. The Optimity app helps users add back structure through micro-routines designed to improve learning about wellness, from fitness to finance. These micro-routines also can help users develop a sense of calm, purpose and all-around mental wellness.
Bobby Berk kicks back on the Sleep Number 360 smart bed – a bed that senses movement and auto adjusts for effortless comfort (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Sleep Number)
Getty Images for Sleep Number
Dreaming Up New Ideas In Sleep Tech
A purposeful day should lead to a better night’s sleep, and retailers should not overlook the king-sized opportunities. Nearly 60% of people are struggling with sleep, inspiring the phrase “coronasomnia.”
Of the smart retail categories geared toward mental wellness, sleep-related goods may be the most developed. Sales of smart mattresses rose an estimated 9.2% in 2020, and that annual growth is expected to rise to 11%. Where there is a mattress, there are complementary opportunities.
- Mattress PhDzzzz. Tech and retail are natural bed partners, so Mattress Firm and SleepScore Labs, maker of sleep-tracking apps, are teaming up. Store employees use the app data to determine the best mattress for customers and then to monitor their sleep experiences.
- Goodnight, sleeping blues. Retailers can find opportunities in what customers do right before sleeping, as well. The blue light emitted from smart digital devices interferes with sleep, so eyeglasses are made with technology specifically to block blue light. Smart-mattress maker (and sleep tracker) Sleep Number also sells blue light-blocking glasses.
- Smart bedding. For those who cannot afford a smart mattress, there are Wi-Fi-connected heated blankets and smart pillows, the latter of which can track sleep, play audio and/or stop snoring. The global smart pillows market, valued at $624 million in 2018, is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 31.6% by 2025. One entrepreneur is raising money for “smart bedding.” It doesn’t connect with a device, but it can save time making the bed in the morning.
Which brings us full circle. If the products shoppers buy can make their mornings a little easier, and gentler, they may feel inspired to do more. And if retailers support these trends, they will be better positioned to further understand what their customers will want to do, and buy, tomorrow.