Online Fitness Class

What lessons did 2020 teach the beauty and wellness industry and how can entrepreneurs in this sector build on the amazing work they have done to adapt to changing times now and in future? Isla Knight, founder of JustUWellness shares her predictions and advice on what the industry needs to do to thrive.

The wellness industry has faced at least as many challenges as other industries during COVID-19, if not more. First there was lockdown and then most wellness businesses had to wait longer into the relaxation of restrictions before being able to reopen. And, when they could open their doors again, these businesses had to do a lot more to prepare than many others, to ensure they were operating safely. Many are likely to have taken a further hit financially following both lockdowns, as the amount of space they have in which to perform treatments will have been reduced by social-distancing measures.

It’s been hard for consumers, too. From manicures to hairdressing, from physical therapies such as osteopathy and massage, to physical and mental health care in the form of exercise or counselling, people have had to forgo the treatments they used to undertake regularly in order to feel, well… well.

To my mind, the wellness/beauty industry has adapted in three main ways since the beginning of the pandemic: It has become more flexible, more technology driven, and more hygienic. All of this is positive, and I believe the industry will need to continue to embrace these adaptations to move forward and thrive. Let’s look at each in turn:

Flexibility

Users are still eager to access beauty and wellness services and, if anything, they are keener than ever as everyone is feeling the stress of the last year.

This means we all need to be flexible.

The wellness industry has adapted quickly to help consumers and it will need to continue to do so. It has had a massive learning curve forced upon it. Physios and osteopaths, for example, have been able to offer advice over the phone, video and via email to help clients keep fit and mobile, so, when they restart their physical treatment they can do so from the best possible place.

Counselling, arguably more important than ever these days, has also adapted and there has been an increase in remote counselling to help people who are at home but in dire need of someone to talk to. It can even be done via text for people who do not want to be overheard by other household members.

As we navigate the twists and turns of changing regulations, many people in the wellness industry have become more flexible in how they work, for example by being more willing to visit customers’ homes to provide treatments.

When we finally head into a post-COVID-19 world, I believe flexibility is one of the things that will help these businesses prosper. Therapists will have changed their mindsets on the way they work, no longer simply sitting in their premises waiting for people to arrive for their treatment. They will be more responsive to the needs and requirements of their clients, more willing to give advice over the phone or via video call between formal treatments and better prepared to visit people at home. Clients will continue to want and expect the flexibility they have become accustomed to and providers are aware that being adaptable is more important.  

We are living, more than ever before, in a world where providers need to deliver their products and services to customers in the way that customers want it, not necessarily the way the provider originally envisaged.

Technology

Online communication and working together has blossomed over the last year and this will continue post-pandemic to the benefit of consumers and practitioners alike.

You can now provide personalised workouts via Zoom. As a counsellor you can speak to clients on video call. Beauty therapists can provide online tutorials or one-to-one advice sessions on things such as maintaining your hair extensions, grooming your own brows and looking after skin, to name but a few.

Of course, many consumers will be desperate to go back to their favourite salon, class or therapist as we emerge from the end of the tunnel but think of the opportunities of continuing to offer online wellness support.

For example, for some clients the convenience of exercising from home will remain, and if you don’t need to squeeze so many people into your gym space, you can downsize and save money on rent. You can probably have more trainers working at the same time, or more people in each group class.

This could apply to so many arms of wellness: counselling, nutritional advice, meditation guidance, art and music therapy, for example.

The demand is there. Much as people will probably still want to work from home some days of the week, and continue to socialise online sometimes, people are going to want to access wellness services remotely. So, it’s a win-win.

I also think people will rely much more on technology when researching and booking treatments, reading reviews of providers online, rather than relying on word-of-mouth, and using the internet or apps to book a variety of treatment quickly and easily. So, if you don’t already have a digital booking system, then now is the time to invest in one. These systems help save time and money for both therapists and consumers, and make everyone’s life easier.

Hygiene

Even when the vaccine has been fully implemented and we are technically able to go back to the way we were before COVID-19 appeared, I believe that people will continue to be far more conscious of hygiene. We have been made all-too-aware of how quickly a virus, or indeed any other bugs and nasties, can spread. I do not see the world being complacent about hygiene any time soon.

Of course, more people accessing wellness services remotely will be a big step in itself, but I also believe that where treatments are happening in-person – which, of course, many really do have to – hygiene will stay at the top of the agenda.

Wellness providers will definitely need to have hygiene and social distancing as a priority, even following widespread vaccination, as values have shifted and people are going to be naturally more cautious. This, in turn, will provide peace of mind for customers who are currently keeping their distance and keeping contact to a minimum. Those customers will expect to see hygiene standards raised and therapists will have to rise to the occasion with clear labelling and policies to show how they are maintaining hygiene. After all, we are all now hyper-aware of the importance of looking after each other!

Support and investment

On a separate note, the government has not really looked at support for wellness to date. This seems counter-intuitive when wellness means preventing illness and ill health. This is the time to be considering ways to support people’s physical and mental health. We all need it, and it will take as much pressure as possible away from the NHS.

Whether or not support becomes available further down the line, I believe the industry will survive, and thrive. In part this will be because it will be supported by investment. Investors will see the value of the industry. They will understand that consumers are seeing wellness as an essential service, not just a treat to indulge in when they have free time. Indeed, I believe the industry is going to see a massive boom, post-COVID and investors will be keen to be involved.

Overall, I think wellness has a very bright future ahead. People are more aware than ever that they need to look after themselves in whichever ways work for them and they are going to be making the most of the new look wellness industry to make them feel good.

Isla Knight is the founder of JustUWellness. JustU is a booking service, accessed online or via the JustU App, that gives customers the power to book a wide range of wellness treatments with the click of a button. JustU links users with professional salons and lifestyle providers.

Contributed by Isla Knight
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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