UBER-IZING SPA AND WELLNESS
With a smartphone in every pocket and more apps than stars in the sky, the world isn’t just at your fingertips—it’s racing toward your front door. GrubHub wants to bring your dinner, Instacart your groceries, and Postmates is happy to fetch you everything in between. Long gone are the days, when only Chinese food delivered.
the beauty and wellness industries are not about to be left behind, and app-driven ondemand options are cropping up left and right, offering people access to healthy options wherever, whenever, and however they want. Wellness clients can make appointments for home visits, when it’s convenient for them and receive services promptly, sometimes even within the hour. Private meditation and yoga sessions, after-practice sports massage, house calls from an MD, or even a manicure for a bed-bound patient are all just a click away. On-demand options can’t necessarily match the luxurious pampering or depth of services offered by more traditional facilities, but the appeal of an affordable, fully accredited, and well-reviewed therapist or practitioner coming to your home, office, hotel, or even hospital at the hour of your choosing is hard to deny. It’s no surprise that beauty and wellness on-demand is in high demand.
The runaway success of the ride-sharing app Uber in particular has done much for public acceptance of app-based, on-demand services, with its model so culturally pervasive that, according to Fortune Magazine, start-ups seeking venture capital commonly refer to themselves as, “the Uber of our market”. Uber bookings have grown by nearly 38 times in just four years, with $7 billion raised from private investors and an imputed market value of more than $50 billion.
Uber might be one of the most visible examples, but in only the last few years, a suite of new apps has allowed customers to choose from trusted local services, connect securely with major institutions like banks, and buy every variety of goods under the sun with safety and ease. According to The Fiscal Times, mobile app usage jumped by 74 percent in 2014, while app usage specifically for lifestyle and shopping increased by a staggering 174 percent. The Internet in general has also changed life for millions of homebound people, from those, who have mobility issues to moms with young children, who can’t get out of the house, but can shop and enjoy the latest movies online. Now on-demand wellness and beauty services give people access to services they could not easily enjoy – and the response is overwhelmingly positive.
The prevalence of stress in the workplace is well documented in the health and wellness community. Six out of ten workers in major global economies claim to experience increased workplace stress, with over half of the global workforce stating that they are closer to burning out than they were just five years ago.
What sets wellness on-demand apart, however, is that the very factors that contribute to rising levels of stress also paradoxically make it more difficult for people to pursue traditional forms of wellness to alleviate that stress. In short, if you’re overworked and overbooked, it’s unlikely you’ll have the time to schedule a stress-reducing trip to the spa or session with your personal trainer. On-demand services exist specifically to circumvent these constraints and squeeze a little personal time out of even the most crowded calendar.
On-demand services for beauty and wellness are a rising tide, lifting all boats. They offer convenience and immediacy for customers, new low-overhead business prospects for entrepreneurs, and the chance for therapists and practitioners to enjoy greater flexibility, while also pocketing a higher percentage of their service costs than they would at a spa or salon. These services also seem to be growing alongside traditional spas and salons, with total industry revenue up 5.4 percent in 2014 over 2013, and spa visits hitting a record high of 176 million in 2014. Most people will continue to prefer the luxury and community of a spa or fitness studio, but in a world, where every kind of wellness is growing there’s room for both on location and at home markets to flourish. A trend like this, with all winners and few if any losers, is bound to keep growing. These kinds of at-home fitness, wellness, and beauty services have long been the province of celebrities, and it’s obvious why affordable, easy-to-order versions would be so appealing to the mass market. The opportunity is also present for existing spas and wellness providers to partner with these on-demand services and expand their offerings, especially for customers passionate about wellness experiences, who simply want more. Some spas are already using Uber to supply therapists during hours, when they have a practitioner available but not a room. And Zeel recently launched Zeel Concierge, a service that helps hotels and spas book appointments that would otherwise go unfilled due to lack of staffing or last minute requests. Using Zeel Concierge, hotel concierges and spa staff can book appointments at their facilities or hotel rooms using Zeel massage therapists, with Zeel handling availability and payment.
According to Zeel’s Hamadeh, another promising area for growth is subscriptionbased models, such as the company’s Zeelot program, which is designed to bring down the cost and raise the value of each massage. And expect to see fitness, beauty and medical services also experiencing similar subscription-led boosts in revenue. New wellness and beauty services are also likely to enter the arena, from on-demand spiritual advisors and acupuncturists to nutritionists and detox gurus. And more workplaces will seek to take advantage of services like Manicube – a company that provides a quick 15 minute beauty and wellness services at busy offices in big cities, improving morale with subsidized, office-wide opportunities to book massage services and workouts. It’s estimated that there are well over 100 of these on-demand spa, fitness, beauty, and medicine apps, and as with any startup movement we can also expect consolidation in the future, with those providing the highest quality, most reliable services bound to absorb the competition.