June 5, 2020

FMCG health providers are leaving consumers in the dark

The line between the GP waiting room and the supermarket aisle has never been so blurred. The government drive towards self-management coupled with the wellness trend has resulted in consumers increasingly taking health matters into their own hands, quite literally. This societal shift presents serious obstacles, and opportunities, for brands and retailers operating in the healthcare space.

The rise of self-managing sufferers

Populus research shows that almost a third (31%) of the UK public now self-manage minor ailments (such as musculoskeletal injury, allergies, feminine health, lip, gastric, eye, skin, foot problems) at home. Advice on managing health conditions is no longer confined to the GP’s office; advice can be obtained online, via an app, or during the weekly grocery shop.

And yet, over half (52%) of people are still leaving their conditions completely untreated. With the average consumer suffering 3.8 conditions per year (rising to 4.4 for Millennials), that’s a significant number of people falling through the cracks. Occupying a niche space somewhere between patient and consumer, the majority are increasingly living with their uncomfortable, unpleasant and even painful minor ailments; not unwell enough to seek professional medical advice, not confident or informed enough to make a purchase.

The reasons for self-management vary, from not knowing what to do, to being unable to see a doctor or being concerned about wasting a doctor’s time. More than 1 in 10 use a home remedy as a treatment. All indications point to a healthcare FMCG consumers desperately needing more information, education and guidance about their conditions.

So, what is the health consumer journey?

Of those that do anything at all prior to making a purchase, just 22% seek advice from a GP or nurse. Even fewer head to the pharmacy (20%). It seems that when it comes to handing over the cash for a minor health condition, people prefer to go it alone.

It’s easy to believe that we’re in the midst of a digital revolution when it comes to health and wellness. However, people are more likely to speak to family and friends (14%), than search symptoms online (12%). In a consumer trend that goes against the grain of most others, millennials are even more likely to rely on word of mouth; they are three times more likely to get advice from family and friends than the average, prior to making a purchase.

Where online channels can come into play, is in the initial discovery phase. Around a quarter (24%) of people carry out online searches when experiencing a minor condition for the first time. Armed with this information, FMCG providers may be able to better position their digital channels as sources of guidance and reassurance, when ailments strike for the first time.

Meeting consumer needs in the era of self-management

The drive to self-management has left health consumers in the dark about the everyday conditions that can be easily and simply resolved over the counter (and it is more likely to be over the counter than via the internet). It’s time for FMCG providers to shed light on the self-treatable, self-manageable conditions that a large proportion of consumers simply don’t, or can’t, resolve.

Populus’s latest whitepaper ‘The rise and stall in digital healthcare’ is available to download now.

Find out more about how our research and insight informs FMCG providers positioning and strategies by calling: +44 [0]20 7253 9900 or emailing [email protected].