What’s the State of the Wellness Market?

A deep dive into wellness trends across the past year reveals the stress points for the industry.
Words by: Jason Knott • Photos by: CE Pro

Expectations were high in August 2020 for the state of the wellness market. Amidst the pandemic, integrators had said that they were expecting more than a third of their upcoming projects to be health or wellness related. But just this past July, integrators said that only 8% of their projects over the past 12 months featured wellness tech, whether it was in the form of human-centric lighting (HCL), indoor air quality (IAQ), motorized shading, soundscaping, or sleep tech, among many more.

However, optimism still abounds. CE pros expect the percentage of their wellness-tech installations to nearly double over the next 12 months to 15.5% of all jobs as the pandemic remains a strong impetus for wellness deployments, with it having spurred wellness business by a report 14% since it took the world stage.

This is just some of the info gleamed from the 2021 CE Pro Wellness Deep Dive Study, which aims to gauge the appetite for wellness technologies among custom integrators and their clients. And the lower deployment of wellness tech compared with the sky-high expectations could be the result of “wellness fatigue” setting in.

From sexual wellness to eating habits to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Vitamin C-infused water for his shower (yes, that is real), it seems wellness is being bandied about to just about everything. A recent Ogilvy Wellness Gap study dubbed phenomena “wellness washing” and noted that 53% of consumers have trouble telling the difference between real and fake wellness claims. That alone may be why integrators haven’t been making as many wellness tech installations.

Who Wants Wellness? 

Despite being so seemingly ubiquitous, integrators still report their clients and partners are unaware of how technology can provide wellness. Two-out-of-three integrators say the builders, architects and designers they work with, along with the associated clients, are only “slightly familiar” with the benefits. Moreover, 65% of integrators say they are either unable to or are rarely capable of expanding the scope of a project with wellness tech or amenities.

However, one-in-four integrators say that their own clients are well versed in wellness-related technology benefits. Only 9% report a complete lack of interest.

The overall lack of awareness is reflected in the fact that most dealers don’t know about wellness organizations that could be helpful to educate clients. For example, 59% of integrators say they have never heard of Delos DARWIN, the leading wellness technology platform, while another 12% say they are “vaguely familiar with it.” Delos’ WELL Building Institute and WELL Certification fared better, but not much. Less than half of dealers say that they are either “pretty familiar” or “very familiar” with them.

Other entities still lacking recognition among integrators include the Living in Place Institute and its Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and Home & Accessibility Trade Specialist (HATS), with dealers reporting only being “vaguely aware” of those.

Certain terminology suffers similarly. Bravas, a particularly large custom integration company, experimented using specific terms and found that “biophilia” ranked particularly low with consumers, to the point that they no longer use the term.

By far the most recognized terminology is circadian rhythm lighting/human-centric lighting, as more than three out of every four integrators (78%) are familiar with those lighting terms.

Consumer Demand for Wellness Remains High 

The initial reaction might be to think wellness is completely overblown. Not so. In fact, according to the Ogilvy Wellness Gap study, 73% of consumers expect wellness solutions from the brands they use, and 59% report they will pay a premium for a wellness-oriented solution. That same study then goes on to estimate the global wellness market at a whopping $4.5 trillion.

Only a small section of that is technology related, but 77% of consumers say wellness is very or extremely important to them, and 80% of people want to improve their wellness. So, it’s less that the interest isn’t there, and more that custom integrators need a bit of a pitch shift. In the CE Pro Deep Dive Study, which was fielded in May 2021, integrators certainly see affluent clients, design-driven customers and liberal-leaning customers being very interested in wellness.

On the flip side, dealers don’t think wellness is even a good idea to bring up with conservative customers. Just 12% of dealers think right-leaning clients would be open to wellness solutions.

Even though wellness adoption is slow, integrators are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs. According to the study dealers have seen an increase in the installations across a large swathe of their categories:

  • 55% have seen an increase in the amount of indoor air quality systems.
  • 45% reported increased sales on motorized shades tied to an astronomical clock.
  • 44% saw an uptick in HCL sales.
  • 33% experienced an increase in immersive home fitness set-ups
  • 35% installed more central vacuum/IAQ systems.

Outdoor entertainment, water quality monitoring and sleep-related tech were also elevated during the past 15 months of lockdowns.

It’s important to note that 8% increase mentioned earlier is just an average. Some integrators have reported massive jumps over the past year. Almost 23% had a spike of more than 50% in wellness projects, with 5% seeing their wellness business nearly double.

Heading into the second half of 2021 and into next year, nearly one-in-three CE pros expects a 50% rise in the number of wellness projects, with 10% anticipating to as much as double their wellness revenues.

The Shifting Place of Wellness in the Home

Last year, integrators cited the kitchen as the key room of the home for wellness by far, but this year, the home office has leaped to the top of the list. However, there is a dullness to that shine. In the 2020 survey, while kitchens hit the “high potential” mark, home offices only fell within “medium potential” and “good potential.”

However, CE pros expect to see more whole-house wellness solutions adopted. Integrators are also taking action to elevate their wellness business. In total, 59% of dealers expect to add wellness-related information to their sales and marketing presentations and websites. Also, 55% report they are ready for some level of wellness training, while nearly half (46%) are prepared to learn more and pursue a wellness strategy for their business.

Other actions that many integrators plan to take include incorporating wellness into their showroom, attending webinars on the subject, and exploring new vendor opportunities in the space. Nearly half (47%) said they hope to meet wellness-related suppliers at the upcoming CEDIA Expo and other trade shows. But, few dealers are ready to commit to adding payroll for wellness just yet, with only 16% of dealers saying they would (or already have) hire(d) someone as a wellness specialist for their company.

In the end, dealers say they need help from suppliers. Seventy-one percent say they need more education on the topic, 60% say they’re looking for manufacturers to elevate awareness among end users, and 56% want marketing support literature or information.