Simon Brown, Nelsons UK General Manager, speaks to Holistic Therapy magazine about what it takes for businesses to thrive in an increasingly changing market.
I’ve worked in consumer healthcare for the last 15 years – it’s an area which I has always fascinated me and I’m passionate about. Before joining Nelsons I was at Johnson & Johnson, where I worked in their Consumer franchise. It was a great opportunity to gain experience across a host of consumer healthcare categories including Pharmacy and OTC as well as the Baby and Beauty sectors. So, moving to Nelsons in 2018 seemed a natural career progression for me. It was a great opportunity to make a difference in a smaller, more entrepreneurial company, and I was really excited to join such a talented team of people and work with them to drive the company forward to its next phase of growth as a global leader in the natural healthcare market. I believe that there are not many global players in the natural health area focusing on sleep, stress and energy remedies, which have the scale and international scope of Nelsons - our Rescue Remedy for example is the number one, natural sleep and stress remedy globally. Key for me is that Nelsons has such a rich heritage providing naturally inspired products which have been helping people live happier, healthier lives since 1860. That still remains true today as it was then. Core to this is the fact that we are committed to keeping the user at the heart of everything we do so that our product range constantly evolves and expands to meet people’s changing needs.
Whilst we are seeing a huge amount of change especially in the external environment, we should look to see how these can present new opportunities to grow and adapt. Remaining relevant is vital, after all for any successful business.
From a demographic perspective we are living in a world with an increasing ageing population. While a positive thing in that we are all living longer we not necessarily increasing the healthy years of our lives which puts pressure on our care system. This brings with it shifts in how care might be structured in the future – with care moving in some cases closer to the patient’s home – that is good for the patient of course but could add to workforce pressures for GP’s and pharmacists. Therefore, there is an opportunity to support people to ensure they extend their healthier years of life for as long as possible. Due to our complex and hectic world we are seeing a rising tide of stress and sleeplessness which can impact on our health in the longer term – here natural healthcare remedies come in to their own working in harmony with the body without side effects to aid sleep and energy levels and providing a sense of wellbeing and emotional support.
Additional changes will most likely be driven by regulations, standards and new trading agreements to ensure compliance and safety standards. Businesses need to keep abreast of these so that they comply across all the geographies they trade in in the best interest in the consumer. What is important here is we implement any required changes as smoothly as possible so that customers are not negatively impacted.
“Millions of consumers choose natural healthcare products around the world every day!”
Other areas which we need to keep an eye on are the views towards natural healthcare. Whilst we respect the opinions of others, we should ensure we make information readily available so that people can make their own decisions about their health and the options they have. Natural remedies and homeopathy have a long history of safe and effective use - and millions of consumers choose homeopathy and natural healthcare products around the world every day. In addition, we are also seeing an increase in public expectations with greater access to information and interest in both physical health and emotional well-being. People are increasingly favouring an holistic approach, healthier lifestyles and preventative healthcare.
“Over 60% of consumers today tell us they would prefer natural healthcare products to non-natural alternatives”
Education is paramount, as there is a lot of pressure for community pharmacists to do more within their practice and support the healthcare system overall. Nelsons helps with this by offering e-learning courses. Consumers often come to them, to seek advice and personalised recommendations that are in natural harmony with either current medication they’ve been prescribed or past medication. It’s a constant learning curve to ensure everyone in the practice is up-to-date on the latest news and what is happening within the pharmacy and healthcare sector generally. Often pharmacists are viewed as the first point of call before visiting a doctor’s practice, asking for advice to support their ailment - it’s important, therefore, we have a holistic view of the patient and their needs in order to ensure we support and complement the advice and prescribed medications they may be receiving from their GP.
Having a strong pulse on changes in regulation is essential so that we continue to operate and trade effectively ensuring that any required changes are implemented as efficiently as possible to safeguard business as normal. We expect that Brexit will require some label changes for some of products sold in the EU. Brexit may also affect EU nationals working within the industry so it’s important that we all rally together to support them in the best means possible if they are affected by the changes, so that together we understand what Brexit means for them and their families.
I predict that there will be many opportunities for holistic businesses in the 2020s – namely a more inclusive approach to healthcare with social prescribing and the recognition of a whole-person centred approach with patients looking to multiple service providers and outlets to help them plan, develop and monitor care that meets their needs. Hand in hand with this is the growing trend towards personalisation, tailoring products and services to suit the individual. Nelsons Bach® Original Flower Remedies is a great example of this as its 38 flower essences can be used individually or in combination with each other to support the individual’s personal situation, emotion or mood.
As mentioned before, the changing demographics of an ageing demographic will provide an opportunity to offer support, particularly with preventative healthcare improving and increasing the healthy years of life rather than focusing on merely extending years of life regardless of the quality of life a person might be able to enjoy.
On the other side of the spectrum holistic businesses have an opportunity to support the younger generation who, regrettably, are more likely to suffer poor emotional health and wellbeing at some point during childhood than children a few decades ago. With the pressures they face as young individuals growing up in a world that can seem unpredictable at times it is important to help them keep perspective, reduce anxiety levels and support with a good night’s sleep.
“Consumers prefer products that are made from natural and sustainable sources”
Other opportunities opening up are the wealth of new products and ingredients that we can tap into such as botanicals, marine based ingredients and vitamins. Linked to this is the rise in people questioning where products come from - both from a consumer and buyer perspective- preferring that products are made from natural and sustainable sources. New technologies are also opening up a wealth of opportunities and we have just scratched the surface here really.
For consumers - it’s all about listening to what they are saying and being present on channels which they use. Today’s generation are very digital savvy so holistic businesses need to be committed to increasing their presence on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. If we want to engage with them, we need to tune in to what they want to hear about, what concerns them and what interests them so that we can have more two-way conversations and show we understand their needs. It’s no longer just about a great marketing campaign but ensuring we are also tuning into their mindset and showing that we are also authentic, transparent and responsible.
For pharmacies and healthcare professionals – again it is about building good relationships with them to really understand what they see the challenges are both now and in the future. In this way businesses can become a true partner for the long term addressing these challenges together. This goes beyond just providing them with the latest products, we need to help them gain easy access to the materials and information they require so they don’t have to go out and find it and can also keep abreast of how consumers and the industry are changing.
It is also important to keep in tune with what is happening in innovation and technology by attending trade shows, and industry organisations. It’s also about keeping an eye on other industries and seeing how technology has transformed them – looking at how technology might be applied within our own sector- just look at how online has transformed our banking and travel industry in recent years.
“Businesses have a wealth of opportunity which could benefit consumers and healthcare professionals alike”
This is an exciting area with so much opportunity. We are already used to voice controlled personal assistants in the home such as Alexa, Siri and Cortana which can give you weather, news or sports updates as well as play music and control your smart home. Moving on from this it would seem a logical next step that these voice-assisted technology devices could also provide basic health related information which could be a real help for certain groups of people such as those living in remote areas or the elderly for example. Similarly, other possibilities are now becoming reality such as having a consultation with your doctor via a video call, saving you the need to go to the GP surgery or pharmacy. You can even download an app to your smartphone to check symptoms or book a consultation. These technologies offer advice and guidance, but equally digital technology can be potentially used in the medication itself with ingestible sensors embedded in tablets that record that the medication has been taken. All of these, provided they are developed responsibly with the user in mind, bring with them a wealth of opportunity which could benefit both consumers and healthcare professionals alike.
We continue to be agile and to adapt to market conditions as we have shown over our long heritage of almost 160 years. We encourage all small businesses to keep their user in mind at all times and be agile enough to adapt as they change their own habits and ever evolving lifestyles, e.g., cash rich, time poor, leading to the growth of online/internet purchasing.
Businesses also need to be committed to invest back into their people and brands. At Nelsons, our innovation pipeline and commitment to keeping ahead of natural healthcare trends will enable us to progress within this current climate and for decades ahead. It’s all about remaining relevant in our modern, ever changing world.