I live my life in the digital world, not just because my career choice (as a content marketing specialist) demands it, but because increasingly the digital world is integrating itself with real life. The result is that even niche areas that once lived offline are now merging with technology.
Take, for example, the growing subset of self-help apps and gadgets designed to help people “unwind” with meditation, yoga, or sleep tracking. With 70% of employees reporting work as a major cause of stress, many are looking to technology to help them manage or reduce the amount of stress in both their professional and personal lives—and many tech companies are more than happy to fill that gap.
I have had a unique front-row view of these merging worlds—I not only spend my work day engrossed in digital media and reading up on new tech but I also moonlight as a freelance wellness writer. As a result, I can speak to the ever-growing conversation about stress in society, and the number of new technologies and apps attempting to address those concerns.
The technology industry has recognized the increasing popularity of the broader wellness movement and has responded with a flood of products and services catering to those desires. But are these apps, gadgets, and tech devices merely responding to a perceived market demand, or are they profiting off a culture of stress?
I would like to examine the industry trend of stress-relieving apps and gadgets and how the tech industry has capitalized on consumer stress—and whether or not tech can actually have a positive impact on anxiety management.
Technology Can Exacerbate Our Stress, but It Doesn’t Have To
Technology is not inherently stressful or “bad” for you. But like all tools, it can be misused through ignorance or manipulated by third parties. In the age of the 24-hour workday and constant news cycle access in the palm of your hand, there seems to be little time to disengage. This stress is compounded by the fact that apps are designed to make people anxious for an update or notification. People who experience stress are 60% more likely to watch TV an hour before bed and two times more likely to post on social media and check email before bed.
On the other hand, when used wisely technology can solve some of the same problems of stress and anxiety that it might otherwise exacerbate. For example, in recent years we have seen the mental health field benefit from new apps and devices that changed the way both patients and healthcare professionals approach telemedicine.
Technology Typically Emerges as a Solution to a Problem
At its heart, innovation occurs in reaction to or anticipation of a problem. Mindfulness apps, sleep trackers and other products aimed at stress-relief may very well profit off the culture of stress, but they also likely stemmed from genuine attempts to solve that prevalent societal problem.
Even while certain technology stresses people out, many consumers also seek and use technology as a tool to relieve that stress. They want technology that gives them the ability to cope without any additional pressure. As a result, innovators and influencers in the tech industry are meeting consumers’ needs by creating (and, yes, profiting off of) stress-relieving technology.
Perhaps the tools themselves are not the end solution, but rather a way to potentially get to the solution faster or more efficiently.
Creating Value for Consumers Can Also Mean Creating Value for Your Business
While consumers should be responsible for owning their own stress treatment and management, product engineers and marketers should take care to avoid unintentionally compounding the very issue they’re trying to fix.
This lesson applies not just to tech professionals or the self-help and stress-relief industries, but also to anyone creating and marketing a product that claims to help consumers.
The easiest way to discover if consumers will find your product useful is to integrate social listening as part of your market research. For companies and products to remain competitive, understanding the real pain points of your consumer and creating a product that alleviates those pain points can only happen if you listen to your consumers. We must internalize the fact that the only marketable product is a product that actually helps relieve that specific problem for a specific demographic.
When you create value for your customers, you create value for your business. And the only way to create loyal customers is to create a product that doesn’t exploit their insecurities but acts as a tool to overcome them.
So although technology can be the source of some of the stress in our modern world, it may also prove to be part of the solution, as long as tech companies strive to provide optimal value for consumers. In future posts I intend to explore other corners in this intersectional space between technology and wellness, and how to provide that true value for users.