1. Female consumers in Asia/APAC moving from fringe to mainstream
Almost all of the products and items we purchase are created, designed, built, and sold to us by men. Women have been long ignored when it comes to product development. From seat belts to smartphones and watches that originally lacked period trackers, most innovations have historically been designed with men in mind. But shifting attitudes and market demands are finally leading to a rise in Feminine Care (FemCare), with more and more products and services that cater to women and their needs.
The dawning realization that women are a critical market is leading many global brands to focus on female-centric solutions to generations-old problems. In the West many of the new solutions and innovations are being welcomed with open arms; but there is less progress in Asia/APAC and some other regions , due to stigmatized women’s health conditions and a lack of conversation around “taboo” topics. Nonetheless, like attitudes, the way we innovate is changing and shaping the future of Feminine Care.
2.Understand and celebrate the fringes
Consumer markets are fragmented and complex. Groups that were once considered to be on the “fringe” are now the majority; market trends are rapidly changing in response.
For instance, women are increasingly demanding representation and tailored approaches when it comes to personal care, rejecting the one-size-fits-all model. We are also seeing increased interest in discrete, convenient services including at-home vaginal microbiome and STI tests. Companies such as Evyy, Yesmom, and Ferne are using tracking apps alongside disposable products to measure, compare, and predict feminine health. Companies like FemTherapeutics are leveraging new technologies to enable customization and provide more gender-equal medical innovation.
Asia represents a large opportunity for growth and mass adoption of innovation within FemCare. Many women are still on the fringes, specifically those with unique health needs or minorities who are passed over by healthcare researchers. Riley House Korea is a prime example of a company shedding a light on Asian needs and approaches within FemCare, integrating ancestral superfoods into modern wellness practices to meet the demands of its female customers.
3. Build for adaptability
In Asia/APAC, most emerging FemTech businesses still focus solely on menstrual health and reproductive needs while neglecting other fundamental aspects of women’s health. We believe that these companies could harness new technologies and evolve to meet an increasing share of feminine health needs, including by:
- Increasing awareness of the neglect of women’s health by government and society (often called period product scarcity, period poverty);
- Increasing the likelihood of purchase for feminine health-branded products with a strong emphasis on prevention over treatment; and by
- Creating holistic feminine health products that aimi for “wellness” in both body and mind.
The goal should be to move from period and reproductive-centered female care to supporting individuals’ health throughout their entire lifecycle, hormonal cycle, and health stages. Some brands are already working to solve these broader needs, creating solutions to every dimension that is connected to a woman’s period. Wild AI is a product that represents this long-overdue shift perfectly, a feminine health tracker that takes into account all parts of a woman’s life through sport and menstrual/hormonal cycle analytics. Rael started as a period products company and has adapted to the changing demands for FemCare products to be inclusive of female health and wellness as well as female skincare and oral care.
4. Think system-wide and not user first
With an overstretched medical system, shifting demographics, and rising consumer expectations, women’s health needs are a significant market opportunity but success depends on first understanding and tackling the systematic obstacles.
For FemCare in Asia/APAC, the overarching issues are lack of education and awareness, and stigmas around dimensions of women’s health that come from living in poverty. So innovative B2C brands are transitioning from being solo-female healthcare “service providers” to “communities.” These communities, like Singapore’s Zazazu, aim to educate and empower women by helping them understand their own health and bodies through a system-first approach with workshops such as Confidence in the Bedroom Leads to Confidence in the Boardroom. By starting from the roots and building up, there will be ever-more room for further improvement and adaptation.
5. Test before you invest
With shifts in consumer behaviors constantly emerging (and often going unnoticed), we too often see companies reinventing or launching products without first doing the requisite market testing. We can learn by looking at failures within the FemCare market, such as Fùyánjié 妇炎洁, a leading Chinese personal care company that faced massive backlash from a campaign that damaged the brand and provoked an outraged response from the Chinese public. Had Fùyánjié 妇炎洁 tested its product and ads with different groups and demographics, it would have learned that running a provocative advertisement in a very conservative region would backfire. Testing clearly allows for the opportunity to optimize marketing, design, and implementation for female audiences. At Board of Innovation, we believe that rapid validation is critical to the ultimate success of any launch.
In general, as brands focus on feminine health, they should seek to understand the mindset and motivations of the consumers they are trying to reach. In a post-pandemic world, easily accessible products and services for this market will increase in popularity, but success can’t be taken for granted.
Chief Growth Officer