Startup data company seeks to 'personalize' supplement buying experience with health data

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Startup data company seeks to 'personalize' supplement buying experience with health data

Related tags Dietary supplement companies Sleep Dietary supplement

Startup company bills itself as a way for dietary supplement companies to better engage with consumers and to get a better look at the efficacy of their products by integrating multiple streams of online health data.

The company provides manufacturers with an integrated health platform that can incorporate data from a multitude of streams supplied by consumers such as downloads from Fitbits or from MyFitnessPal, results from genetic tests such as those provided by 23andMe, or responses to questionnaires. Co founder and CEO Garrett Ruhland said the goal is to help dietary supplement companies personalize the supplement purchasing experience, and to incentivize consumers to participate in the platform by helping to answer the question: “Is this thing really working?”

Better connection with consumers

Ruhland said his earlier experience with startup supplement company TruBrain led him to believe that dietary supplement companies needed a different, better path to market. He said he came to believe that investing large amounts of capital in clinical trials, while important, is also perilous from a business standpoint.

“It was easy for any other company to acquire the same ingredient and market their own product,” ​he said.

What’s needed, he said, is a way for brands to engage more fully with their customers, so there’s a reason for them to keep coming back to the brand rather than shopping around for other, perhaps cheaper offerings with similar ingredients.  Ruhland said offers a way for brands to ‘personalize’ the buying experience by gathering specific health data from the consumer and offering a platform for the consumer to track the progress of their health as they use the supplement.

“Most people who buy supplements are already healthy.  The biggest reason they give—42% of them say—that they take a supplement for health and wellness.  The second most mentioned reason is to have more energy,” ​Ruhland said. “They are looking for optimization.”

That gathering of data also helps the brand holder on the back end, Ruhland said.  Customers can construct custom ‘dashboards’ that are specific to their own product.  The marketer of a sleep and relaxation supplement, to use one example, could specify parameters such as energy, anxiety, mood, sleep and so forth, and based on reports from consumers could generate a polar diagram to see how their product is meeting those end points.

Platform helps meet business metrics

Ruhland said in his view successful supplement companies have to excel at three basic parameters: Good technical knowledge of their products, good inventory control and good after sales experience for the consumer.  He believes his platform can help companies achieve all three.

In the technical knowledge category, the platform can give real time information on how the product actually is working for and being perceived by consumers.  Too often, he said, companies either research their own ingredients or rely on existing research, put the ingredients into products, and leave it at that.  The car is specified to go 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, so every one off the production line will do the same, so to speak.  They then wait to see if adverse events reports or complaints or positive testimonials come in to assess how the product is being received by consumers.  In the sleep example given above, the brand could get rapid, real time information on how the product has improved consumers lives, in a more data-driven way that relying on anecdotal testimonials.

In terms of positive sales experience, Ruhland said the platform offers a more thorough and rewarded engagement for the consumer.  They are getting something out of it as well, he said, by being able to track the changes in their health as they use the supplement. And the system can help manage inventory by smoothing out demand by getting more repeat customers, he said.

Ruhland said the platform can be fairly easily adapted to supplements in many different categories as well as consumer products in different industries.  He said he has seen this attempted before, but many attempts become over broad and lose focus before they are ready for market.

“I have seen companies try to build their own health platforms. They’ll spend $300,000 to $500,000 and most of them never take off,”​ he said.

Ruhland said his service will be affordable because it is based on a fee per consumer.  While $2 a head could add up quickly, Ruhland said it can pay for itself with better repeat business.

“We will build for them their own health app designed for custom engagement,”​ he said. “We can provide the brand holders with custom reports on how their product is performing.”

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