Active Forever: Strategic Marketing to the Mature Consumer
Wall Street Transcript
Wednesday, July 28 2004
Once upon a time, when you were diagnosed with an illness, you learned everything you could from your doctor about how the illness would manifest itself; the type of treatment available; and what medications would alleviate the symptoms. You considered leaving your job, and you worried that you would become a burden to your grown children.
That’s how it used to be, anyway. Today’s mature consumer is more empowered than ever before to research and demand the products they need to maintain an active, independent lifestyle, despite any health challenge. And ActiveForever knows it.
ActiveForever (www.activeforever.com), based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a web site merchant that offers medical and health-related convenience products to aging individuals who refuse to let physical ailments define them or their lifestyles.
People suffering from any number of health problems, including diabetes, low vision, arthritis, neuromuscular and spinal difficulties, sports injuries, stroke, and rehabilitation challenges, just to name a few, need access to products that can simplify daily working and living…which is how the company was born.
In 1993, The Redmonds were trying to find helpful products for their aging parents, but had little luck. After much research, they launched a website to feature the products they uncovered that could help other mature consumers, as well as the family members that wished to make the lives of their loved ones easier.
In addition to the web site, they added a small print catalog. After 10 years, The Redmonds were ready to retire, and were on the lookout for someone who could tap into the potential of the business, while still maintaining the heart behind the company.
Meanwhile, Erika Feinberg, a technology executive for nearly 20 years, was seeking out a new business opportunity, namely one that responded to the American climate post September 11th. “If another terrorist act occurs, what businesses will survive?” she asked herself. When tragedy struck the country that day, “nothing became more important than community and family, health and home,” Feinberg told The Wall Street Transcript (July 26, 2004).
Feinberg saw the potential in the Redmonds’ business, and soon, after Feinberg purchased the company, ActiveForever.com took on a whole new face and strategy. The explosive, 1,800% business increase in the last year has a lot to do with their truly customer-centered approach:
- The innovative products available are well-tested, and offerings are updated daily. The company has product managers on staff who determine if a product meets their quality criteria, and through which channel to best market it (web site, print catalog, or interactive sales facility).
The company also strives to provide the lowest pricing available, because many medical, rehabilitative, specialty construction and convenience products are not covered by insurance.
- The range of helpful products swings from the more intense needs of recovering stroke victims all the way to people who simply need to keep their feet and legs moving while sitting for long periods of time, due to poor circulation or DVT (deep vein thrombosis) concerns. From sensor faucets to easy-to-clasp jewelry, all the way to sliding/rotating bath benches and lift chairs, there are more than 10,000 products from which to choose.
Many sales actually come from the family member researching products for the end consumer. Once they see the convenience of the one-handed can opener or fitness benefit of the aquatic treadmill, they become customers as well.
- ActiveForever makes shopping easy, by providing both condition-specific product categories (i.e. diabetes, stroke, etc.), and areas in which the customer wants to stay active, such as the kitchen or workplace.
- Their conscious customer service initiative keeps customers coming back and the product return rate low. They even answer their phones: “ActiveForever, how can we make your life easier today?”
They publish a monthly e-newsletter called Discovery Digest to keep the community up to date on the latest discoveries, new monthly additions, and “most memorable moment of the month.”
They also take customer comments to health plans, pharmaceutical companies, and product manufacturers to help identify gaps in needed products. This valuable customer feedback helps to tap into real needs, so appropriate products and services can be developed.
All client orders are shipped the same day, as an added perk, without any additional shipping markup for the service.
While their customer approach is impressive, ActiveForever is doing a lot more than just moving product. This unique business model is directly responsive to shifts in consumer behavior and spending, and has several progressive components:
- The products and approach serve an existing, untapped need. Illness is no longer a roadblock to independent, active living; it’s simply a challenge that can be overcome by empowered individuals who have the information and products they need.
- This approach feeds into future demand, namely the growing baby boomer demand, for maintaining independence.
- To tap into the latest research and product needs of various conditions, ActiveForever is consistently aligning itself with groups like The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Foundation and the Arthritis Foundation. Then they bring the products to the foundations and occupational therapists for critical feedback on product performance and appropriate pricing suggestions.
They also work with community efforts like the Arizona Health Care Association and Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America, where they can interact with the patient care directors and physical therapists on the front lines.
- They are currently launching strategic U.S. marketing and cause-related partnership initiatives with both public and private sector businesses. The company has already aligned itself with major health-related channels, including Abbott Laboratories, ScriptSave, MedNet Benefits and Humana.
“Very large health plans and pharmaceutical companies that want to strengthen their relationship with their consumers reap invaluable benefits from our non-regulated connection to those consumers,” says Feinberg.
The company seeks to mainstream its product offerings by forming strategic alliances with major companies and organizations, including healthcare providers, insurance companies, state and federal agencies, foundations, and other businesses.
- ActiveForever all-too-conscious of the trend toward consumer-driven healthcare. Flexible spending accounts, where people can spend their health dollars where they decide, are on the rise, and the cost of carrying insurance is becoming cost-prohibitive.
“We’re building this company with the assumption that consumer driven health is going to get stronger and stronger, and we opinionated baby boomers are going to get stronger and stronger,” says Feinberg.
- They operate the company with a lasered focus on infusing the traditional healthcare lifecycle with the goal of extending healthcare into the home and workplace.
- ActiveForever now has an interactive retail store in Arizona, equipped with network cameras throughout the 5,000 square foot facility, enabling live, internet-based interactions. It also contains a large meeting room for hosting health-related meetings.
- They have stayed away from insurance billing, so they are not a regulated business.
- They make sure customers can find them with a progressive internet marketing approach. “We are extremely well-optimized on the web,” says Feinberg. “We rate very high in popularity with the search engines and ratings companies like Alexa and Google. So it’s a matter of optimizing key search terms, getting linked to other popular sites, and offering a web site that consumers enjoy shopping on.”
Between needed, solid product offerings, customer-centered approach, and progressive marketing in the public and private sectors, ActiveForever may just be in business forever.
For more information, please visit http://www.activeforever.com.
The Wall Street Transcript, Company Interview, July 26, 2004