Realizing the potential of FemTech – your questions answered

In our webinar, Realizing the potential of FemTech, CDP’s Martha Hodgson and Jessica Platt gave their take on the principles of FemTech, and how forerunners are implementing them to succeed.

Here, Martha, Senior Insight & Strategy Consultant, and Jessica, Associate Insights Researcher, share more ideas, answering questions sparked by their presentation.

How important are digital security and data privacy in FemTech innovation?

Jessica: Digital security and data privacy are hugely important – so many FemTech products are linked to the internet and share information. They should be part of any design process from the start. Mishandling them can be costly. For example, a leading sex toy maker ran into trouble when their remote-controlled Bluetooth vibrator was found to be vulnerable to hackers who could take control of the product. They also shared data about the temperature of the vibrator with their parent company. As a result, they were ordered to make huge pay-outs to customers.

The Internet of Things poses challenges for internet products – how do you recommend we deal with them?

Jessica: Regulation and privacy are exciting areas because brands can become pioneers in these spaces. There’s a vast knowledge gap around women’s health, and the data FemTech collects should be used for research, but it must be done carefully. Transparency is key. Users should be empowered and told how their data will be used, stored, and shared – and not in pages of terms and conditions that most users accept without reading.

Your presentation highlighted that people have functional, social, and emotional needs – which are most important for FemTech to meet?  

Martha: When you’re thinking about the importance of a need, consider the context. Also, you should know how well existing products are meeting that need. A highly important need might already be being met with a high level of satisfaction. Some exciting innovations have come from focusing on highly important needs that are being met with low levels of satisfaction – or needs of low importance that are being met with (overly) high levels of satisfaction. For example, budget airlines disrupted the travel industry by understanding that in-flight meals are of low importance to their customers on short-haul flights, so they strip them out to offer a low-price service. In FemTech, experience is as important as the tangible product, or even more so. Therefore, think about current levels of satisfaction and explore needs being over- and under-served by existing solutions.

How can FemTech leverage existing technology?  

Martha: A lot of amazing innovations are the result of transferable learnings. The answer isn’t always new technology. Sometimes, it comes from looking at a problem differently and seeing that you could reapply an existing solution to deliver a different value in a different context. So, take a step back from the technology. Understand that it’s a point-in-time solution to a problem. Then, take a solution-agnostic approach to the job you’re trying to do.

How can we deliver excitement when repurposing existing technology?  

Martha: Experience is shaped by all five of our senses, so think about the sensorial experience when translating consumer needs into solutions. Also, be aware of pre-existing mental models – shaped by culture, environment, influencers and so on – and how far consumers are willing to stretch these. Take sanitary products. There are loads of new, exciting materials that are thinner, more flexible, and more absorbent than those used today. However, mental models around security and comfort might mean users won’t willingly go down these routes, even though they might provide a better solution. Excitement doesn’t just come from technology enablers but understanding the outcome as a series of sensory attributes and translating these into experiences.

There are many tech innovations around infertility, and it seems other areas are being ignored. Is this true? If so, why? 

Jessica: FemTech Focus define FemTech as “Technology, services, and products that improve women, females, and girls’ health and wellness. This includes addressing challenges that solely, disproportionately, or differently affect them.” This is my starting point when thinking about FemTech, and it tells you how inclusive FemTech is – it’s not limited to fertility and menstruation, though a lot of attention has been focussed on these. There are opportunities around conditions that affect women differently. For example, heart attacks have different symptoms in women. This means women’s heart attacks are sometimes missed or treated later, resulting in worse outcomes. FemTech solutions that address heart health might help mitigate these adverse outcomes.

Why does only a small percentage of investment in digital health go to FemTech?

Jessica: FemTech is relatively new – there have only been a handful of billion-dollar exits. So, there’s still a long way to go to educate investors that FemTech is lucrative, and products and services designed to meet women’s needs aren’t niche. However, we’re on the cusp of a transformation in the way FemTech is funded.

Martha: Changing investors’ perceptions of FemTech needs us to think about how we communicate the opportunity. Industries must be able to see long-term commercial profit. The needs that FemTech addresses are stable and shared by 51% of the population – this helps explain the long-term gains that could be made through FemTech investment. 

Is FemTech only about healthcare and sexual health? 

Martha: Absolutely not. Take the sports industry. Women’s sport has been on a growth trajectory, and there are many examples of women-focused services and products thriving based on the ergonomics, size, and shape of women’s bodies. Women’s football-boot maker IDA Sports’ tagline is spot on: “You are not an afterthought”. Traditional category borders are blurring, which is opening exciting innovation opportunities, like FemTech. Seeing FemTech as an innovation philosophy lets you focus on the needs you can meet – rather than the sector label.

Continue the conversation. Get in touch: femtech@cambridge-design.com


References

Find the authors on LinkedIn:

Jessica Platt

Associate Insights Researcher

Martha Hodgson

Senior Insight & Strategy Consultant