The gender-centric phrase ‘the future is female’ has been bandied around social media for some time now and can be found on the occasional slogan tee, yet it has also been met with a great deal of criticism as part of identity politics. However, the technology sector has recently witnessed major success with this female-dominated trend, with the introduction of ‘Femtech’. A phrase used to describe a sector of products which are solely dedicated to women’s health and wellbeing, the concept of feminine technology is flourishing in the digital landscape.
Taking a step back, we can recognise the long-lived belief that technology and wellness cannot co-exist. In fact, the rise in social media and smart technology has led to an assumption that digital platforms actually unsettle our concept of wellbeing. However, modern brands – from Google’s Digital Wellbeing through to apps such as Calm or Headspace – have been quick to debunk this myth with innovative technologies which serve to improve our overall wellness. The introduction of the femtech sector is a continuation of this co-existence between digital content and personal health, with a sole focus on women and women’s health.
For centuries, there has been a stigma around feminine issues – from menstruation to fertility and menopause – and this is visible across social, physical and digital platforms. However, in recent years, we have become more focused on our mental and physical health; speaking more openly about issues which affect us as a collective and individually. This shift in focus has fuelled a collective of tech start-ups which are dedicated to wellness, particularly the inconveniences of women’s health.
As this new landscape emerges, we discuss some of the most innovative femtech brands and the way in which they seek to heighten user experiences:
ELVIE Femtech with confidence
A pioneering brand in the realms of feminine technology, Elvie launched back in 2014 and since inception has altered the femtech space dramatically. Still a relatively infant brand, they offer two products – a Kegel tracker which helps women strengthen their pelvic floor and the Elvie Pump, a wearable breast pump which maximises comfort. However, whilst the products are innovative in themselves, we find ourselves more intrigued by Elvie’s strategy for impactful marketing within this new, uncharted territory of feminine tech.
Throughout our previous insights, we’ve discussed how new-age brands are changing our perspective on products and marketing; from Glossier’s millennial Instagram through to Ace & Tate’s desire to eliminate the medicinal approach to eyewear. In a similar vein to these evolutionary brands, Elvie abandoned the insular and utilitarian approach to traditional marketing and have opted to disrupt the ‘norm’ in female health, with the inclusion of imaginative product design, humanised strategies and bold marketing campaigns.
The debut of their humorous advert for the Elvie Pump created some divided opinions online, but ultimately brought the challenges of breast pumping to the forefront; with the overly confident and entertaining ad striving to remove the stigma associated with female health. It was bold, it was brash but most of all, it was incredibly human, using real women (much like Glossier or Heist) to highlight real issues. Yet digital campaigns are not the brand’s only source of courageous campaigns, they also focus getting physical with their statements, including the installation of four inflatable giant breasts in Shoreditch. Only in place for one night, the inflatables took social media by storm as part of Elvie’s #FreeTheFeed campaign.
A revolution for women’s health in the digital environment, new-age brand Elvie humanises the femtech industry with campaigns rooted in confidence and satire.
CLUE Answering modern demands
Back in 2014, Apple released the ‘key health metrics’ app which they presumably hoped would receive an abundance of praise in our wellness-focused era. However, the failure to include a menstrual cycle monitor meant that the tech-giant attracted more criticism than pats on the back. This oversight of such a fundamental element in women’s health inevitably sparked the inauguration of cycle apps; one of the first being Clue, founded by Ida Tin.
A taboo subject in female health, it is no surprise that menstruation has been off the radar for many years, with limited options for hygiene products and women reduced to mental arithmetic for counting cycles. This underdevelopment of feminine care digital product has been answered by the likes of Clue (as well as Flo, Ovia and others entering the market) with an app dedicated to tracking female cycles; including notifications for key times of the month including PMS and fertility windows. Despite its dedication to women, the app could be considered genderless in its design with no sign of the ‘millennial pink’ which has dominated many industries this year. More importantly, the app has been designed to improve with each piece of information input. From cycle length and cramps through to the emotional side effects of menstruation, Clue learns about its user over time and has this analysis readily available in the app.
Harnessing the power of customised data, apps such as Clue answer modern consumer demand for granular levels of information; particularly important within the femtech industry.
FEMINIST INTERNET A radical transformation in tech
The term femtech was coined by Ida Tin (founder of Clue) and since its inception, has been solely associated with downloadable digital applications. However, the introduction of Feminist Internet highlights a progressive form of femtech which is predominantly web based. Rather than a specific focus on female physical health, FI seeks to liberate and transform social, political and digital inequalities; using the internet to address issues and redefine social balances.
Even within the first few weeks of its inception, Feminist Internet had already produced innovative ideas which would resonate with their audiences and create a platform for change. Their most intriguing piece of feminine technology, in our opinion, is their AI chatbot F’xa. The bot advises designers on creating chatbots and voice assistants which do not perpetuate gender inequalities or human biases. Curated with feminist values in mind, F’xa is not a feminist in the sense of feminist theories or politics but it is designed from ethical guidelines set out by Feminist Internet; creating an algorithm which is inclusive of all races, genders and gender identities. The correspondence with the chatbot is almost like your regular whatsapp group chat, complete with GIFs and emojis which have become the crux of modern conversation.
As a brand Feminist Internet was constructed to redefine values and eradicate social inequalities, using the art of feminine technology and modern social cues to promote a radical transformation in modern bias politics.
KINDBODY Omnichannel femtech identities
Whilst the term femtech may seem primarily focused on apps and web-based products, the global market for femtech is much larger than this. Like many industries in which the physical and digital realms must converge to create a unified consumer experience, the female technology sector is no different. Brands predominantly rooted in digital platforms – whether they have a physical counterpart or not – have begun to identify the need to offer 24/7 accessibility to their consumers, in addition to an overtly personalised experience.
Kindbody, a femtech brand focused on fertility, are just one example of how technology and physical environments can be fused to reimagine the experience for patients. As a brand, they deem themselves as ‘powered by technology’, providing easily accessible care for their female patients who seek a relaxed and secure experience in their fertility journey; an experience which continues beyond the confines of a treatment room. However, Kindbody also understand that digital platforms are just one part of our journey, resulting in the implementation of pop-up ‘fertility buses’ and flagship clinics designed to look like a home-away-from-home. Founder, Gina Bartasi, likens this approach to SoulCycle and Drybar; both millennial-focused brands whom build a loyal consumer base through omnichannel identities.
As a new generation of women’s care, Kindbody disrupts the expectation that femtech must solely focus on technical solutions; creating a holistic strategy which speaks to consumers across a multitude of platforms from digital applications through to physical experiences.
The meteoric rise of femtech has firmly implanted the industry as a digital revolution in modern times. Introduced as a much-needed innovation in women’s health, female technology brings understanding to women’s health whilst also breaking down the stigmas associated with it. As we continue into 2020, femtech will grow exponentially with a plethora of start-up brands creating digital products and experiences which are led by and created for women. We’re interested to witness the culture and progression of femtech as it evolves into a pivotal element in modern technology.