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Fast Company has a fascinating story about new and groundbreaking studies being done by medical researchers, using "insights gathered from customers of 23andMe, the Google-backed company that makes a direct-to-consumer genetic test kit. Perhaps best known for its battles with regulators over its consumer genetics test in 2013, 23andMe has quietly expanded its business to include brokered access to its database of more than 1 million people’s DNA.

"Everyone who uses the company's $199 test kit receives a request to participate in research. If they agree, their health data is added to a separate database. With 80% of customers consenting, the company has amassed a health data gold mine - and researchers are eager to study it."

23andMe, the story says, "is one of a growing number of companies that are developing consumer-friendly tools for researchers, although it is one of a small number focused on genomics. Large academic hospitals like Stanford Medicine and Duke are currently using Apple's ResearchKit to collect health information via iPhones. Fitbit is also investing in this area: Researchers are increasingly incorporating its step and heart rate data into large population health studies."

There are issues associated with this trend. One is the accuracy of the data being accumulated by companies based on surveys; people don't always answer truthfully about things like weight and alcohol consumption, for example. Another emerging issue is whether consumers providing personal data to companies ought to be compensated for their participation, especially since these companies potentially can reap a financial bonanza from the results of some of these studies.

But the larger point that retailers - especially those who are putting any sort of stake in the ground with a health-and-wellness play - need to think about is the amount of data that is being generated that allows for the creation of new products and services. Some of this information inevitably will lead to products and services that they can/will carry on their shelves. And, in the broadest sense, retailers need to emulate the strategy of compiling data, compiling data, and then compiling more data ... and then customer-designing their stores to match what they know their customers want and believe their customers desire.

Great piece in Fast Company, and you can read it here.
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