How to Grow in a Flat Category: Household Cleaning Products

By Steve Johnson

As the U.S. economic recovery continues, shopper behavior is mixed: some shoppers have continued their frugal ways while others have begun spending again. The $23.3 billion home cleaning business has faced several years of challenges as a result of consumers’ ongoing efforts to shop more efficiently, including a 0.9 percent decrease in sales over the past year. Though the category is flat, IRI’s National Consumer Panel data shows that 99.6 percent of households purchase home cleaning products. On average, a single buyer completes 28 shopper trips and spends $231 per year on cleaning products. Despite stagnant sales, the home cleaning products industry contains numerous significant pockets for growth, particularly within private label and branded innovation.

During my recent Cleaning Products Conference presentation, “Making Cents of the Cleaning Products Shopper,” I spoke about some of the strategies and tactics that enable household cleaning and home care manufacturers to successfully identify, target and activate their value-oriented shoppers.

By understanding value shoppers’ behaviors and attitudes, home cleaning product manufacturers can make smarter decisions regarding what products to develop, how to determine assortment, pricing and promotion, and how to reach consumers along the entire path to purchase.

Value continues to remain critical to shoppers of household cleaning products, but delivering on the promise of value is complex. One proven strategy for conveying value is to promise multiple uses. For example, all-purpose cleaners appeal to shoppers since they can save money by purchasing one product rather than several. In fact, the all-purpose cleaner category saw a 22 percent increase in the past year, reaching $1.1 billion in total sales. Positioning cleaning products as sustainable is also an effective way to convey value.

There is plenty of room for innovation in the home cleaning product space, particularly for new products that deliver on three key macro trends: simplicity, wellness and excitement. Two product segments that have delivered on these key trends are laundry prewash additives and drop and go detergents. Laundry prewash additives have had a seven percent increase in sales over the past year, while drop and go detergent had an astounding 22 percent increase in sales.

Making sense – and cents – of the cleaning products shopper begins with conveying value, finding pockets of growth within private label and branded innovation, and gaining a deep understanding of the highest value shoppers. Brands that fully comprehend their best shoppers’ behaviors and mindsets will be ideally positioned to reach their target audiences efficiently and effectively along the path to purchase.

If you’d like a copy of my presentation, “Making Cents of the Cleaning Products Shopper,” contact

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