Remember when panicked shoppers scrambled to find bleach, sanitizing wipes, disinfectant sprays, and nearly anything else in the cleaning category? In the early days of COVID-19, few outages were more keenly felt than in cleaning supplies, as news and medical sources recommended we disinfect everything from our shoes to groceries and packages to keep our families safe. Over two years later and armed with a better understanding of how the virus is transmitted, we may not being wiping down every item that comes into the home, but cleaning remains a huge priority for shoppers.
"We are seeing signs that the consumer has permanently changed their behavior in a number of categories, cleaning being one of them. We are doing everything we can to help them as they adjust their habits and lifestyles," Clorox CEO Linda Rendle told Yahoo Finance Live. That includes ensuring core items don't go out of stock again. Clorox has increased production on popular cleaning products, like wipes (they are now producing more than 1.5 million canisters a day, according to Rendle), so supply should no longer be a problem—even with a sustained surge in demand.
That demand for cleaning supplies remains high, with 69 percent of consumers saying they will disinfect the same amount or more when the pandemic ends. In fact, household cleaners is a $9.6 billion category in 2022, which is nearly $1 billion more than it was in 2020, according to Nielsen data. Why the continued dedication to cleaning? Clorox Senior Sales Analyst Rachael Ruszkowski shared a theory with IGA Vice President of Business Partnerships Heidi Huff in a recent video interview.
Cleaning was the solution to take a little bit of control of our lives during the pandemic. It went from being a chore to being a well-being enabler. That's where things really changed for the cleaning category."
With that shift in shopper mentality and behavior comes a need for changes in the way manufacturers and retailers market and merchandise cleaning products. Clorox has identified four human needs retail and consumer brands need to know for success in today's cleaning category:
- Make Disinfection Easier
People are cleaning and disinfecting more than ever, Ruszkowski said, and convenience is key, as evidenced by the top three cleaning subcategories: wipes, consumable tools (like paper towels), and convenience floor cleaners.
- Safeguard Health Out Of Home
As social interactions and travel increase, demand for on-the-go cleaning products—like wipes or hand sanitizer—is continuing to rise.
- Accelerate Approachability
Shoppers want products that are safe to use in their everyday lives and better for the planet.
- Deliver Seamless Omni-experience
Shoppers are still buying cleaning products in stores, but they need access to online content. Ruszkowski said retailers must deliver these opportunities for each generation's needs. For example, in-store shelf signs with QR codes can point to online ingredient lists or blogs that help shoppers make informed decisions. That content is available to all retailers through IGA's National Digital Ad.
What can retailers do with these insights? Understand them and use them to prioritize your cleaning aisle. "For retailers who lean in to these insights, we're projecting they will outpace competitors by five points of growth within the coming years," Ruszkowski said.
Ruszkowski recommends using these three actions to make your cleaning aisle shelf work harder:
1. Improve Aisle Flow
- Group items by room (like kitchen or bathroom) and potential use (keep all like items together, like glass cleaners).
- Feature and display wipes, the number one subcategory. Ruszkowski recommends a four foot wipe set to lead the aisle, whether you have a 12-foot or 16-foot cleaning set.
2. Optimize Your Assortment
- Increase shelf space on top performing segments, like wipes, sprays, etc. For reference, the top 7 cleaning subcategories are:
- Consumable tools
- Convenience floor cleaners
- Spray cleaners
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Disinfecting aerosols
- "Eliminate the brands that retailers had to take in because their shelves were empty during the early days of the pandemic," Ruszkowski said.
- Reduce space on lower-performing segments like specialty cleaners.
3. Ensure proper placement
- Bring multipacks to eye/reach level (wipes, toilet bowl cleaner, etc.). "Cleaning is mostly a pantry-stocking trip, so inflation-weary shoppers will appreciate multipacks," Ruszkowski said.
- Group brands together to make the aisle easier to shop for the consumer. "Trusted national brands rise to the top," she added, "If they're not on your shelf, people have a higher walk rate from your store."
By understanding shopper behavior and needs behind cleaning and updating your cleaning aisle using Ruszkowski's tips, retailers make it easy to shop in store, which will drive sales. "Consumers expect to get what they want when they want it, and that's both in physical store experience and virtual experience," she said. "Leaning in to all three of these tips will lead to easier shelf navigation, increase shopper satisfaction, and ultimately greater growth for the retailer."
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