The Changing Landscape of Shower Gels: Insights into Consumer Demand Pre/Post Pandemic
The market value of shower and body wash has been gradually increasing throughout the years, overall 25% in Great Britain from 2010 to 2020 (Statista, 2022). Looking at the trend before the pandemic, 2015 to 2020, we have seen increased demand from consumers using shower gelswith scrub (6%) and consumers using bath oils & salts (9%) and a decrease in consumers using simple shower gels (2%) (Statista 2021). This suggests a shift in consumer demand that the average formulation of shower gels is slowly being replaced with shower gels with scrubs, bath products or other products, keeping in mind that the category in general is in a continuous expansion.
Consumer searching trends outside of Amazon indicate higher interest in body washes post pandemic, with a 54% increase in searches, and with 36% attributed to shower gels (when looking at data comparison 2021+2022 vs 2018+2019). This can be attributed to the increased demand for hygiene products, shower gel included, created by the pandemic, as people got into the routine of washing their hands more frequently and taking more showers to stay clean and healthy.
Regarding searches on Amazon, data shows a 332% increase in searches for the keyword shower gel in 2021 vs 2019, with the numbers only dropping 16% in 2022 after peaking throughout 2021. It is not only the increase in frequency of purchasing shower gels, but also the shifted preference towards online shopping. This has impacted the way shower gel and other personal care products are marketed and sold, with more emphasis on e-commerce and digital channels: many consumers are opting to purchase their shower gel online instead of going to physical stores.
So looking forward, who will be thriving?
There has been some research on how consumer behaviour has shifted during the pandemic, with studies suggesting that consumers are generally more price-sensitive and value-conscious than before. This could lead to consumers to be more likely to seek out lower-cost options, including body wash products*.
Looking at units sold during January 2023 on Amazon, leading the sales are 2 shower gels with prices equal or below £6, with ‘Shea Butter’ clearly called out in the title, as well as the keywords ‘Vegan’, ‘Cruelty Free’. Second come body washes priced between £8-£15 that are actually packs of 4 or 6 units of the same product, suggesting popularity due to convenience and price discount gained as a result of purchasing in bulk, with the avg price per unit of £1.75 (£0.35/100ml).
Again, with emphasis on ‘Vegan’ and ‘Cruelty Free’ and occasional call-outs of hydrating, soothing and fragrance ingredients in the title. These bundles have seen consistency in BSR during the pandemic, coming from consumers stocking up products while the shelves of the supermarkets went empty, unless the prices increased and consumers switched to cheaper alternatives.
Regarding sustainability, although many brands call-out in the title keywords such as ‘Vegan’ and ‘Cruelty Free’, it appears the search trend for these keywords was peaking in 2021 and it has been decreasing ever since. What is of higher interest for consumers nowadays are the refills and sustainable product packaging, that are not only eco-friendly, but also a better value for money. Ultimately the extent to which consumers purchase sustainable products depends on factors such as price and consumer education.
That being said, it's important to note that many consumers prioritise factors other than price when it comes to personal care products like body wash, such as quality, scent, and brand reputation. By analysing luxury brands on Amazon, we have noticed two scenarios: brands with strong loyalty that have recovered well after 2020 when being hit by high BSR, and are currently on the same competitive position they were prior to the pandemic, also acknowledging their RRP is approx £20; or brands that saw high BSR and never recovered charging RRP of £29 for a shower gel. Therefore, we can make the point of consumers being value-aware and price-sensitive as the price of the goods increases.
Although difficult to make broad generalisations on the behaviour of all consumers with respect to shower gel purchases pre/post pandemic as it varies from individual to individual, we believe there are key insights that can be considered for marketing shower gels on Amazon moving forward.
Consumers became price-sensitive and value-aware, opting for either convenient bundles with a low unit cost, or individual products that are no more expensive than £6.
For higher-end shower gels, marketers will have to count on brand loyalty and make use of Amazon advertising to catch the eye of the consumer and maintain a competitive position, as luxury products in this category are not ranking organically on Amazon.
Irena Popa, Senior Marketplace Executive
Deloitte - COVID-19 and the consumer: A Deloitte Global State of the Consumer Tracker - this report provides ongoing insights on consumer attitudes and behaviors in response to the pandemic, including changes in spending and consumption patterns.
Euromonitor International - How COVID-19 Is Changing Consumer Behavior - this report examines how the pandemic has impacted consumer behavior and spending habits in various regions around the world, including changes in e-commerce, food and drink, and personal care products.