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How retailers can motivate customers to ditch toxic personal care

How retailers can motivate customers to ditch toxic personal care

Despite the steady flow of negative media attention given to conventional cosmetics ingredients, most Americans have yet to even consider using natural personal care, even if they buy natural and organic food.

“Bad press” seems so distant and impersonal; therefore, its potential to affect our purchasing habits, especially in this emerging category, is somewhat limited.

That’s why my curiosity was piqued when I recently came across two similar retail initiatives geared toward sparking customers to make the change from conventional to nontoxic cosmetics.

It’s the "swap your X for Y" method and it’s coming to a retailer near you.

Incentive: Don’t we all need a little?

I saw it a month or two ago at Whole Foods Market in Boulder, Colo. The promotion urged shoppers to bring in their conventional soap and swap it for a free bar of Verve.

The Verve bars were stacked high on a nice-looking end cap, though they didn’t seem to be getting much action. As far as I could tell, the point was to introduce this specific brand rather than legitimately educate and offer alternatives.

However, it still caught my attention enough to take a blurry pic (right) on my iPhone. I may have even tweeted it.

Trade toxic products for natural ones (and information)

Fast forward a few weeks to NPA MarketPlace, where my colleague Susan Enfield interviewed Debra Stark of Debra’s Natural Gourmet, in Concord, Mass., on retailer marketing and education efforts.

Turns out Debra ran a very similar promotion years ago—but with a couple of key differences. Like Whole Foods, she had customers bring in their conventional products (in this case shampoo) to swap it for a natural product.

But Stark also used the promotion to inform customers about ingredients when they arrived at the store. And instead of associating the promotion with only one brand, she matched customers with products she thought they personally were going to love.  

“What came from that is we were able to educate people about natural beauty products. Our percentage of sales in that department just pumped up 3 percent and stayed up all the years following that promotion,” Stark said.  

I think the swap it method can be relevant—but only if it helps foster the bigger conversation as Stark's did. 

What motivates you to change your purchasing habits? Leave a comment.

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