Consumers Like “Natural” Personal Care Products, But That Doesn’t Mean They Buy Them

Creating and marketing personal care products requires brands to get pretty, well, personal with their customers. After all, these items are slathered on, ingested, or otherwise absorbed into our bodies—it doesn’t get much more intimate than that. So when a well-known CPG brand discovered that the emergence of “natural” personal care products (NPCPs) was beginning to impact their bottom line, they knew that the best way to understand the appeal of these products would be to ask the consumers themselves.

In order to understand their customers and allocate resources effectively, the brand would like to understand how consumers in general perceive NPCPs, and then define the audience that is more inclined to buy them. The team believes this will help decide whether developing a “natural” offering is necessary to compete in this space; or if simple repositioning of existing products will suffice.

The Research

The brand has a global presence, so in order to help them answer their questions, we launched an Exploratory Research Group* in three countries: USA, China, and the United Kingdom. We recruited men and women ages 18-45 who are influenced by the ingredients in their personal care products, and our research was guided by the following objectives:

  • Understand general perceptions around purchasing and using personal care products, specifically those with natural ingredients
  • Explore associations between “natural products” and “premium products”
  • Identify triggers and barriers to purchasing natural products

The Results

Consumers in all countries think NPCPs are better for you—but that doesn’t mean they’ll buy them.

Respondents in all countries tended to provide similar perspectives on personal care products and the impact “natural” ingredients have on their decision-making process. The general consensus was that quality and price are the main determinants in selecting a personal care product: additionally, brand and reputation influenced respondents in China, while those in the UK just want reliability and delivery on product promises. Whether or not a product is “natural” is quite low on the radar of UK consumers, while those in China and the US tended to equate “natural” with a higher price tag—and thus were discouraged from buying them at all.

I don’t use natural products because the natural care products on the market are too expensive and there are too few to choose from. Even the so-called natural products are only partially natural.

40, Male. China

But just because they won’t pay for them doesn’t mean respondents don’t think NPCPs offer some benefits. Consumers in the US identified “natural” products as having more long-term benefits for the body and the environment, and most respondents in all countries defined the typical NPCP consumer as healthy, active, and socially/environmentally aware. Respondents in China further perceived the typical consumer as being younger and having sensitive skin, while those in the UK believe their interest in health would extend to their lifestyle in general.

Someone who has sensitive skin or allergies would use natural products. People that don’t like using chemicals or are against animal testing. I don’t think they would look any different from people that don’t use natural products. Their personality might be a bit more towards caring for the environment than those that are happy to use non-natural products.

33, Female, Stratford-Upon-Avon

For the most part, respondents reported being pretty happy with “middle-end” products that can meet their needs. These combined findings suggest that the CPG brand should pursue the option of repositioning their current products to highlight quality, price, and lifestyle fit in order to compete with NPCPs, rather than develop their own natural line that most consumers will probably not be willing to purchase. Download the multi-country wrap-up report below to learn more about

  • How consumers feel about using NPCPs versus regular personal care products
  • Whether consumers consider NPCPs to be “premium” and why
  • What changes could persuade consumers to try/purchase NPCPs
  • In-country and imported brands respondents reported they already use

Download Executive Summary

* An Exploratory Research Group is an online qualitative discussion where respondents interact with each other while answering open-ended questions and follow-ups posted by a trained moderator.