Deodorant just went from taboo to tech. Schmidt’s Naturals is taking things up a notch with its new digital initiative: Alexander, an AI platform that fields customer service inquiries from consumers in a fraction of the time it would take a human. Here’s how the step into tech could give the brand a much-needed edge above the intensifying personal care industry.
Though Schmidt’s initially made a dent in the deodorant world with its natural ingredients, it will need something a little more artificial to stay ahead. Competitive forces in the personal care category are picking up the pace. Personal care brands, both new and old, are popping up and stepping up their digital game to meet a new competitive climate. On Amazon, for example, search results for nonbranded personal care keywords have become increasingly saturated with advertisements. At the same time, as Amazon prioritizes profitability, the online retailer has pulled away from promoting low margin CPG products it has only been able to sell at a loss, raising the bar for brands. Nearly eighteen unique brands appear for the average nonbranded personal care product search on the platform, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Personal Care.
As such, the digital marketing ecosystem has also evolved, creating additional challenges for CPG brands looking to establish differentiated brand identities. Instagram, for example, has offered brands a new visual medium to reach and engage with customers. But, as with most CPG companies, personal care brands have yet to gain traction on the platform. While some legacy companies have turned to traditional digital marketing channels like site, search and display to reinforce brand equity at scale, venture-funded digital-first upstarts have also quickly ramped up digital marketing investments across these channels. Turning to an AI platform like Alexander could not only get customer-brand conversations going faster without any human operation needed, it also monitors social media and could use all those additional interactions to collect and create crucial data that could help Schmidt’s master its marketing strategy. Given that the brand slipped nineteen spots in Gartner L2’s rankings over the past two years, reinforcing loyalty with its customers could keep them from straying to the plethora of new brands appearing on the scene and pre-existing ones doubling down on digital.
To counteract the threats of the new personal care playing field, brands must develop digital-first brand-building strategies, reinforcing brand equity across an evolving, visual-first digital marketing ecosystem. Not every brand can invest in an AI platform like Alexander, or strike a deal with global superstar Justin Bieber, for that matter, but they can make a more concerted effort to get to know the evolving consumer, even if it is a smaller scale.