Understanding consumer needs is key in driving new trends in hair care products.
Successful brands are those that firstly define the right consumer segment and then help their owners focus on and exploit the right target. Unilever serves an example of this in the personal care field, especially shampoo products. Clear, Sunsilk and Pantene are three of the most favoured brands in health and beauty care in Vietnam’s rural and urban areas, according to Kantar WorldPanel’s Brand Footprint 2014 Study. Unilever has five of the ten most chosen brands in health and beauty care. Dominating in hair care, with a share of 37 per cent according to Euromonitor in 2012, Unilever creates trends in standard shampoo products and the brand will continue to do so in hair care in the future as it has a thorough understanding of consumers’ demands and habits.
According to a 2014 shampoo market report from the Japanese market researcher W&S, Clear and Sunsilk topped the list when survey respondents were asked about what brands first come to mind. Clear received 79.4 per cent of responses, followed by Sunsilk with 68.1 per cent and then Head & Shoulders. In terms of gender, Clear was the most familiar among male respondents, with 81.4 per cent of responses, while Sunsilk was top among female respondents, with 79.2 per cent. The two shampoos are also the most popular brands for people aged 16 and above earning a monthly income of VND7 million ($319) to VND15 million ($685) or more.
So why are the two Unilever brands at the top-of-the-mind of Vietnamese consumers? Industry insiders say the two brands have key factors that their competition can’t match. According to W&S, functional factors are a concern for hair care shoppers, of which “not itchy” and “clean scalp” stand out among the important factors when respondents choose a shampoo product, with 4.37 and 4.31 per cent, respectively. Following are “healthy and strong hair” and “hair damage prevention”, with 4.24 and 4.19 per cent, respectively. Understanding consumer needs, Clear beats its rivals in communicating what its functions are. It sends a clear and strong message - “One of our most exciting breakthroughs is Nutrium 10, which deeply nourishes the scalp” - addressing the symptoms of scalp problems and nourishing hair from root to tip. Men’s and women’s scalps are different, so Clear has customised formulations meeting different needs, with Clear Men for men and Clear’s Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy for women.
Packaging and volume and purchase points are other criteria shampoo brands exploit to have products that approach the right segment. The W&S survey showed that supermarkets lead in terms of distribution channels for buying shampoo products, chosen by 86.2 per cent of respondents, followed by grocery stores, with 57.7 per cent. Respondents in the south on high incomes are especially keen on buying shampoo at supermarkets rather than elsewhere.
Bottles of 500 ml or more are popular among 47 per cent of respondents while 53 per cent prefer bottles of less than 500 ml. Just over 15 per cent of those who prefer bottles of over 500 ml purchase 900 ml bottles. The trend of purchasing larger bottles was also found in the Nielsen Vietnam Retail Market Report 2011. Of those who prefer to buy shampoo in volumes of less than 500 ml, 65.3 per cent of respondents preferred small packets of less than 10 ml, followed by those who prefer 10 - 50 ml. Thirty-eight per cent preferred 51-100 ml bottles, followed by 25.9 per cent favouring 101-200 ml bottles.
Regarding purchase price, VND50,000-100,000 ($2.28-$4.56) is the average paid by 38.9 per cent of respondents for shampoo products, followed by VND100,001-150,000 ($4.56-$6.85), with 25.5 per cent, and less than VND50,000 ($2.28), with 13.2 per cent.
Euromonitor forecasts that demand for standard shampoos and conditioners will become saturated in Vietnam, so future growth will be driven by other categories containing styling agents or perms. Shampoo brands will likely focus on the added benefits of hair care products for product development in the future.