Retailers   //   March 6, 2020

Organic cleaning products are seeing a coronavirus sales boom — whether or not they’re effective

As the coronavirus spreads, home cleaning brands like Lysol and Clorox have seen a surge in sales. 

But for organic home cleaning brands, which aren’t always effective against the virus, the issue is causing an interesting problem: There are lots more questions about their efficacy, leading in some cases to increased sales. But at the same time, they can’t advertise false claims that they can help prevent the spread of the virus.

At Blueland, the DTC cleaning supplies brand has seen a surge in sales this past week, particularly with hand soap being purchased in large bulks, said CEO Sarah Paiji Yoo. 

As for a timely advertising strategy, Blueland has been careful to not use the deadly pandemic for a “marketing moment,” which further contributes to fear-mongering around the sensitive topic. Paiji Yoo said that while the company is getting a lot of questions about antibacterial agents, which aren’t found in their products, the team is using them for “a big educational moment.”

For example, it’s avoiding the direct use of COVID-19-related language in social and email marketing, opting instead to frame content around general cold and flu season tips. Instead, it’s pointing customers’ email and social media inquiries to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, which say alcohol-based soaps are only needed in cases where water isn’t available for washing.

As for potential revenue bump, Paiji Yoo said they’ve “seen a lift in new customers and repeat transactions the past month.” However, she noted that it’s hard to differentiate whether the acquisition is also increasing due to a large emphasis on climate change during this election cycle.

Over at Grove Collaborative, hundreds of customer service reps have gotten getting extra training on answering health-related questions, said CEO Stuart Landesberg, who stressed that the customers’ health is the top priority. We also want to show there shouldn’t be a choice between healthy alternatives and effective cleaners,” he said.

Hand sanitizer is indeed selling faster than usual in the past week on Grove’s site, with a 5x increase in sales. Since the brand’s in-house sanitizer is made of more than 60% alcohol, it adheres to CDC’s guidelines. And with national brands like Purell selling out, Landesberg said they’re doing everything they can to keep it in stock. 

Customers of the natural hygiene category are likely to be knowledgable about sustainability and alternative cleaning methods, Landesberg explained. However, brands also don’t want to further incite fear-based purchases related to preventing the CVOID-19 spread. For example, while Grove Collaborative’s Instagram account has been tagged with coronavirus-related product posts, the company is foregoing directly engaging on the topic, which tends to create a sense of false advertising. Other brands like EO Essential Oil, which has been sold out of its natural sanitizer, is using its social channels to outline the CDC’s top preventative measure: thorough hand washing.

Alex Reed, co-founder of refillable DTC cleaning brand Truman’s, said that because the company’s surface sprays are non-toxic, “they do not disinfect and are not appropriate as part of cleaning regimens designed to eliminate germs from viruses.” This is something Truman’s customer service team has had to field questions about, on both social platforms and through the site, in recent weeks. Product inquiries in recent weeks have included coronavirus-related topics, such as the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.

“We definitely think we’ll see more people paying closer attention to their cleaning habits,” said Reed, which would naturally increase customer interest and subsequent sales in the coming weeks. And while external factors are impossible to control or predict, Truman’s expects to see a “strong performance continue throughout 2020.”