Supplier Leadership Award 2012 Winner for Shopper Insights: Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble redesigned Wal-Mart's Swiffer aisle to improve the shopping experience, earning SN's Supplier Leadership Award for Shopper Insights.

• Through consumer research, Procter & Gamble identified a trial barrier that was impeding growth of the Swiffer brand at Wal-Mart.
• P&G, in collaboration with Wal-Mart and ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, redesigned the Swiffer aisle as part of a 108-store test.
• Sales improvement was so significant, the redesign was rolled out nationwide and to additional chains.


Procter & Gamble had a problem: About 10 years after its successful Swiffer surface cleaners were introduced, sales growth at Wal-Mart [4] had stalled. 

“We knew some of it was due to the economy but we also quickly found out that a lot had to do with a trial barrier we weren’t addressing,” Guerin McClure, who was brand manager for P&G’s Wal-Mart customer team at the time, told SN.

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Swiffer cleaning systems were a hard sell during the recession for frugal shoppers who were accustomed to their trusty mop and broom. And even when out-of-store advertising was getting them interested in the devices, many were overwhelmed by an array of starter kits and refill pads at the shelf. The Swiffer brand, after all, comprises four key devices including the Original Swiffer Sweeper, which uses electromagnetic action and a special cloth to clean surfaces; Swiffer Wet Jet, which sprays a cleaning solution and uses a pad to absorb it; Swiffer Duster, which traps and locks dirt and allergens using duster refills; and the Swiffer SweeperVac which combines suction and a Swiffer dry sweeping cloth that attracts finer particles.

While conducting consumer research with help from advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, P&G discovered that when a consumer approached the aisle confusion quickly set in.

“It felt like work to determine which of the four Swiffer pillars was right for them. And then further, what’s the right refill for the right pillar? It was not visually intuitive so despite a lot of improvements that Wal-Mart had made, it was hard to shop,” said McClure.

Armed with these insights, P&G literally started to think outside the box. It reasoned that consumers would interact with Swiffer devices if they were displayed fully assembled, rather than inside a checkerboard of packaging on the shelf.

A Redesigned Swiffer Aisle

In partnership with Wal-Mart and Saatchi & Saatchi X, P&G redesigned Wal-Mart’s Swiffer aisle as part of a 108-store test. The reconfiguration involved assembling Swiffer Sweepers, Wet Jets, Dusters and SweeperVacs and hanging them from pegs above corresponding refill packs.

To further simplify the experience, a color-coded system helped shoppers match starter kits and refill packs. The four distinct hues cut the shopping experience from minutes to seconds, according to McClure.

“It’s organized in such a way where the shopper can quickly see ‘purple, green, yellow, dark green. I can figure out starter kits and refills and which one is right for me,’” he said.

The redesigned section also encouraged interactivity, giving the user the opportunity to test each device’s durability.

“With the product out of the box we encouraged her to hold it, put it on the floor, understand that it’s a strong and useful tool,” McClure said.

Read about SN's Packaging Innovation winner: Campbell Soup Co. [7]

The redesign was such a success that Wal-Mart gave P&G the go-ahead to expand it nationwide. The effort was supported with a comprehensive media campaign with the tagline “We’ve made it easier to find a better clean,” and for frugal shoppers who were still skeptical, a “Put your money where your mop is” money-back guarantee. Advertising took both digital and traditional forms. P&G even recreated the Wal-Mart section on the set of ABC’s “The View.” In-Store, shoppers were encouraged to visit the cleaning aisle with messages like “We’ve redesigned with you in mind,” and once he or she got to the Swiffer section, the merchandising scheme did the rest.

The payoff was a lift in sales among existing Swiffer users and those who were new to the brand, noted McClure, who could not provide specifics.

“By unlocking the consumer purchase barrier, we increased sales, I think primarily with consumers for whom the shelf had been a barrier, but we definitely made it easier to find a better clean for existing Swiffer users,” he said. “Maybe they’d been using dusters and moved into WetJet.”

Since Swiffer pads and cleaning solutions require continuous replacement, many brand users have become customers for life.

“It goes to show you the power of collaboration, thinking through a purchase barrier and coming at it with a unique solution that worked for Wal-Mart, the shopper and for P&G,” said McClure.

Read more about SN's Supplier Leadership Award winners. [8]

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