One of the most fascinating forms of research for my job is definitely consumer observation. At least a couple of times a year, I take an hour out of my day and either investigate or observe the oral health product aisles in megastores like Target® or Wal-Mart®.
I must admit that I feel somewhat awkward stalking the aisle for an hour. I try to break up the monotony by asking people for recommendations. If the traffic is light, I explore what new and exciting offerings are available for purchase.
I spent an hour this last Saturday in my regional Target, and the bulleted items below are my observations. I highly recommend to you all doing this at least once. It is eye-opening! Consumers have a bevy of products available to them, and, if necessary, they can perform minor surgeries and repairs on their own dentition. This scares me. I actually saw some primitive scalers for sale, as well as many remedies for maintaining or repairing a broken tooth. I also saw enough pain relievers to keep anyone from seeing their dentist for quite a while. Should consumers have access to these types of products?
In-home whitening is definitely on a downward spiral. Two years ago, there were sections devoted to whitening products: pastes, strips, gels, trays, lights and rinses. What I see now is just the “big boys” and their products. I did see a major manufacturer offer “professional-grade whitening” (the highest % of hydrogen peroxide I have seen in a long time) But guess what? There was no product left, it was sold out, and at a price of $49.99 for 14 days of treatment!
Oldies but goodies. Numerous flossing devices are available, but time after time, consumer after consumer, I saw them grab Johnson & Johnson REACH® Mint Waxed Floss or Glide®. Scope® definitely outpaced any other mouthrinse, although Listerine® original was a solid second. The new products and holistic oral care products sat untouched or unlooked at. And here I thought the fennel-flavored perio rinse would be a big seller!
My conclusion for this trip: People are in a hurry, and they tend to stick with brands they have apparently used for a long time. It was rare for me to see a mom, or dad for that matter, explore new offerings; not even trying a new flavor or form of a favored brand. People want to get in and get out. If their oral health habits are not broken, why try to fix them? On the upswing, I was amazed at how many people bought dental floss in the period of an hour. But by people, I mean women and obviously moms. Not a single male purchased floss while I was there.
One woman circled back, approached me and quite boldly stated, Are you a secret shopper or something? I looked at her, smiled and quietly replied, Something.