Interview: How A Membership-Based Personal And Household Care Brand Is Democratizing Non-Toxic Living
Society Products is dedicated to enabling non-toxic living for all, using a subscription model that enables low costs for members on natural cleaning and personal care
As more consumers join the healthy-living bandwagon, they are increasingly embracing natural and non-toxic options in all areas of their lifestyles, from food and clothing to home and cleaning. For this last category in particular, natural alternatives that truly get the job done can be difficult to source—in particular at low enough price points to be accessible to all.
Enter Society Products, a membership-based marketplace that sells only non-toxic and affordable cleaning products that not only are effective for heavier-duty jobs, but also are accessible to more consumers than ever before, thanks to its subscriber structure requiring small fees that keep overall costs low. PSFK spoke to Society Products co-founder, Jessica Huang, about the company's consumer-first approach to natural living and democratizing toxin-free care in a space populated with pricey and unreliable alternatives to more the traditional, heavy-duty counterparts:
PSFK: What led you to cofound Society Products? What gaps did you notice in the marketplace?
Jessica Huang: I spent a lot of time researching, but when it came to the cleaning and home products space, I just used whatever my parents used. To be honest, they used what my grandparents used.
It's really difficult to find any natural solutions for heavy-duty problems, like a carpet stain, or ants in your kitchen. If you are able to find any natural products, they are nearly double the price. Usually, they just don't work. As a consumer, you often feel bullied into these kind of chemical products and “'60's science,” as we like to call it.
Within the CPG market, what trends are you seeing impact retail today and that you're leveraging in your work?
As millennials and Gen Z start growing older, becoming renters and homeowners, the way that consumer goods are being discovered and sold is completely shifting. As a generation, millennials are quite cost‑conscious and more open to generics.
I read that 60% of millennials would actually prefer generics over name brands if it meant saving more money. I think that combined with the fact that millennials are also a very on‑the‑go generation means that streamlined is better. Oftentimes, they'll opt for a more modern design to compliment their routine.
In addition to that, people just care more about the ingredients in the products they use. Keeping those trends in mind, at Society Products, we wanted to have a really design‑focused brand. Our packaging is inspired by artists like Ellsworth Kelly, and Josef and Anni Albers.
We thought, since people use these products every day, why shouldn't we design something they're not afraid to just leave out on the counter rather than stash away in a cabinet?
How do you approach messaging millennials and Gen Z-ers?
One focus is keeping everything very clear and concise. It's also about approaching them on different social channels, and being in tune with what's going on in the media to take an authentic brand approach.
Could you describe the way you communicate your transparency to consumers?
We really want to be completely transparent with the ingredients we're using and where our products are being made. Right now, all of our products are made in the USA, with the exception of an Ayate washcloth, which is handwoven in Mexico.
One thing that we've noticed as a company is that many home cleaning products actually aren't required to divulge ingredients in their formulation. Even though it's not really required of us by law, I think it's important that we fully list all ingredients of each of our products, making sure that consumers understand what the ingredients are for. I know that I'm not the only one who reads the back of a bottle of shampoo and sees words even a biochemist would have trouble pronouncing.
Finally, we also want to focus on being as cost‑effective to the consumer as possible, especially since we're an at‑cost marketplace.
How do you curate your product line?
Our initial product curation stemmed out of some feedback that we received from a small focus group of people—millennials, Gen Z, people in cities and people in rural environments as well. We wanted to develop and curate a variety of what we call natural heavy‑duty products.
When we went to launch the Indiegogo campaign, it was important for us to not present too many products at once, yet make sure that we have a selection that covers almost every element of consumers' life.
We started with a bar soap that you can use in your bathroom or your kitchen, a multi‑insect killer, a carpet cleaner, a surface cleaner—really showing that we can target different areas at once.
As we move forward, we can start diving deeper into the different categories. We just launched a pet waterless bath formulation a few weeks ago.. In the near future, we can see more products for pets.
Why did you decide to focus on selling direct to consumer, and how does that make the customer experience more seamless?
People living in urban environments have the luxury of having so many different retailers near them, from Whole Foods to smaller retailers. When you move outside the cities into the suburban and rural environment, good‑for‑you products just don't exist.
Our main focus was making sure that all of America can have access to these natural products and creating a one‑stop shop for these more good‑for‑you products so consumers don't have to search endlessly.
How does your membership model work?
Our membership fees cover our operating expenses in the company. By growing our membership base, we are able to expand the benefits to our members. The idea is to pass on these bulk savings to consumers without requiring them to actually buy in bulk.
Instead of consumers going to Costco and having to buy 10 hands soaps to get a discount, we will be able to sell them hand soap at that cost for just one. The membership fees enable us to do that.
As memberships grow, and as our community base grows, our product offering grows, and as a company we can grow as well.
Finally, how do you maintain that post-purchase and long-term relationship with consumers?
A brand pillar for us is to be completely consciously transparent enough that we encourage consumers to trust in our brand and products. That will allow us to pursue different categories where we still see that accessibility and affordability is an issue.
We also want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to stop using chemical heavy hitters and move towards more natural solutions. The last element to establish that loyalty is being consciously sustainable and pursuing every effort possible to create a cleaner and safer environment for well-being.
We want consumers to see Society products on their countertops, in their bedrooms, out in the yard, and really resonate with them. We want to establish a system and routine for them to adopt, so they really become a member of our Society.
Society Products is enabling healthy living for all by identifying gaps in the natural care market and marshaling a membership-based retail model. For more from similar innovative brands, see PSFK’s reports and newsletters.
Lead image: stock photos from Stock-Asso/Shutterstock