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If you aim to make an impact in reducing plastic usage, you might want to start with yourself. During our journey in starting the Plastic Soup Nudge Unit so far, we came to realise how much plastic we were actually using on a daily basis. That’s when we decided that we should put our money where our mouths are and find ways for plastic free living ourselves. In this blog series, we will take you along on our journey to make the switch and substantiate this with behavioral insights.

This week, Dirkje will share her experience with Happy Soaps, a soap bar brand.

From liquid to solid

Having a full head of hair, I’ve emptied countless shampoo and conditioner bottles in my life so far. When I first heard about solid shampoos, I must admit I was pretty skeptical (as most people are when encountering something they haven’t seen before). However, as much as I’m a creature of habit, I decided to give it a try.

Through social media advertising, I found the Dutch brand HappySoaps. The almighty internet must have picked up my intentions, as I was seeing HappySoaps ads literally everywhere. Their fun and stylish branding eventually got me to purchase a Happy Bundle, containing a shampoo, conditioner and body bar. To get the full experience, I also ordered a wooden soap holder. The pricing seemed very reasonable and market-confirm, regarding the claims that these products would last three to four times longer than a bottled product. 

About the switch

Purchasing soap bars is quite easy. That is, if you know where to find them. There are several stores that offer soap bars of various brands, but the easiest way is to order them online.

The reason it was so easy for me to find HappySoaps is because I was actively looking for soap bars as an alternative to my plastic shampoo bottles. Most consumers, however, will just be looking for a shampoo that makes their hair feel and smell great, which makes the lesser known alternatives also less visible to the consumer. 

Our 21st century brain associates shampoo with the typical plastic packaging we’ve known for pretty much all of our lives. Therefore, when looking for shampoo in a store, we will be looking for bottles that have that ‘shampoo’ look. Because of the huge amount of bottles compared to soap bars, we automatically assume that bottles are the default, and thus the best choice. In order to get people to buy solid haircare, it might help to increase salience of these products. 

Another important aspect of making the switch is the storage of your products at home. Because typical shampoo bottles use packaging, you just have to put them in or near your shower and you’re done. Soap bars however, you cannot put directly into your shower, because they will ‘melt’ when they get in touch with water. In order to help people make the switch, the consumer would have to have or purchase a separate storage option, which could be a barrier for behavior change. 

Customer experience

HappySoaps obviously knows all about customer experience. From online advice on which products to choose, to quick and environment-friendly delivery by bike, to postcards to welcome you to the HappySoaps family: they make sure you feel good and green about your purchase. 

The moment my beautifully plastic-free packaged products arrived, I couldn’t wait to put them on display and try them out. There is something about the look and smell of these soaps that just makes me really happy whenever I walk into my bathroom. These soaps (and their wooden holder) are designed to make you want to use them. 

The product itself

Naturally, a solid shampoo doesn’t work the same way as a liquid shampoo. You can’t just put a chunk of soap on your hair and expect it to be clean afterwards. To guide you in your first use, the HappySoaps packaging contains a tutorial. An extended tutorial can be found online on the website. 

Using the products seems easy. With the shampoo and conditioner bars, you get the bars wet and rub them in your hands until some product comes off. Then, you can put it in your hair as you would normally do with liquid products. You can also put the bar directly onto your wet hair, but they warn you that this might dry it out. With the body bar, you can just rub the soap bar directly onto your body. 

For me personally, it took some time to get used to this. I have to repeat the steps several times to make sure there is enough product in my hair, and at first I couldn’t really figure out if I used enough. It does leave my hair really soft and clean, so it definitely works well as a product, but I’m going to need some more time to fully get used to it. As for the body bar: except for the fact it slips out of my hands every 30 seconds (which is probably partly caused by severe clumsiness), I really love it. 

Behavior change techniques

When visiting the HappySoaps website, it becomes very clear that they know all about the principle of social proof. Pop-up messages, storytelling and reviews show you how many consumers have purchased and loved the products before you, making you want them even more. 

They also pay great attention to reducing skepticism, for example by explaining the price in relation to the amount of washes you get out of the bars, or by showing that the ingredients used are very similar to traditional bottled shampoos ánd shampoos for specific hair types. 

Overall, they also offer a great experience, making you part of their story and community and making sure that you get the most out of your product. They also make you feel happy (hence the name HappySoaps) and heroic about saving the environment, which is also something that will make the consumer more likely to purchase their products again. 

Although the experience is very positive, it is actually tailor-made for environment-enthusiasts like me. The next challenge for HappySoaps would be to try and appeal to a larger group of consumers and become more mainstream. This requires several other behavior change techniques that I haven’t seen them use yet. I am very curious to find out about their future plans, though!

Only time will tell if the traditional shampoo bottles will make place for these Instagram-worthy solid alternatives, but I’m definitely up for it and this experience left me wanting more. The next plastic free alternatives are already being tested or on their way to my home, so stay tuned for more switching experiences ;-). 

Overall evaluation: 

Easiness to switch: ⭐⭐⭐
The product itself: ⭐⭐⭐
Customer experience: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Use of behavior change techniques: ⭐⭐⭐⭐