The first aid category is not what it used to be. Even though a majority of trips to brick-and-mortar stores for first aid products are still driven by acute needs — a slip while cutting vegetables or a child’s scraped knee — consumers are changing how they approach the category, embracing the Boy Scouts’ mantra of always being prepared, among other changes driven by COVID-19.
Due in part to early-pandemic guidance to maximize the time between shopping trips, the first aid category’s first big shakeup last year was a boom in online sales.
“One of the things that we saw right away was people switching to just buying everything online,” said Laura Conlon, vice president of marketing at bandage and first aid kit company Welly. “We were available on Amazon and our direct-to-consumer site became really popular as people were just really looking at ways to get prepared and feel stocked up with the things they needed.”
As vaccination rates rise, though, consumers seem to be hanging on to their pandemic-era shopping mindsets and growing omnichannel shopping behavior. “Now we’re seeing people going back shopping in-store and shopping online, growing that hybrid approach,” Conlon said. “The thing that continues is this blended wellness journey where people are thinking about being prepared and what they need for their lifestyle — and that includes first aid, health care and really stocking up and seeking out these products more regularly.”
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As consumers look to stock up, they also increasingly know exactly what they want from the first aid category, and suppliers in the space are looking to deliver — from innovative products to educational resources and partnerships with retailers to drive foot traffic and sales.
“There’s a lot of help that we can provide online for consumers who may not be asking the pharmacist like they would have previously,” he said. “So we’ve had to look at how our search terms align to what consumers are really looking for, how the content that we have out online — both in written and video form — help meet those needs that are being searched for? That’s been a big focus for our business globally because it’s a worldwide trend and we have a great knowledge base as a company from which to help meet that need.”
J&J’s Kelly concurred, noting that Band-Aid and Neosporin brands have been working to build out online educational content with an eye toward providing relevant resources to help consumers shop the space.
“We’ve brought a new educational focus on the proper wound care regimen, really helping to debunk the myths for consumers around why you should first cleanse a wound with an antiseptic wash cleanser and then treat wounds with a topical antibiotic like Neosporin, and then protect and cover a wound with a Band-Aid brand adhesive bandage,” she said. “Today, only 3% of consumers are actually following that total three-step regimen, so we have a huge opportunity to educate and partner with those solutions.”
Kelly noted that in addition to curated online education and new store signage, the company also is once again partnering with Target for a build-your-own first aid kit promotion, emphasizing preparedness, as well as driving traffic and spurring product discovery.
Product discovery also is an important area of collaboration for first aid suppliers and retailers online, particularly as e-commerce sales remain strong.
“As shopping behaviors change and things become much more omnichannel, we’ve been working with platforms like Shipt or Instacart to make discerning products really easy for people, or bringing great content onto their websites and their platform,” said Welly’s Conlon. “That way, if you’re researching and you’re thinking ahead because you want to make a quick trip to the store or you want to buy online, we’ve made it really seamless to have that in-store discovery experience online.”