How Eco-Friendly eTailers Aim To Reinvent Shampoo

To provide consumers with an eco-friendly alternative to shampoo in single-use plastic packaging, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands are providing the product in a bar with paper-based packaging. The idea is not entirely new: HiBAR Co-founder Ward Johnson told PYMNTS in an interview that there are currently solid shampoos on the market, “but they are not the same quality as a salon-quality shampoo or conditioner.” Johnson’s company is looking to make the product differently and appeal to consumers who might already be using another product:  “If we’re going to change their habit, it has to be a seamless transition from whatever shampoo they’re using,” he said.

“Formulation was a huge part of it,” Johnson pointed out, as the company had to figure out a way to make solid shampoo exactly like a salon-quality product. The next big challenge was the shape of the product, which had to be unique and easy to use – something that could fit comfortably in a person’s hand. The other challenge is that the product doesn’t have any packaging once consumers start using it, which means it was essential to carry the brand into the shower – it couldn’t look like any other bar of soap. (In HiBAR’s case, the shape was inspired by a drop of water.)

With those challenges solved, the company settled on a fragrance that also communicated its brand. Johnson said the last six months have centered around launching the product, with a focus on selling it online as well as in national and local stores that fit its ethos.

The Salon-Like Experience

Consumers can opt to buy sets of the product – shampoo and conditioner for a discounted price – individually on the company’s website, or can sign up for a subscription. The aim of the subscription is to make it as simple as possible to keep re-ordering the product. HiBAR’s website is powered by the Shopify platform. Consumers can make payments by credit card, debit card or PayPal.

With the goal of offering a product exactly like salon-quality shampoo, HiBAR offers three different formulations designed specifically for different hair types. There is a clarifying formula for hair that is normal to dry, a moisturizing formulation for dry hair (the most popular product) and a volumizing formulation for consumers who want more curl or volume.

While HiBAR isn’t the first bar shampoo on the market, Johnson noted the key difference is that other solid shampoos can be lye-based, which means they are essentially soap. By contrast, HiBAR’s products are surfactant, which means they are shampoos and not soaps. That difference is important, Johnson pointed out, because soap can strip the hair, while a shampoo is gentler and designed specifically for hair. The product is sold in paper packaging that can stand up vertically next to traditional shampoos on retail shelves.

The Target Market

Johnson said the company’s automatic market is people who would do anything for the environment. But the company set out to do something bigger, also appealing to those who want to do something good for the environment but might not be willing to make a sacrifice. HiBAR aims to provide the best of both worlds, something good for the environment and for consumers’ hair. In terms of the age of its market, the company caters to those between 24 to 55 years old – in essence, millennials to Baby Boomers.

Consumers can also find the company’s products in co-ops and health food stores. In addition, HiBAR is selling into salons and eco-friendly salons, which helps the company gain credibility. They also see a potential opportunity in hospitality, with the growth of more eco-friendly hotel chains. At the same time, products that are eliminating single-use plastics are becoming a bit of a trend – cleancult, for instance, ships cleaning products in paper mailers and milk cartons, as Blueland offers tablet versions of cleaning solutions.

With offerings from companies such as Blueland, cleancult and HiBAR, DTC brands are looking to help consumers go green through one-time purchases and subscriptions via “green” eCommerce.



The PYMNTS Cross-Border Merchant Friction Index analyzes the key friction points experienced by consumers browsing, shopping and paying for purchases on international eCommerce sites. PYMNTS examined the checkout processes of 266 B2B and B2C eCommerce sites across 12 industries and operating from locations across Europe and the United States to provide a comprehensive overview of their checkout offerings.