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Shaving Soap Market Segmentation

Curious as to how everyone looks at shaving soaps from a market segmentation perspective. My take sees the market as including four primary segments based on price and perceived quality as follows:

Key Shaving Soap Market Segments

Budget/Entry Level: Typically well under $5 (U.S. currency) examples such as Williams (1-$2), Arko (roughly $1+ per stick in bulk), Palmolive shave sticks and Van Der Hagen Deluxe ($2.29 at Walgreens). Wilkenson shave tub also positioned here based on U.K. in-store sell price of under 2 pounds. Category seems to include the classic "old school" shave soaps that have been around for decades. Packaging is typically a basic box or disposable plastic container. Interesting how most mass market canned shaving foams such as Gillette Foamy and Barbasol are at budget price levels with just a few, like Edge Proglide, go over $5.

Mass Market: Roughly $5 to $10 with examples such as Proraso, Cella (150ml), Van Der Hagen Luxury (4 - $5), Colonel Conk, Cremo and Razorock Classic Italian Shaving Soap ($6). Packaging here still tends to be basic. Marketing often focused on delivery of a quality shaving experience (product benefits) and/or inclusion of one or two premium ingredients, like shea butter or aloe, in the formula. Interesting how Van Der Hagen started out focused in the budget category at around $2 and has shifted focus towards the Mass Market range with a slight formula change and larger puck size under the Luxury product line. Lots of option here.

Premium: Roughly $10 to $20 with examples such as Mitchell's Wool Fat ($15 puck only), Henry Cavindish (12-$15), Vikings Blade ($15+), Taylor of old Bond Street (12 - $20) and Tabac ($20 refill only). Most of these seem to maintain standard formulations with some limited edition releases with unique scents. Often marketed on the basis on superior ingredients to deliver a better shaving experience. Many of these provide or have available options with high end wood or ceramic containers that can be refilled.

Super Premium/Artisan: Over $20 with examples such as Art of Shaving ($30 puck only), Trufitt & Hill ($25 puck only) and many limited batch artisan (E.g. West Coast Shaving Mallard Amore ($26) from a recent post) & all natural brands. Brands often have or offer high end containers and place a lot of emphasis on the quality/uniqueness of ingredients. Many of the artisan brands are marketed with personal creation stories such as " ..... is the founder (and hands) of the handmade, small batch grooming requisites coming out of (brand name). Like many in the wet shaving world, (artisans name) was inspired to try her hand at soap-making because of persistent skin issues......" that seek to create emotional bonds with customers.

These are rough categories that provide some high level definition to what is really a spectrum that ranges from $1+ basic soaps to the Super Premium products. Realize prices can vary for the same item by market with soaps from some countries heavily marked up when sold internationally. For example Proraso and Cella are clearly marked up for the U.S. market versus sell pricing in Europe. Same for Williams when sold in the European markets.

Do others see the shave soap market in in a similar way and how would you evolve or enhance these definitions to better reflect the market?
 
I like your categories, although you may need one more. I'm not sure I'd put a $25 puck and the $45 SV puck in the same price structure. I'm currently doing a longevity test on the SV, but I'm only maybe half way through the puck, so I don't know the actual in use cost.

MdC runs me about $50, but it lasts three times as long as most of the $25 pucks so the in use cost is actually a little cheaper. So far I'm not getting the same impression for the SV.

Or maybe there simply are not enough $45 soaps to worry about another category.
 
I look at the market segmentation a little differently.

Shaving Soap: This category includes mass market soaps like Williams, Arko, Palmolive, La Toja, Tabac, Cella, Proraso, etc. These soaps are made at an enormous scale, with a minimum of manual labor, driving per unit cost down. These provide excellent shaving properties (ease of lathering, slickness, residual slickness, lather stability) on par with soaps 5 times their price.

Shaving Soap, a Smell, and a Story: These are typically artisan soap makers that make small batches using mostly manual labor. These often include more expensive fragrance ingredients, and one or more specialty ingredients. These typically use story based marketing related to the proprietor, formula, or scent, but also include mass market soaps with expensive brands like Truefitt and Hill that are selling "a tradition of heritage" which can be loosely translated to "high profit margins".

Shaving Soap, a Smell, a Story, and Moisturizers: These soaps are the top of the food chain. Not only do they offer shaving characteristics similar to mass market shaving soaps, they also include pennies worth of expensive moisturizers, saving the user the need for post-shave balm application. Typically these are made manually in tiny batches driving per unit cost skyward. They invariably include rare and extraordinary ingredients like donkey's milk, hens teeth micro-abrasives, or similar. These are rarely in stock and require extraordinary and frustrating efforts to obtain, making the experience even more exclusive, and therefore luxurious.

😋
 
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Hi Dovo1695. Thank you. Looks like you are helping to answer Musicman1951's question by breaking out my Super Premium/Artisan segment into two buckets of Shaving Soap, a Smell, and a Story and a second with Shaving Soap, a Smell, a Story, and Moisturizers. To Musicman's point if there there are enough soaps and volume here this could be a valid segmentation approach for the super premium end of the market.

Given how much volume and breadth of assortment there is in just the "Shaving Soap" category that ranges from Williams to Tabac the market here still needs to be segmented beyond one category as originally shown above with Budget, Mass Market and Premium. The good, better and best segmentation is very common in the mass market and definitely applies here. Think of Busch, Budweiser and Michelob for example that are all mass market beers in the U.S. yet positioned very differently. Migration of Van Der Hagen from Budget to Mass Market product/pricing illustrates that at least one shaving soap manufacturer may be looking at the market this way.

Will be interesting to see others perspectives and how they vary based what they typically have in their shave den such as $1 Williams, $20 Tabac or $60 Martin de Candre (MdC).
 
The problem is different people have different skins, different skills and different noses. In shaving it is all subjective. Even the categorization according to price, is very telling on how price conditions people's mind and alters their perception of the product.

Proraso: It sells for about €2 here. Tabac: The puck sells for less than €10, the 100g stick for even less and in Germany you can find for even cheaper. Haslinger sells for €5 and cheaper in Austria.

So i am more in favour of the listing of @Dovo1695 and @BudgetShaverGuy . As for those who seek moisturizers, in my Amazon they sell for about €7 "L' Oreal Men Expert 24h action anti-stress face moisturizer with Guarana and Vitamin C". I suspect it works better than any soap. My wife buys moisturizer for women. On the other hand, if you are good with the razor, you might find that you don't need moisturizer. The aftershave is plenty. As for stories, a Kobo Nia or Kindle cost less than €100 and you can load thousands of stories in them.
 
Thanks, guys, some funny but true comments. For me, VDH Luxury, which is available in my parts for as little as $3 discounted, is the cheapest I've found that is at least decent in every major respect. However, I wouldn't say it is luxurious in any respect. With soaps, I think the "luxury" description best applies to the scent, though I'm usually happy with unscented (I do find some 'unscented' soaps have a harsh, chemical smell, which kind of defeats the purpose). And with most luxury goods, there is a huge retail markup, as creating that luxury image is expensive.
 
Thanks, guys, some funny but true comments. For me, VDH Luxury, which is available in my parts for as little as $3 discounted, is the cheapest I've found that is at least decent in every major respect. However, I wouldn't say it is luxurious in any respect. With soaps, I think the "luxury" description best applies to the scent, though I'm usually happy with unscented (I do find some 'unscented' soaps have a harsh, chemical smell, which kind of defeats the purpose). And with most luxury goods, there is a huge retail markup, as creating that luxury image is expensive.
Agreed. I'm not sure the VDH luxury soaps is an attempt to move upmarket. Given its retail price of around $3 or $4 per puck, it's not much more expensive than VDH's glycerin soap, which is priced at $2 or $3.

While I happen to like the VDH luxury soap and think it's not bad for the money. I happen to enjoy Razorock's What the Puck?!, Proraso, a bit more. They're all a little different, but I'd be happy to keep them all in my rotation (especially since they can all be bought for around $5 or less).

The biggest differences between Proraso, Cella, and some of the other commercial soapmakers and artisans is scale, IMHO. Sure, the artisans might use some fancier or more expensive ingredients, but I doubt it's enough to triple their costs. More likely, the mass market commercial soapmakers, especially those that have been around for hundreds of years, can keep prices low by buying and producing things on a greater scale than the artisans. They use machines to turn out soap, instead of doing it by hand. They buy ingredients by the barrel, instead of by the gallon/liter. Their machinery is old and paid for ages ago. All of this means their costs are significantly lower than those of the artisans, which means they can charge less for their products.

Excluding the artisans, a more fair comparison would be between mass market commercial soapmakers that have been around for a while. Then, you could categorize them as Dovo1695 suggested.
 
Not unlike @Dovo1695...

Chores today, clearing limbs to ~10' or so 'fire proofing' the claim for summer. Good time to ponder - strictly from a consumer perspective...

Easy cheap, fast and everywhere. Canned foam, shave oil, brushless cream/soaps. Made and marketed to utilitarian shavers, company pays for placement in your grocery store. Always there, wife never has to wonder what to buy.

Classics. Old school, been around a long time, includes Williams, Arko to SV, MdC , Acua di Parma (!?) and everything in between. These are proven soaps, known quantity, consistent quality, readily available and varied enough to appeal to anyone. Requires a brush and attention (love and care) to make it happen. Not in your grocery store so you have to ask permission from SWMBO to buy online.

The Avant-garde. These are the 'artisans'. Fun, exciting, always new, usually expensive. Intense dog eat dog competition, small batch, ever changing formulas, scents that hit the mark and others maybe not, clientele willing beta testers, limited availability part of the marketing attraction, ingredients list reads like a novel, really cool labels. A carnival ride of honestly good stuff if that's your thing. -- Please note a few makers distinguish themselves with reliable recipes of high quality soaps and reliable consistent product lines. These have found a stable market and may be moved at some point to Classics. (i'm thinking Stirling for instance)

Never was in the first category done exploring the last. Feet have traveled firmly planted in the Classics.
 
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The biggest differences between Proraso, Cella, and some of the other commercial soapmakers and artisans is scale, IMHO. Sure, the artisans might use some fancier or more expensive ingredients, but I doubt it's enough to triple their costs. More likely, the mass market commercial soapmakers, especially those that have been around for hundreds of years, can keep prices low by buying and producing things on a greater scale than the artisans. They use machines to turn out soap, instead of doing it by hand. They buy ingredients by the barrel, instead of by the gallon/liter. Their machinery is old and paid for ages ago. All of this means their costs are significantly lower than those of the artisans, which means they can charge less for their products.

Excluding the artisans, a more fair comparison would be between mass market commercial soapmakers that have been around for a while. Then, you could categorize them as Dovo1695 suggested.
Spot on. My response was very much tongue in cheek.
 
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Hi Dovo1695. Thank you. Looks like you are helping to answer Musicman1951's question by breaking out my Super Premium/Artisan segment into two buckets of Shaving Soap, a Smell, and a Story and a second with Shaving Soap, a Smell, a Story, and Moisturizers. To Musicman's point if there there are enough soaps and volume here this could be a valid segmentation approach for the super premium end of the market.
I only noticed this post only because I was tagged by others in the thread. Be sure to use the @ symbol before someone's username when you're tagging them (e.g. @Dovo1695 vs just dovo1695). In any case, my response was tongue and cheek and I can absolutely appreciate that you're looking at this from an academic market segmentation perspective and I apologize if my post made light of that. I think that's a useful exercise. My response was meant to reject the premise that price is in any way correlated to performance or quality. I can appreciate that performance/quality is often only tangentially related to marketing strategy regardless of product, but I find that perspective irksome; hence my tongue and cheek response.

I think that if you're looking at this from an academic perspective, it could be useful to look at the literature on the present day beer market. That market is similarly fragmented with many of the same dynamics. There's a great wealth of literature on the subject that I suspect is quite applicable.
 
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Spot on. My response was very much tongue in cheek.
The funny thing is, your categories probably work best; I can see them catching on. It's kind of like how Schrodinger's cat and the Big Bang Theory (or at least the name for the concept) were both originally considered satirical or even ridiculous, but have since passed into common non-satirical usage.
 

AimlessWanderer

Contributor
I have three categories. Mug soaps, tub soaps, and creams. I keep one of each in the bathroom.

Mug soaps:
For me this includes Mitchell's, and any other soaps which come as a refill hard puck. The whole soap is put out for use in the bathroom, and will stay there till it's finished, and then get replaced with something else.

Tub soaps:
Softer soaps, where the brush is still loaded on the soap. Either a sample of the soap, or a sample sized scoop from a tub, is served up in the bathroom. This portion of soap gets used quicker than the other two soap forms, and therefore changes more frequently.

Creams:
These are too soft to load a brush off the product, and so I scoop a 0.5ml to 1ml portion out, and dollop that in a lather bowl. I then load the brush in that before face lathering. Again, I stick with one product till it's finished.

There's no point in me segregating these categories further. A £1 Erasmic cream serves the same role as a £20 St James of London cream, and is used exactly the same way. Same with tub soaps and hard pucks, whether cheap or expensive. The cost per shave is either worth it, or it isn't. If it isn't, it won't be bought again. Simple as that.
 
The funny thing is, your categories probably work best; I can see them catching on. It's kind of like how Schrodinger's cat and the Big Bang Theory (or at least the name for the concept) were both originally considered satirical or even ridiculous, but have since passed into common non-satirical usage.
In deed they do. Because his classification, addresses more the "marketing segmentation".

To my more mundane needs, soaps (who are sold with the marketing close to what @Dovo1695 described) are divided in:

- Soaps easier or harder to lather.
- Soaps that are more or less forgiving (cushion). There are soaps where i can feel the blade and others where i can't. Is it a problem? No. It's just a perceptible difference.
- Soaps that are more or less slick.
- Soaps with fragrance that i like or dislike.
- Soaps that leave the skin calmer even before applying after shave and others that don't.

Simple example. To me, a soap that is deemed entry level, Lea classic, is already "too much" in meccanical properties. I can feel it so slick and can lather it so well, that i am amazed by it and often tell to my brush "wow, easy boy, calm down", because the brush moves so slippery that it is like flying. The scent is artificial, but i like it.

Tabac is another such soap, but i cant' stand the scent for long, so i don't buy it anymore.

TOBS has much better scents than Lea, but i prefer the lather i get with Lea. Is TOBS a problem? No, i can use it just fine.

I am sure things change for others.
 
If I look around in my den the range from ultra budget (Palmolive, Arko <= 1.00) to my priciest (Officina Artigiana Milano, Santa Maria del Fiore, Musgo Real ~20.00) is huge but the cost per shave is still negligible over the whole spectrum.

For me this really boils down to like - regardless of price (Cella - no, Vitos Super Extra Coco - yes) and story/heritage? (Palmolive, Lea, La Toja, Arko - what Story, vs. Musgo Real, Officina Artigiana Milano).

As always the law of diminishing returns apply and while a 20.00 soap gives you most of the times a better experience it’s definitely not 20 times better than the humble Palmolive.

Caveat I have yet to try the premiums MdC, SV, etc.
 
Instead of price, I rather look at cost and value.

Say, what is the cost of a bad shave? The cost of an awful smell? The cost of a shave gone wrong? To me, it's much greater than the price-tag on the soap.

How about the value of a great shave? To me, it's priceless. The 15 minutes of Zen, the me-time to relax and be on my own.

When you put it in this perspective, all of a sudden the price-tag becomes irrelevant.

That being said, I equally enjoy my "mass-market" Cella cream and my "super premium" SV triple milled. Price has nothing to do with it.
 
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Instead of price, I rather look at cost and value.

Say, what is the cost of a bad shave? The cost of an awful smell? The cost of a shave gone wrong? To me, it's much greater than the price-tag on the soap.

How about the value of a great shave? To me, it's priceless. The 15 minutes of Zen, the me-time to relax and be on my own.

When you put it in this perspective, all of a sudden the price-tag becomes irrelevant.

That being said, I equally enjoy my "mass-market" Cella cream and my "super premium" SV triple milled. Price has nothing to do with it.
Different people seek different things in wetshaving. That much is obvious reading the forum. This applies to many things, not just shaving. To some is a moment of relaxation. To others, it is more of a spa experience. Others, enjoy even a challenge, which is why there are threads where people partecipate in a challenge, for others, it is history, to others it is a taste of success (i bought the most expensive, therefore i bought the best) or they chase the fragrance as the ultimate pleasure.

That said, being an African, i will say only this. The hand and mind can be more powerful than the tool. A person can take an inferior objectively soap or blade and have a superior shave or like you say, enjoy just as much of even more a shave than someone else who only buys the most expensive stuff. Usually, it is hardship or hard training that makes you better, not the use of the easiest way. If you become proficient with lower end gear, you will never have any problem with anything higher. The opposite does not apply more often than not. Of course one can always stay in his comfort zone and be happy. But it is harder to understand the one who is better "skilled" than him. The proof is in the barbershop. The professional barbers that in past decades and centuries and to lesser extend today, still provide wetshaving service, do not buy SV. They buy Proraso or Cella or the "bricks". And their customers are nonetheless very happy.
 

BigJ

Ambassador
I look at the market segmentation a little differently.

Shaving Soap: This category includes mass market soaps like Williams, Arko, Palmolive, La Toja, Tabac, Cella, Proraso, etc. These soaps are made at an enormous scale, with a minimum of manual labor, driving per unit cost down. These provide excellent shaving properties (ease of lathering, slickness, residual slickness, lather stability) on par with soaps 5 times their price.

Shaving Soap, a Smell, and a Story: These are typically artisan soap makers that make small batches using mostly manual labor. These often include more expensive fragrance ingredients, and one or more specialty ingredients. These typically use story based marketing related to the proprietor, formula, or scent, but also include mass market soaps with expensive brands like Truefitt and Hill that are selling "a tradition of heritage" which can be loosely translated to "high profit margins".

Shaving Soap, a Smell, a Story, and Moisturizers: These soaps are the top of the food chain. Not only do they offer shaving characteristics similar to mass market shaving soaps, they also include pennies worth of expensive moisturizers, saving the user the need for post-shave balm application. Typically these are made manually in tiny batches driving per unit cost skyward. They invariably include rare and extraordinary ingredients like donkey's milk, hens teeth micro-abrasives, or similar. These are rarely in stock and require extraordinary and frustrating efforts to obtain, making the experience even more exclusive, and therefore luxurious.

😋
Great categories! For me the question is always, ‘How much am I willing to pay for this story?’ :a21:
 
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