What ‘Digital First’ Means for Church & Dwight

Lisa Johnston
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Church & Dwight

Church & Dwight’s acquisition of the category-disruptor Hero brand is exceeding expectations, as the century-plus-old consumer goods stalwart continues a digital evolution that includes taking all employees along for the ride.  

The company has increased its total share of e-commerce sales from 2% in 2016 to more than 16% in 2022, company leaders shared in a call with investors. While this was, naturally, accelerated by the pandemic, the consumer behavior persists, and consumers who shop both online and in-store have larger basket sizes, said Surabhi Pokhriyal, chief growth officer.

“What we are seeing is when the consumer learns a new behavior, you cannot take convenience back from them,” Pokhriyal noted. “It becomes a very sticky behavior, and we see sustained post-COVID momentum, and that's how we see digital sales accelerating for us for all our brands.” 

Church & Dwight acquired Hero Mighty Patch last fall in a bid to bolster its reach in the hair and skin care market. The brand grew sales 54% in 2022, and Church & Dwight will expand both its marketing and distribution into major retailers. 

Seventy percent of Church & Dwight’s marketing spend is via digital channels, up from 35% in 2017. In addition to optimizing short-form videos, product descriptions, endless aisle keywords, and personalized creative, the company is also embracing edutainment and partnering with retailers like Walmart and Amazon to explore how they can replicate the success of live streaming in China within the United States. 

Leading with a “digital-first ambition” has meant a pivot from digital being a capability builder to a business builder, said Pokhriyal. “We also are very cognizant that digital cannot be a function by itself, and we need to elevate all boats.” 

This has translated into investments into training and education programs for all employees to raise their digital IQ, including "traditional” workers who may not have a digital responsibility. Church & Dwight launched internal digital commerce certification programs for both its digitally focused and traditional marketers “so that nobody will be analog anymore,” she said. “Everybody has to jump on the digital bandwagon.” 

(Also revealed during the call: Church & Dwight references a picture of Johnny Depp as Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jack Sparrow as a way to develop a culture embracing more risk taking.) 

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