Despite battling a lawsuit for using synthetic and potentially ineffective ingredients in its products, Jessica’s Alba’s The Honest Co. is a success story in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Personal Care. Just four years in existence, it is valued at $1.7 billion and is working a distribution deal with Target. While having a celebrity founder like Jessica Alba doesn’t hurt, The Honest Co. owes a large part of its success to a few smart digital moves.

Eighty percent of The Honest Co.’s revenue comes from its diaper subscription service, which is beginning to pose a threat to the diaper industry. That is no small feat, considering 40% of the industry is controlled b y a single player (Huggies). Once just the territory of new, independent brands like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, subscription services are attracting the attention of Personal Care Heavyweights. In June, Gillette launched the Gillette Shave Club to compete with subscription service Dollar Shave Club, becoming one of five personal care brands to support auto-replenishment. (Burt’s Bees, Philips Norelco, Philips Sonicare, and TENA are others.) E-tailers are looking to reap the benefits of recurring purchases as well; Walmart has confirmed plans to launch “Tahoe” as a competitive response to Amazon Prime.

Instead of relying on their rank in e-tailer search results (the digital equivalent of grocery store shelf space), brands are becoming visible on their own. A look at online search equity of emerging subscription services shows significant year on year increase in search volume, in addition to flowing venture capital.

personal-care-us-2015-online-search-equity-of-emerging-subscription-servicesSmart subscription companies are leveraging that interest and investing in paid and organic search results. For example, Honest.com appears in 4.1% of search results for the diaper category, on par with Pampers.com.

personal-care-us-2015-organic-visibility-of-brand-sites-across-category-specific-keywords-on-googleIn paid search, Honest.com surpasses Pampers.com, highlighting the newcomer’s aggressive stance on search.

personal-care-us-2015-paid-visibility-of-sponsored-listings-across-category-specific-keywords-on-googleBrands also need to provide seamless fulfillment, in order to convert and maintain the consumers who discovered them on search engine. The Honest Co. does an exceptional job with its app, which holds its own in the competitive sphere of sophisticated diaper apps. The commerce-enabled mobile app HonestBaby integrates with Honest.com customer accounts to track orders and renew subscriptions. It also engages consumers by allowing them to track key milestones in their baby’s development alongside feeding schedules.

the-honest-co-mobile-app-comparisonOn social, The Honest Co. takes advantage of its iconic founder and relatable brand message to develop a large following: @honest on Instagram has 395,000 followers and 18x more interactions than the average Personal Care post. And unlike the majority of the best-performing posts in the Index (across all sectors), The Host Co.’s Instagram account does not rely on product images. Thirty-three percent of the brand’s posts are quotes; 29% are lifestyle imagery; and photos of Jessica Alba, social media contests, and products make up the remaining images. The commitment to engaging and interacting with a community of followers extends to The Honest Co.’s social media practices; 8.3% of the brand’s August posts were regrams.

A study of The Honest Co.’s practices show how an independent brand can use digital to compete with industry giants. For more on the digital performance of 72 Personal Care brands in the U.S. market, download a copy of L2’s Digital IQ Index: Personal Care.

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