Alice.com Expands to Europe
Alice.com, the online marketplace that enables manufacturers of consumer household products to sell directly to consumers, recently announced it had agreed to a merger with a Spanish company, Koto.com, to give it a foothold in Europe.
Mark McGuire, president of Alice.com, said the Koto name will be going away and rebranded as Alice. The first site, Alice.es, will launch in Spain in September. The company, he told RetailWire, plans to "move into Germany and France in 2012, and then Italy and the U.K. following in the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013."
The merger will enable Alice.com to broaden the reach for manufacturers on its site, many of which are global brands selling through traditional retail channels. Mr. McGuire said many of the brands his company works with in the U.S. "have been asking and pushing us to expand our platform."
In some ways, doing business in Europe sounds as if it could be easier for Alice and its manufacturers.
"It seems that there is less of a concern with channel conflict in the European market than there is in the U.S. It is slowly evolving to where the manufacturers are having it be part of their standard business to have a direct to consumer relationship. I think in Europe, it is even more of a focus in that store brands and private label are even more advanced than it is in the States," Mr. McGuire told RetailWire.
Mr. McGuire pointed to Procter & Gamble as one of the leaders in the consumer direct market.
"They’ve been very aggressive with their eStore and, some of the things they are doing on Facebook, I think you’re seeing a shift there to retailers expecting and understanding that the manufacturers are going to be involved in direct-to-consumer relationships. It is not going to be the majority of their business, but it is going to be an important part moving forward," he said.
Many others are following similar paths to P&G, according to Mr. McGuire.
"We’re just about to cross over 400 manufacturers that have on-boarded onto the platform. That’s a nice milestone for us and that we’re getting a really significant amount of manufacturer traction. We’re powering around 90 e-commerce storefronts for brands and then we also launched one of several things we’re going to be doing on Facebook in the coming months. We allow all the brands that are on our storefronts to integrate their stores directly into Facebook and we’ve got about 70 of those Facebook stores up and running, as well."
As for future plans, Mr. McGuire said, "I think for right now our focus is going to be on Europe and the U.S. For the next year or two, for sure. As a startup, this is a big step for us with a lot of moving parts, so you have to be careful how you grow."
What do you think of the potential for manufacturer direct to consumer sales of CPG products in the U.S. and Europe? What intrigues you most about the activity taking place in this space?