‘Alice’ Goes Online to Sell Toilet Paper, Other Household Items
It’s generally been assumed that household products make for a tough sell online. The items tend to be the sort of thing that consumers need quickly (there’s no waiting around when the toilet paper runs out). They also pose shipping issues because products are often bulky and/or heavy.
Up to this point, online retailers have not aggressively gone after this business and that has opened an opportunity for a new website, Alice.com, to offer a service that allows manufacturers to sell their products directly to consumers.
"The vast majority of consumers don’t buy their household essentials online, and we set out to change that at Alice by taking a completely fresh approach to the CPG industry," said Brian Wiegand, CEO and co-founder of Alice.com, in a press release. "By eliminating the traditional retail layer, we allowed the companies that produce these goods to connect directly with the people who use them. The result is a neutral platform for CPG manufacturers to work together as an industry and channel their resources in exciting new ways for the consumer."
Vendors set the price of all items sold and receive all the revenue. Alice.com, which handles all logistics, gets its revenue from selling consumer spending data, advertising and distributing samples to targeted consumers chosen by the brands. Consumers are required to buy a minimum number of items and all orders are shipped free.
"The CPG industry spends billions of dollars each year trying to influence consumer behavior through traditional advertising, and much of that spending is wasted," said Mark McGuire, president and co-founder of Alice.com. "In contrast to this ‘spray and pray’ approach, Alice allows manufacturers to connect directly with consumers through targeted couponing, sampling and loyalty programs. The result is more accountability for the advertiser and more value for the end consumer."
Alice.com is looking to attract 250,000 shoppers to the site in its first year. The company, which currently ships only to the lower 48 states, has one distribution center in Indiana.
"They’re definitely tapping into something that I think could work but certainly it’s going to take folks to change their way about how they buy products," Kristen Chase, co-founder of CoolMomPicks.com, told Reuters.
Erin Doland, editor-in-chief of Unclutterer.com, told Reuters, she would use the service again after testing it. "Alice was better-priced then my grocery store on almost all of the products," she said.
"If they can figure out a way to make money, that’s wonderful," Sucharita Mulpuru, e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research, told the Financial Times.
"But a lot of smart people have been trying to crack this nut for a while and have lost their shirts doing so."
Discussion Questions: Does Alice.com have a shot at being successful? What will manufacturers selling through Alice.com mean for their relationships with retailers? Do you see a future, however long off, where retailers could become obsolete?
- Alice.com Launches New Service for Buying Household Essentials Online – Alice.com
- "Alice" Aims to Change Household Shopping Habits – Reuters
- Alice.com site to take on big supermarket discounters – Financial Times