P&G will start selling goods through eStore
CINCINNATI - The maker of Tide detergent, Pampers diapers, and Gillette shavers is taking hundreds of its popular consumer products directly to shoppers through a new website.
The “eStore’’ Procter & Gamble Co. is testing, an unusual venture for a consumer products maker, could put it in direct competition with some of its biggest customers, major traditional and online retailers.
But the site’s leaders say it is a consumer research “lab’’ and retailers will benefit because they will get to share findings on how shoppers respond online and in stores to digital ads, coupons, promotions, and other factors.
To get the consumers who actually buy those brands to play along, P&G will advertise the site - and hope the convenience of shopping online and the special offers at the site draw customers. Procter & Gamble is the world’s largest consumer product maker.
P&G wouldn’t say whether the eStore’s prices will beat those in stores or on websites that also sell competitors’ products. But shipping will be a flat rate of $5.
Many major retailers - including many that sell P&G products - are beefing up their Web businesses to grab some of the continuing growth online and keep their sites competitive. Forrester Research expects retailers to report their total US online sales rose 11 percent to $156.1 billion in 2009.
But Web sales remain a small fraction of the nation’s commerce. At P&G, where chief executive Bob McDonald is looking online for growth, only $500 million of $79 billion in annual revenue, or 0.6 percent, comes online - mainly through Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and others.
P&G officials don’t expect the eStore to boost the manufacturer’s revenue or profit very much very soon. They’re more interested in the data it will produce about their shoppers.
After testing among P&G employees that begins this week, the company plans to try out the eStore with a pool of 5,000 consumers and launch it in the spring for US consumers.