Innovation That Matters

Streamlined shopping for household goods, straight from manufacturers

Work & Lifestyle

Laundry detergent, toilet paper and toothpaste are not items consumers typically buy online, as the grocery stores, Wal-Marts and big box outlets of the world can attest. A new e-commerce site aims to change all that, however, by providing free shipping, streamlined reordering and a platform that allows consumers and manufacturers to connect. Just launched into beta this week, Alice offers more than 6,000 unique products from hundreds of different manufacturers. Its prices are 20 percent to 30 percent lower than those at other online stores, it says, and shipping is always free. US consumers begin by creating a free account and then selecting a list of all their favourite products, ordering only the items they need right then. Each shipment is bundled together in a single “Alice” box and delivered directly to the consumer’s door. Meanwhile, Alice organizes all the products on the member’s list, finds coupons and deals for them, and reminds them to reorder when they are likely to be running low. Although Wisconsin-based Alice works much like any other online retailer from the consumer’s perspective, behind the scenes it is more like a marketplace, allowing manufacturers to sell directly to US consumers. Alice makes no retail margin, and instead allows each manufacturer to control product assortment and pricing in its own direct sale to the end consumer. Because no retail middleman is involved, significant cost savings can be passed on to shoppers, the company says. In addition, Alice’s model allows brands to form a direct relationship with consumers, enabling personalized coupons, sampling and loyalty programs. Alice is actively signing up manufacturers during its beta phase, with plans for a full consumer launch in the fall. Those in consumer packaged goods: better get on board now! For all others: One to help bring to consumers in the rest of the shop-weary world?



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