May 20, 2010, 3:22 PM

Procter & Gamble launches a retail web site

Procter & Gamble, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer packaged goods, has launched a retail web site that allows shoppers to buy Procter & Gamble products such as Tide detergent and Gillette razors directly from the manufacturer.

Procter & Gamble Co., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer packaged goods, has launched a retail web site for U.S. consumers that allows shoppers to buy Procter & Gamble products such as Tide detergent, Oral-B toothbrushes and Gillette razors directly from the manufacturer.

The site, PGeStore.com, is owned and operated by PFSweb Inc. The site enables consumers to shop by brand, new arrivals and special offers. The site today offered 52 brands, though Procter & Gamble says more will be added. The manufacturer also offers a flat shipping rate of $5 per order. Procter & Gamle and PFSweb announced plans for PGeStore.com in January.

The manufacturer says sales are not the only mission of the site. Procter & Gamble, which reported sales of $76.7 billion in 2009, hopes to gain can insight into consumer behavior. The manufacturer did not detail what data and insights it will collect, but said the main function of the site is to serve as a “living learning lab for developing e-commerce innovation.” Analysts have said the data gained from such an effort, such as which products are selling well by region, could help a manufacturer negotiate more favorable terms with retailers, including for shelf space.

The knowledge Procter & Gamble gains from its online retail customers likely will shed light on the behavior of multichannel shoppers, says Jim Okamura, senior partner with consulting firm J.C. Williams Group. He says that the manufacturer’s deep relationship with the retailers that sell Procter & Gamble products likely will help round out the picture of consumer preferences.

Among the challenges Procter & Gamble faces is how to organize within its corporate structure the employees who will collect and analyze the data, which will involve multiple brands and cut across multiple business units, he says.

No matter what happens there, the launch of the site seems certain to tempt other consumer goods manufacturers to take similar steps, Okamura adds. “As big and influential as Procter & Gamble is, there is no doubt this is a sign of a broad trend with consumer goods manufacturers,” he says.

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