Books and electronics have long been the staples of online retail. But if consumer-goods behemoth Procter & Gamble
In an effort to both boost sales and track consumer behavior, P&G will soon launch an online store in partnership with e-commerce provider PFSweb. Initially, the e-store will operate as a pilot, with limited consumer access, although plans for a public launch are slated for the spring.
Thinking that P&G management would do best to take a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to such cockamamie plans? Careful -- you'll have to argue that the entire packaged-goods industry needs a good shrink-wrapping, too. Companies ranging from cereal-and-yogurt maker General Mills
With retailers such as Costco
However, trying to stir up excitement about anti-aging gels among consumers who are just one click away from their Facebook pages comes with certain dangers. As reported by Advertising Age, P&G's new Pampers' Dry Max diaper -- a huge innovation, according to the company -- has been, um, preemptively soiled by a small but vocal group of Internet critics. Meanwhile, P&G's chance to counter the backlash via national marketing is still months off.
Potential pitfalls notwithstanding, P&G management aims to raise its online sales from a current $500 million to $4 billion-$5 billion. It's unlikely that P&G will establish itself as a direct retailer, which means that much of those future sales will be derived through its existing partner network, which includes Amazon.com
Even if new online sales are not substantial on a companywide basis, the online environment should enable P&G to monitor shifting consumer trends in real time. After the company's tough slog through the recession, that development certainly merits a tweet or two.