Being an almost pathological devotee of free shipping, this week I decided to try Alice.com, a nifty new site that connects name-brand CPG manufacturers of household staples to sell directly to consumers and eliminate the middle-man. Alice is still in beta and is in the process of getting new members like myself to sign up and test-drive their simple service. Unlike sites like Drugstore.com or Amazon Grocery, Alice doesn’t take a cut of the sales revenues. It offers heavily discounted prices direct from the manufacturer, along with tons of coupons and best of all, free shipping. The site makes money from selling the companies spending data, ad space and sampling opportunities.
Alice was created as a way for CPG brands to respond to lagging sales as more and more financially strapped consumers started turning to store-brand (private label) products at their local drug and grocery stores. Through Alice, brands like Hefty, Colgate, Neutrogena and Kleenex can set their own prices and market their household essentials direct to consumers. I’ve used Drugstore.com a couple of times before and I have to say that despite the fact that Alice has fewer brands to choose from, it provided a much more streamlined experience with better prices.
The site is designed as a series of virtual “shelves” that you stock with your own name-brand products of choice. It initially asks you the makeup of your household so that it can guesstimate around when you are likely to run out of whatever it is you are purchasing and send you reminders. So if you always use Always pantiliners, Gillette Mach 3 razor blades and Bounty paper towels, all of these items will be sitting on your virtual “shelf” for you to simply pick out to restock when the time comes.
It’s ideal for families that consistently use the same brands for their home essentials, as well as households like mine that don’t own minivans to stuff full of toilet paper from Costco. When it came to buying bulky essentials, I oftentimes ended up sharing a cab from the local Target with a neighbor just to get the stuff home. With Alice, I can have the stuff sent straight to my door without paying for shipping and still get a price that’s cheaper than what I usuall find at Target. On Monday I had picked out my brands on Alice, organized my shelf, and put 7 items in my basket. On Wednesday I received a blue box containing all my stuff, neatly packed. It’s kind of amazing how shopping just keeps getting easier!