Kleenex is the first UK Kimberly-Clark brand to sell direct to consumers online and the e-commerce platform could be rolled out to other brands in its portfolio such as Huggies and Andrex if a a six month trial is successful, although there are no plans in place.
The site offers the full Kleenex range and products not available elsewhere in the UK. Insights gleaned from the trial will inform future product and packaging design, online and retail strategy as well as marketing.
Adrian Percival, senior manager of ecommerce at Kimberly-Clark UK, told Marketing Week: “We’re seeing significant growth in the online channel through our retail partners and we’re determined to win in this channel so we need to know what influences their behaviour, that’s the goal of this shop.”
Gareth Foster, director of ecommerce and direct at GSK owned brand Maximuscle, which has been selling directly to consumers for seven years, says direct selling provides the opportunity to add value beyond a transaction with content such as training and diet plans and advice from expert nutritionists.
For P&G, direct selling is about simplifying the online path to purchase and less about having the transaction takes place on its own sites.
It has worked to reduce the number of clicks from search to purchase from 12 to four on its Oral B brand and replaced traditional product listings with expert endorsements, consumer reviews and price comparisons which has helped double sales, it claims. P&G says previously the purchase journey was “slow and painful” for the consumer and it lost sales along the way.
A P&G spokesperson adds: “This continues to be an area where we test and learn by brand and by online space. Our focus is on making sure our brands are present and effective wherever people look for them and expect them to be.”
Ian Thomas managing partner at shopper marketing agency Arc, however, believes FMCG brands risk “taking their eye off the ball” of brand management by delving too far into developing their own ecommerce platforms.
He says: “It is tempting to think that the future is for brands to invest in their own ecommerce platform. With more retailers popping up every day online, it is more important to manage your brand on line than it is to sell your products directly.”
Direct selling will never be a main revenue channel, the sale, in terms of revenue, is secondary to the experience and what it can tell the brand about a consumer. The benefits of having the capability to sell directly is the opportunity it offers a brand to build a relationship with a customer.
No consumer in their right mind would opt to buy such mundane products as toothpaste, tissues, baked beans or deodorant directly from each brand’s specific commerce site in separate transactions rather than in one go as part of a larger shop if all they get from doing so is the product.
The reason for a consumer to buy FMCG brands direct is if the experience can offer something more valuable than a purchase. What shopping online with a retailer offers is convenience a brand must offer in valuable experience. Content, loyalty, rewards, expertise, information, advice – these are the valuable assets for direct selling.
- Diageo: Launched its first ecommerce platform to sell its upmarket brands such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Ciroc Ultra Premium Vodka and selected single malts earlier this year.
- Reckitt Benckiser: Trialled Facebook selling to launch a new variant of Cillit Bang in February 2012.
- Unilever: Has sold limited edition variants of Lynx through Facebook.
- Kellogg’s: Launched a virtual store for its Special-K brand to convert searches into sales in November 2012.
- Heinz: Offers fans access to new products first through Facebook and personalised editions.
- GSK: Launched GSK Direct to sell consumer brands including Aquafresh, NiQuitin and Beechams and gather data in 2011.