P&G’s E-commerce Play Includes Facebook

Proctor & Gamble on May 20 launched eStore, an online retail platform that involves e-commerce firm PSWeb handling order fulfillment, merchandising, and pricing. The new initiative opened the door for the packaged goods giant to pilot a Facebook shopping app for its Pantene brand that allows consumers to place orders directly on the social site.

The hair care brand’s Facebook fans (or if you prefer, “People Who Like”) who hit the “Shop Now” button will be taken to the app and see the copy: “For being a loyal fan, you can purchase a full regimen of NEW Pantene at a special discount before it’s available in stores – all without leaving Facebook.”

Viewers who click on an item will see a pop-up shopping cart (see image below) where they can select product quantity. Employing an app by Columbus, OH-based Resources Interactive, Pantene’s fans will then be able to enter their shipping address before picking a delivery option and entering credit card information. Similar to other apps on the market (for instance, Alvenda), the system allows the purchase data to be hosted on eStore. Credit card info isn’t stored on Facebook’s server.

Aja Silvas, spokesperson for Cincinnati, OH-based P&G, suggested that Facebook pages for other P&G brands could soon incorporate the ordering app. “This feature will continue to be evaluated through shopper feedback as we look to enhance functionality on social networking pages for other brands,” she said.

For the eStore play in particular, interestingly, P&G will exclusively lean on digital promotions to create awareness. Silvas said there are no plans to use TV or print advertising to promote eStore, which will offer products from P&G brands like Tide, Pampers, Olay, CoverGirl, and Febreze – in addition to Pantene and others. The online promotions will likely pitch the site’s key selling point – $5 shipping on all orders – in the ad copy.

Pantene1.jpg “The eStore will be leveraging several marketing tactics for e-commerce, including paid and natural search, e-mail blasts, and ‘Where to Buy’ placement on P&G brand sites,” Silvas said.

The firm ran a test group with 5,000 participants in the months before launching eStore, which can be found at the URL, PGestore.com. The site will include community aspects like ratings and reviews while using the vendor Get Satisfaction. There’s a “Let us know what you think” page that allows viewers to submit questions for the customer service team, which will also orchestrate live chat on the site.

Additionally, P&G plans to launch a mobile app in the coming weeks that will allow consumers to purchase via eStore from their phones. The brand is mum about what mobile platforms or devices the app will run on, such as iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android. Nevertheless, it’s another development that highlights its growing emphasis on digital, where TNS Media Intelligence reported that P&G allotted 4 percent of its enormous overall marketing spend during Q1 2009.

Another recent online retailing venture from P&G involved a partnership with another CPG site, The Essentials.com, in 2008. Despite the two agreements, the 173-year-old company says it’s technically not in the business of online retailing because PSWeb maintains ownership of eStore. “eStore is an online learning lab like the bricks-and-mortar learning lab we have here in Cincinnati,” Silvas said. “We plan to use the online learning insights to help our e-retail partners as well as our own brands.”

The company does around $500 million in e-commerce sales via retail partners like Amazon.com, Target.com, BabiesRUs.com, and DrugStore.com. But that amount is less than 1 percent of an $80 billion global revenue total.

“We want it multiples of 10 times bigger than that,” P&G CEO Bob McDonald told AdAge.com in January. “The eventuality is a one-on-one relationship with every consumer, and obviously e-commerce needs to be a big part of that.”

Meanwhile on May 21, P&G U.K.’s associate director of new marketing and e-commerce, Emma Jenkins, resigned after 12 years with the brand to launch her own company.


Follow Christopher Heine on Twitter at @ChrisClickZ.

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