Alice.com, a shopping website supported by makers of packaged goods, came into being in beta a few days ago. The idea is that you order brand-name consumer staples–from pet food to soap to cosmetics to batteries, pay Wal-Mart-like prices and your purchases are sent directly to you. Shipping is free.
Alice can track your product usage, remind you when she thinks you may be running out, offer you coupons, introduce you to new offerings, gain your trust by encouraging shopping-related networking. The one thing you won’t see from Alice is house brands. From the consumer staples’ manufacturers’ point of view, the whole point of Alice is to leapfrog over the supermarket/discount store and deal directly with the product user. That way, the shopper may never enter the staples part of the store, and thus may never see the signs, the displays and the other forms of in-store advertising that steer the consumer away from the name brands to the cheaper store brands.
In a lot of ways, this is the ideal time for something like Alice to start.