LONDON: A growing number of FMCG companies are launching ecommerce sites and selling directly to consumers, with Kimberly-Clark becoming the latest firm to do so via its online Kleenex Shop in the UK.

A six-month trial of the ecommerce site is planned and, if successful, is expected to be rolled out to other brands in the Kimberly-Clark portfolio, which could include Andrex and Huggies.

"We're seeing significant growth in the online channel through our retail partners," Adrian Percival, senior manager of ecommerce at Kimberly-Clark UK, told Marketing Week, "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."

The company hopes to gain insights that will help with everything from product and packaging design to retail strategy.

The timing of the move could be ideal, as a recent survey from the Direct Marketing Association noted that the willingness of British consumers to share information with brands has risen sharply over the past 18 months.

Diageo, Kellogg, GlaxoSmithKline and Procter & Gamble are among other leading FMCG companies that have experimented with direct selling.

A P&G spokesperson said it was an area where they moved slowly, testing and learning 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," he said.

But Ian Thomas, of shopper marketing agency Arc, said it was more important for marketers to nurture their brand online than sell products directly, as there was a risk of "taking their eye off the ball" of brand management.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff