CINCINNATI: Procter & Gamble (P&G) is to begin trialling a new bespoke online shopping outlet, which will also provide marketing insight for the firm.

The eStore, carrying key brands including Tide, Pampers and Olay, will be offered to 5,000 consumers in a pilot project.

Tressie Long, a spokeswoman for P&G, said the outlet would mainly function as a "learning lab" for the firm, rather than as a way of driving immediate extra sales.

The firm plans use buying data generated by consumers using the pilot eStore to inform future marketing strategies.

Specialist e-commerce firm PFSweb will handle the outlet's day-to-day operations and a flat $5 (€3.48, £3.06) shipping fee will be charged for all orders.

The general public will not be able to access the site, although the initial trial is scheduled to be rolled out to other consumers during spring 2010.

Online shopping has been gaining in popularity over recent years, with research from Nielsen showing that US packaged goods e-commerce sales rose by up to 25% to reach around $10bn (€7bn, £6.1bn) between 2004 and 2008.

P&G currently offers many of its products through web portals belonging to large retailers including Wal-Mart.

However, online accounts for less than 1% of the firm's $79bn (€55bn, £48.5bn) annual sales.

As reported by Warc last week, P&G has reacted to the adverse economic conditions currently faced by US consumers in its latest campaign for Tide.

The ads highlight the detergent's ability to make existing clothes stay presentable for longer.

This reflects the fact that consumer spending on fashion has been pared by the economic downturn.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff