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Having sold social search engine Jellyfish to Microsoft in 2007, founders Brian Wiegand and Mark McGuire started work on Alice.com, which launched in beta this week.

Alice.com provides an online marketplace for users to buy a whole range of household goods; nappies, batteries, soap and more, and for CPG manufacturers to sell directly to customers. I've been trying the site out... 

Alice.com homepage

Getting started

While having to register can put customers off on some sites, it is necessary to register on Alice.com to make use of the sites planning features, and the hope is that time spent setting up an account and telling it your preferences will save you more effort in the long run.

First of all, you can select the number of people in your household, how many children, how old etc, so if you have toddlers, nappies will appear in your list, and so on, all in a jolly cartoon format. In the process, Alice.com gets some useful information on its customers:

Alice.com select family members

After this. it asks you to select the products you use via these tick boxes, all of which are already ticked. This is a potential annoyance for the user, as they are forced to spend time un-ticking the items they don't use:

After this, you need to enter details to set up an account and start shopping. It does ask for a date of birth, which some users may find unnecessary, though it does justify this with the lure of special birthday offers, and sensibly doesn't make this compulsory.

Alice.com registration

Navigation

Alice.com offers different options for browsing and adding products to your basket. You can shop by brand, or by room, or else choose a duck that represents one of the product categories you selected when registering and go from there.

This where the tickboxes come into play, and if you haven't taken the time to un-tick the products you don't need, then you end up with a lot of ducks to go through:

After selecting a product, you have a few options, including adding to the current order or saving for a future order, as well as setting the frequency at which you will need these items. These are useful options, but having to do this for every item makes shopping for a whole household quite a lengthy process.

Add products

One thing it does do is automatically apply any coupons to the products you have selected, which does save a lot of time spent searching for them.

Some good filtering and sorting options are provided too, helping users to narrow their choices from what is a very wide range of products on the site. Alice.com allows you to filter by brand, lifestyle choice (green products, premium, bargain) or to sort by price, whether coupons are offered.

Basket / Checkout

When I was trying the site out, it asked my to re-enter my password every time I selected the checkout link, even when I had only just logged in. This is unnecessary, and something which will annoy a few users.

The basket page is fine, and clearly summarises your order, pointing out the savings you have made from coupons that have been applied to your order. Security concerns and other issues are dealt with the Digicert logo and nice clear contact details.

If you haven't added enough items to your basket (presumably to cover the costs of offering free delivery) then an alerts pops up, though it lets you off with just a couple of items the first time:

The checkout process is nice and compact, with most of the data entry compressed onto the one page which makes it smoother, though the last minute cross-sell page add one more step than is necessary. 

The site has neglected to enclose the process, leaving the main navigation links and search box at the top of the screen. Leaving the process via one of these links means you will have to enter your password again to get back in, a potential source of frustration for shoppers.

Conclusion

There are some innovative and potentially very useful features for long-term users of the site, such as the advanced planning section, which allows you to set reminders for when you are likely to need your next pack of toilet rolls.

For instance, the budgeting tab could be very useful to help households to plan their spending, as it compares your spending with the average on the site and can help you make savings.

Overall, a few relatively small usability issues aside, it's an appealing and well-designed site with a lot of useful features, which should encourage users to sign up and use the site long term.

Graham Charlton

Published 24 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)

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Rebecca

Thanks so much for the review and feedback! I love that you take readers step-by-step through the process. We look forward to making sure you never run out of toilet paper again! :)

about 7 years ago

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Jeff

I found at $10 off when you spend $50 at Alice.com. The coupon website was www.shopatalice.com

almost 7 years ago

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Jeff L

Sorry guys,

I just signed up for alice.com. The prices are not as good as people say. Do your homework! You can make one trip to walmart with your own coupons and save more. I found that almost all of the items I use were considerably higher priced than a trip to a cheap store. If you prefer to lazily sit in front of your computer to order your daily essentials, that is your perogative. If gas ever goes up to 6 dollars a gallon, I will reconsider joining Alice. I apologize for the negative review. But I am an educated consumer, and wanted to share my honest opinion.

over 6 years ago

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Robin

Who designed this site? It is incredible!!

about 6 years ago

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