How Direct Selling in a post-Amazon, mobile-first world has evolved
Imagine if you had a time machine and could instantly transport yourself to a direct selling leadership conference that was happening 15 years ago. If you stood up on stage with a shiny touchscreen phone in your hand and told the audience that somewhere in the ballpark of 75% of their sales would happen on that device, largely through a network of peer-to-peer sharing websites where many of their best customers have never even met one of their distributors, they would laugh you off the stage.
And yet, in a day when almost anything you need can be ordered in seconds with a few taps on a screen and delivered same-day via a worldwide network of warehouses, trucks, and even drones, many of the most seasoned leaders in the direct selling industry still cling to an old vestigial belief that success is primarily about the strength of your sellers and product, with online user experience only being of nominal importance.
To be fair, a strong selling force and great products are, and will always be, absolutely critical to the success of any direct selling company. But building a strong online brand culture with equally progressive and functional ecommerce systems has become of chief importance. Failing to recognize this reality is tantamount to the metaphorical head buried in the sand at this point. And yet, if you’ve ever wondered why so many direct selling companies have sites that are outdated, clunky to use, or painfully slow (particularly on mobile), this mentality is to blame.
The truth is, regardless of how daunting the adjustment feels, the world has changed, and companies that want to thrive in the next decade will have to adopt a new paradigm of continual evolution alongside their sales force through the ever-changing landscape of how consumers want to engage with their brand.
So how does one adapt to this new paradigm, you ask? By starting with a few simple principles and incorporating them into every decision you make about your brand.
Consumer preference has to define the way you sell (not the other way around)
To put it bluntly, when it comes to ecommerce today, a fast, easy, beautiful, mobile-first experience has become table stakes. Most of the companies that are still getting away with a sub-par website experience are able to do so because they built up a base during a very different time when online was less important and users had different expectations.
So why has this changed? The rise of online-first brands with beautiful site experiences has dramatically increased customer expectations for the online user experience. That means If you’re a newer business or seeking a new level of growth, and you want to attract people to your business, you need to ensure that your brand ‘promise’ is reflected in a well-designed site and user experience. Not so long ago, consumers were much more patient and forgiving with new companies, recognizing they were just “getting off the ground”. Now, with access to great design and development available to anyone of any size, the market simply doesn’t offer that same patience.
Ask yourself how you feel when you visit a website that doesn’t look great, is slow to load or is hard to navigate: how do you feel about that company’s ability to deliver high-quality goods and services? How motivated are you to share the link with friends and family?
Alternatively, how do you feel when a website looks great and is a breeze to use? How much does that increase your excitement about the product, interest in following the company or community on social media, and curiosity about the opportunity?
The gig economy has changed the way your distributors want to work
For lack of a better term, the gig economy is the new normal. What was a growing trend in the last half-decade has now, thanks to COVID-19, become a viable business model for many companies. A growing number of workers make a significant percentage of their income from a multi-stream, “gig” approach to work. This trend is a great boon for the direct selling industry but is dramatically changing expectations related to the tools we give sellers to onboard, understand their progress and earnings, and optimize their business.
The gig economy players have rightfully placed a huge emphasis on making sign-up and user dashboards slick, easy and engaging. Providing tools that enable people to conduct their entire business from their mobile device is no longer just a perk; it’s a must-have for the gig economy to work at all. And the popularity of these other opportunities means your company’s top competition for some of your sellers may not be another direct sales company, but other part-time opportunities promising easy ways to start and earn. In order to even be considered as an option, sellers need to see right away that your systems will give them the right tools and info to be successful, in a way that’s as easy to use as possible.
Building a strong brand culture has to be about more than just your products
In today’s economy, the one thing that people absolutely do not lack is options. For every great product on the market, there’s another one, equally effective and only marginally different, that can easily steal the hard-earned interest away from your products and brand. In fact, the entire methodology of intelligent search and content filtering algorithms on search engines and social media is built on measuring interest and engagement, and then serving up an infinite supply of similar content in order to drive more engagement on their platform and increase revenue derived from ad placement. Ever wonder why you see so many ads for similar products in your Facebook feed? So in short, the moment someone encounters your company on social media, it is an absolute certainty that they WILL be presented with your competition’s offerings.
So how do you stand out from the crowd? Build a strong brand culture.
It takes time and consistency to build a strong brand, but doing so can massively increase the value of your company. It also provides your distributors with context, motivation, and a sense of community. The stronger your brand, the easier it is to acquire and retain new customers, get better returns on advertising, and have more flexibility with price sensitivity.
Creating a strong brand is a multi-faceted process; it’s not something that happens overnight. Defining how to not only survive in today’s market but also stand out from the deafening noise of the battleground that is social media can be daunting. But one thing is certain: it’s no longer enough to just have great products - you have to build a brand culture that your customers want to identify with on a personal level to ensure that they keep coming back to you, despite the other options that keep coming their way.
Survival of the Fittest
The core concept of evolution is based largely on the principle of “survival of the fittest”. In today’s competitive digital marketplace, that principle has never been more true. Ecommerce is a cutthroat market, and increasing consumer expectation combined with rapidly advancing technological conveniences is efficiently thinning the thriving company herd. The businesses of the future are the ones who do what’s necessary to remain the “fittest” today, and that’s just as true for the direct selling industry as it is for any industry today.
There are numerous ways to make meaningful progress in the “evolution” towards cutting-edge marketplace systems. Paragon provides customized solutions to leading direct selling companies based on our extensive knowledge of the unique needs of this industry. To find out about arranging a demo for your company, visit our website at paragoncommerce.com
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