The role of user experience in a Direct Selling channel

It wasn’t so long ago that our options for just about anything were, well, much more “manageable”. Demand for a larger variety was no match for supply. The bakery dictated what breads you would get. The local farmers dictated what produce and meats were available. The random traveling salesperson controlled the market on textiles and the like. It didn’t matter if you were particularly fond of a certain coat or if you were sick of parsnips; you had a few select options, and you dealt with it.

Fortunately, as industry and transportation expanded, so did the options. And it wasn’t long before getting your groceries, or some stylish new clothes, or whatever else you might have needed, was no longer a matter of personal concession; it was about choosing between the most appealing of numerous equivalent offerings.

Up until somewhere in the early 2000s, businesses more or less operated on the same principle - make a great product and do an excellent job of letting people know about it. And the key component that set one company apart from another was a well-equipped sales force. If your salespeople could bring a personal touch to the experience, customer loyalty was largely unchallenged.

Fast forward to the Internet age, and the culture of preference has increased exponentially. What might have at one time been a choice between two or even three good options has ballooned to a point where decision fatigue while exploring the possibilities is far likelier to produce a passive conversion than any comprehensive assessment of the available options.

And so, while the personal touch of a salesperson might still be a substantial factor in some decision-making, it’s no longer THE factor that is most likely to determine if a customer will try your product. Instead, a clean, well-designed, and mobile-friendly website with a simple checkout process is oftentimes what determines whether a prospect becomes a new customer or spends their time evaluating three of your competitors’ options while waiting for your site to load. It’s probably not hard to guess who’s going to get the sale in that particular scenario.

The necessity to adapt to this new paradigm has touched every industry. Some have adapted quickly while others, like the direct selling industry, have been able to resist this change for longer because they’ve been able to rely on their sales force to cover for their poor user experience for longer than others. But the inevitability of change is catching up to even the sturdiest of companies in the Direct Selling channel and adaptation is quickly becoming necessary to survive and thrive in the marketplace.

What areas of typical user experience are missing for many DS companies

The conversation around user experience (UX) can be a bit of a rabbit hole. There are infinite options and opinions on the topic, and not a lot of time-tested standards to rely on, primarily because of the ever-changing landscape of today’s digital marketplace. That said, there are several simple things that many direct selling companies could (and should) implement to improve their online UX dramatically.

  • Think Mobile-First: we could quote you some stats here, but odds are you’re either reading this on a mobile device, or you’re using one for something else while reading this. Mobile technology is only going to become more pervasive. If your website is not just mobile responsive but optimized to deliver a well-considered mobile-friendly experience, you’re likely leaving conversions on the table. It’s not enough to simply “think mobile”; you need to think mobile-first. Put another way, start your design process for mobile, and then adapt for desktop experiences. Given that most of your website visits will be done on a mobile device, it only makes sense to start your design process there.

  • Rethink Replicated Sites: savvy consumers have grown weary of the “bait and switch” of clickbait links that redirect to gimmicky landing pages. And even though a traditional replicated site model is anything but that, many consumers will still write off a company if they don’t feel that they are shopping the “official” website. Many direct selling companies are seeing great success after migrating to an “affiliate marketing” style of distributor sales using cookies and embedded links to track sales through a single corporate site, instead of using the traditional replicated site approach featuring personalized content (pictures, contact info, etc.) of your distributors. Your distributors will obviously love anything that’s specific to them, but if it weakens the user experience (and data shows us it often does), maybe it’s not the best choice, even for them.

  • Align Your Brand Experience: many prospective customers today who encounter your brand will be all about due diligence and fact-checking. If they hear about you on Facebook, they’re likely to check out your website or YouTube or something else to determine if they like the DNA of your brand and want to dive deeper. And especially among the coveted younger customer demographics, one whiff of inconsistency across these platforms is enough to create a seed of doubt for many. We’re not suggesting that your brand has to become “TikTok famous” or try to manage a fleet of subreddits, but consistent branding, messaging, and content distributed across all the major social and digital platforms is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your customers are getting the right message, wherever they are checking you out.

Why investing in user experience creates unique opportunities for DS companies

Many times, the topic of user experience can produce a bit of frustration and push back among seasoned direct selling execs. The discussion, often led by younger hip marketing types, can devolve into a bit of a Luddite scolding session without much consideration about the unique opportunity that UX can create within the direct selling channel.

  • Affiliate Marketing is the Perfect Direct Selling Primer: completely independent of the direct selling channel, the rise of affiliate marketing, multi-stream income, and the gig economy has familiarized the vast majority of average social media users with selling behaviors that previously had to be taught at great time and expense. Talking about a product on Facebook, sharing a link via text message, or even building and managing a team online is no longer a hurdle; it’s the new normal for entry into a direct selling business. Optimizing your digital user experience makes all the difference in acquiring these newly savvy sellers.

  • Don’t Fear the Influencer: whether you cringe at the word “influencer” or not, the fact remains that there are thousands of individuals who have spent years and a small fortune cultivating a following on social media with all of the distribution and messaging and networking required to grow a successful team already fleshed out. If your company has a UX optimized for social selling and can seamlessly integrate with the behaviors that these influencers are already employing, the potential growth that comes from tapping into these networks can revolutionize your current field.

It’s no mystery that many companies in the direct selling channel have been slow to adopt new technology and potentially disrupt a system working for them for a lot of years. As a result, the discussion around user experience can feel both daunting and highly subjective. Still, with a few minor changes to adapt to the evolving marketplace, the rewards of reorienting your salesforce to a new way of selling can very quickly begin to speak for themselves.

Whether you’re looking to integrate some of these technologies into your existing system or considering a platform change, 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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