I’ve recently started using an online grocery service. It provides an app that lets me add to my list all week as we run out of things, choose from previously purchased items, place my order and have groceries delivered on my doorstep, even when I’m asleep. The produce is fresh, I can get bakery and other items from NYC, have farmer’s market selections delivered, and more. Pretty much everything I would buy anyway. But I don’t have to give up hours to go to my favorite grocery store.
Note, I said my favorite grocery store. It’s not that I don’t like my grocery store. In fact, I like it a lot. But in the end, convenience wins. I shop at lot more frequently with the online service (I call it my “grocery fairy”) than I do at the grocery store.
So how does this apply to direct sales or network marketing businesses?
Our industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself. 100 years ago, we WERE the convenient option. We offered home delivery. You could touch and try it (unlike mail order services) without having to go to the store. We could find out what our friends thought of products right at the party. But times have changed.
Today, people are used to shopping online at major sites and having items delivered within a day or two, for free (or at least a low annual fee that includes lots of extras). We have far more selection online, can read reviews from our friends as well as others, find average prices for similar products, and make informed choices. The days of a captive audience in the living room are over. People are more time-strapped than ever, and want quick and convenient shopping experiences that suit their preferences without having to get dressed or put on makeup. Direct sales companies that want to survive and thrive need to adapt to today’s preferences.
And a huge preference is convenience.
Direct sales companies need to reinvent themselves to be more convenient. We need to be adding services such as customer clubs, autoship (even if the company is a party plan company!), faster, less expensive shipping, and virtual parties. We need to provide the technology to make shopping fast and easy, removing all barriers to entry. Product demonstrations need to be quick and efficient, and just as effective online as they are in person. We need to allow customers to carry their shopping carts in their pockets on their mobile devices, adding as they think of it, and ordering when they’re ready. And we need to make the opportunity easier too, with mobile tools, videos on demand, social media sharing assets available at the touch of a button, and more.
Many companies have already started down this path. We’re seeing companies providing digital libraries, mobile communication tools, virtual party platforms and more. But we still have a long way to go. In order for our industry to thrive, we have to evolve at the same pace as our customers and prospects. And that means keeping up with technology. No, it’s not cheap. Direct sales companies need to be prepared to spend more than they have in the past to keep up. And the right technology matters, that is user tested and constantly updated.
We can do it as an industry. But first we have to be willing to admit that our traditional model is not serving customers, consultants and prospects as well as it used to. And then make the changes necessary to become the industry of the next generation.
What do you think? How has your company adapted? What changes do you think we still need to make? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author: Jennifer Fong is the Founder and CEO of Jen Fong Media, a full service digital marketing firm that helps direct selling companies, businesses, service providers and non-profits reach the people online who can help their organizations grow. We believe in marketing with integrity, building the relationships that matter and approaching marketing from a standpoint of service. For information on how Jen Fong Media can help your organization, please visit us online at http://jenfongmedia.com.