Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at consumer trends as they relate to the direct selling industry. It’s important to understand consumers…how they want to shop, where they spend their time, what’s important to them…if we want to remain relevant as an industry for the long term.
It’s no secret how online shopping has grown. Thanks to mobile devices, people can shop anywhere, anytime, and they have come to expect a dynamic, seamless shopping experience that is available 24/7.
Another aspect that fascinates me is the rise of the casual gaming culture. Did you know that in 2012, the average social network gamer was a 40 years old female? The majority of people that purchase and play casual games are over 30 and female. Not the stereotypical image of the teenager in his basement playing games, is it? Sounds a lot more like the average age of our salesforce, doesn’t it? In fact, there were 77.9 million people playing casual games on social networks, and 200 million overall, in 2012. And 15% of these engaged players are spending, on average, $25 a month within these games, often on virtual goods! (Source: Casual Games Association)
You have most likely encountered these gamers in your own Facebook use. They’re the ones sending you Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz invitations, and it seems like that’s all they do, all day long. And while many direct sellers I know (myself included) have written these games off as a waste of time, what is growing (dramatically) is a place that people connect with one another and socialize while playing. The games can be asynchronous (people don’t have to be online at the same time to play with each other) but they can leave messages for one another as they engage in challenges and tasks, often ones they need to complete together.
With such a large gaming culture growing, I wonder about how we can leverage this for our industry. Obviously our target market loves these games. What if things like Farmville could BECOME income producing time?
There are many elements of the gamification culture that could significantly benefit our businesses. For example:
- Regular notifications, pushed to a mobile device. If you’ve ever played a game like Words with Friends, you know that if you haven’t played in a while, you get a notification on your phone. What if you had something similar that reminded you to work your business?
- Group challenges, that bring the benefits of social networks to completing tasks. Gaming research is showing us that casual gamers are drawn to these games because of the social aspect. What if people could work together on tasks that grow business?
- Leaderboards, which highlight how your performance relates to those right in front of you, and right behind you. This can be the motivation that encourages someone to do just a little bit more this month.
- Points, that you can earn for doing the tasks that help you grow your business. By turning the business into a game, you make it more fun, and perhaps more interesting to potential recruits.
And this is just the consultant side of the business! I believe that there are ways to make the consumer experience just as fun, using game elements, so that people come to play. I wrote about some of this in this World of Direct Selling piece that ran a few weeks ago.
The fact is, people expect to be able to interact with our businesses seamlessly online. They are less and less likely to show up at the same time in the same place, whether in person or on the phone. At least not without a huge effort. The business that can design an asynchronous, social, gamified consultant and customer opportunity will be well-positioned to meet consumers and potential recruits in the place where they want to interact with us.
I believe that this is the future of the direct selling industry. What do you think?