The Future of Direct Selling: Gamification

Facebook GamesRecently, 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)

Mobile devices make it possible for people to play anytime, anywhere, with just a bit of downtime.

Mobile devices make it possible for people to play anytime, anywhere, with just a bit of downtime.

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?

11 Responses to The Future of Direct Selling: Gamification
  1. Mary
    July 14, 2013 | 5:31 pm


    For me as a direct seller, virtual online parties is really a necessity. Due to a back injury, I can no longer load and unload my car with all the product and such for an in home party. I need another way to get my name and my product out there and to generate leads for building a team. Thank you for being so forward thinking. Now I just need to find a way to implement things now.

  2. Taya
    February 28, 2013 | 2:30 am

    Social gaming truly is climbing the direct sales ladder. I enjoy shopping with a company that engages their buyers. I wish I could get reminders to work my business from time to time. Great article Jennifer!

  3. Jenn @ Chic But Cheap
    February 27, 2013 | 10:40 am

    I think it’s very dependent on the culture of your personal social network. If you’re connected with primarily low-volume users who don’t have fast-moving Facebook News Feeds, the volume of game activity and notifications can be overwhelming for them. More plugged-in users seem to love it — there’s no such thing as over-interaction for them.

  4. Denise Swyers
    February 26, 2013 | 12:59 pm

    Jennifer, Gamification has captured so many. It has been evident by the number of invitations I get to play different games. Direct Sales has been expert at engaging the sales field in incentives, but it would be genius if we could do the same with our customers. I have thought this for as long as I first heard the word “gamification!” Thanks for all your great articles. Love all of them!

  5. Nancy
    February 25, 2013 | 9:10 pm

    Jennifer, I appreciate you because you are looking ahead to the future of the direct selling industry. I have been following Clayton Christensen lately. He is from the Harvard Business School, the architect of disruptive innovation and one of the world’s top experts on management, innovation, and growth. He looks at things “out of the box.” What would he say about the direct selling industry? Check him out!

  6. Carleen
    February 25, 2013 | 3:37 pm

    SUCH an interesting article, Jennifer! You sure have my brain cranking. Thanks!

    • Jennifer Fong
      February 25, 2013 | 4:15 pm

      It’s pretty compelling stuff, isn’t it Carleen? I started exploring this concept for virtual parties, and the far-reaching implications I discovered for every aspect of our business blew me away!

  7. Joseph Mariano
    February 25, 2013 | 12:39 pm

    Isn’t this what direct sellers do now, Jennifer? We’ve always motivated people with incentives – in fact our sales and incentive structure has been a “game” of performance and reward. I’d be interested in how this “new” reality is truly different from human (and direct selling) behavior over the years, and how what we do will now change (if it does) as a result. Is this merely a matter of technology or something more?

    • Jennifer Fong
      February 25, 2013 | 12:41 pm

      It’s a very good point, Joe. In some ways, we’ve used gamification elements for years. I believe the challenge for our industry now is to take some of what we’ve done in “real life” and put it into the technology of today. Because today’s consumer has a certain set of expectations: they want it now, they want it fast, they want it seamless. They don’t want to wait a week or a month. So we have to come up with the systems that allow us to deliver faster, better, smoother.

      Interesting point: the incentives we’ve often traditionally used…the “stuff”…is actually lowest on the motivation scale in gamification research. Status is often more important that stuff. Lots of new stuff to research and explore. This is, I believe, our next challenge as an industry.

  8. Gale Bates
    February 25, 2013 | 12:19 pm

    Jennifer, I believe you are “spot” on with your information. It is a new idea that will help leaders grow that “sense of belonging” and motivate social movement to increase activity in the field.

    • Jennifer Fong
      February 25, 2013 | 12:31 pm

      Thanks for commenting Gale. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and believe this is HUGE for the industry. We need to be prepared to move in the direction that the technology is taking us. Gamification is a logical next step for our industry.

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