The Mobile Web: What Does it Mean for Direct Sales?

iphoneWe’re hearing a great deal about the mobile web these days.  iPhones, Blackberries, etc, make it easy for people to stay connected to the mobile web, while also doing just about anything through a series of mobile applications made specifically for these devices.  I have to admit to you that I am a latecomer to the mobile web world.  When I was the president and CEO of a direct sales company, I felt like I was TOO connected, and I honestly didn’t want my email at my hip.  When I got into social media full time and finally broke down and got the Blackberry, I had friends who knew how adamantly I was opposed to it all laugh at me.  However when I read that companies like Google are investing heavily in their belief that mobile is the future of the web, it pays to pay attention.

The advent of the iPhone, as well as other mobile devices, is something that I believe we as direct sellers need to keep an eye on.  The technology really does offer some exciting potential for direct sellers as mobile devices become even more mainstream.  A direct seller could pull up the product guide at a party, and get information about a specific product that a customer has a question about.  Maybe she even uses cue cards for her script right on her phone, instead of having to use a printed version.  She could process credit cards at an event right from her device.  Companies could broadcast specials and announcements via text.  One on one appointments could result in a sale being entered right on the spot. 

While I don’t think enough direct sellers have mobile devices yet to make this a practical option for our industry, I don’t belive the day is far off.  In fact, companies should be paying close attention to the possibilities to be prepared when its time.  It might start simply with mobile versions of the company website, as well as consultant backoffice access.  Perhaps the company blog will be available for mobile devices, so consultants can pull up information of interest to customers at opportune moments.  Maybe the printed portions of the new consultant kit can be delivered via mobile.  I think that in the future, providing information for these devices will make make the sales force more efficient and productive, while at the same time saving both the environment and the bottom line from printing and mailing costs.

What do you think?  If you are a direct seller, do you have a mobile device?  Do you use it for your business?  If you’re an executive, has your company considered how it might use mobile technology in the future?  I’m interested in reading what your take is on all this in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Johan Larsson

8 Responses to The Mobile Web: What Does it Mean for Direct Sales?
  1. Karen Clark
    August 31, 2009 | 4:23 pm

    I got an iPhone this last Christmas and felt like a latecomer then but WOW I don’t know what I did without it now. Not only because of easy access to the web but because as an active direct seller I am always on the go! I find many pockets of time in which to check in with people via email, text, or phone, which frees up more time when I am home with my family, whereas before my iPhone, I would get home for the day and have to spend an hour catching up or clearing out my inbox.

    I agree with David that companies will best serve their field by creating specific mobile apps for their back office services vs. encouraging us to do business on the little bitty browser. If we each had a mobile app for placing orders or signing up recruits, imagine what that would do for our productivity. We could place orders at the party and when we get home, we could be more present for our families.

    The DSWA has recently partnered with Roam Data to provide a mobile merchant service and I believe this is the direction they are going with that!
    Karen

  2. Helen Askins
    August 31, 2009 | 2:54 pm

    I am a latecomer, also, when it comes to mobile media and all that jazz. Currently, my 13-year-old daughter has a Blackberry and I simply have a flip/camera phone for myself. My DD is constantly telling me that I need to catch up with the times and that I should get a Blackberry for my direct sales business. I totally agree that the mobile web is a great way to keep updated and connected with your company as well as your customers and I think that it will be a tool that many direct selling companies will start using very soon. My problem with it would be budgeting the cost of one of these “new” phones and also the cost of adding the service to it along with the cost of the applications. As I said, I am a latecomer to all this technology, but I also see the great value of “keeping up with the times” as my daughter would say. I suppose if this became something that my company moved forward with (and I believe that they will), then I would have to say that you better get ready to begin a class, Jennifer, on helping latecomers like me figure out the mobile web; because I would be lost! My daughter will be so pleased that I’m considering upgrading my phone! LOL Have a glorious day!

  3. David Eads
    August 31, 2009 | 12:18 pm

    I founded Mobile Strategy Partners to help organizations figure out these exact questions. My wife has also had her own direct selling business with Usborne Books & More for over 13 years.

    Mobile technology can be a huge productivity boost to Direct Sellers, when done right. Done wrong it can be a big frustration and an excuse for new recruits to blame something other than themselves for failure. Therefore it’s critical to do right!

    As an example, my wife could be far more productive if she had a real-time book out-of-stock list she could refer to when speaking to a librarian or a guest at a home show. My experience (and industry stats) suggest that this type of info should be in a native application (iPhone, Blackberry, etc. ) instead of on a website. The form factor of the phone makes it slow. Users choose applications over web sites by a factor of 9 to 1.

    The bottom line is that mobile applications can enhance almost any business. Each business needs to decide what features are most important to their sales team productivity. Then organizations should determine how best to deliver those features to the sales team.

    Find out more at http://www.MobileStrategyPartners.com

    David Eads

    • Jennifer
      August 31, 2009 | 1:32 pm

      David,
      You make some interesting points here. Once mobile apps become more prevalent among individual direct sellers, it will be interesting to see if it is companies themselves, suppliers, or a combination of the two that produce the most robust solutions for the industry.

      Cheers!
      Jennifer

  4. Libby Adams
    August 31, 2009 | 11:09 am

    At my company’s conference in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, they gave out 10 Palm Pre phones as door prizes among other wonderful electronic gadgets!

    Yes, it looks as if the mobile office is very mobile and portable seeing all the electronic devices I saw going through the airport home from the conference.

  5. Dawn Wilkerson
    August 31, 2009 | 9:49 am

    I agree with you! I have a mobile web device (Palm Treo – will be the Palm Pre when I promote next!!) and use it often within my business. I have placed orders on the go, email, checking stats etc. It is also great that it syncs with my desktop so I have everyone’s (clients, team members, office, etc) #’s, addresses, etc at my fingertips wherever I may be.

    • Jennifer
      August 31, 2009 | 9:55 am

      Thanks for the comment Dawn! I wonder if companies should consider mobile web devices as incentives moving forward. Something to think about.

      Jennifer

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