Think about any direct selling business and a digital-first approach is probably not what comes to mind. But young entrepreneurs joining the ranks of direct sales distributors have been changing how today’s direct selling brands operate.
Shaped by the needs of Generation Y, more direct sales companies are leveraging digital tools in all aspects of their businesses — from sales collateral to how their independent business owners (IBOs) or distributors operate.
Why a shift to digital is necessary
Direct sellers and consumers have been gravitating to the online marketplace over the past decade, but it seems like the whole world adopted e-commerce at the same time earlier this year. Today, nearly 168 million people in the U.S. shop via their mobile devices regularly. And that number is projected to reach almost 188 million – more than half the U.S. population – by 2024.
E-commerce sales in the United States alone reached $602 billion last year, a 15% increase over 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. eMarketer forecasts that while overall U.S. retail spending will decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce will increase by 18% to nearly $703 billion. At the same time, brick-and-mortar retail will decrease by 14% as people go online to buy even basic household goods.
Independent business owners are no different than other consumers: they are looking to manage everything from purchases to business operations with the tap of a finger on a mobile device. To stay ahead of this trend, direct sales companies that sell through distributors must digitize resources to meet their needs. More than half of distributors in the U.S. are under the age of 45. They want fast, easy access to tools that help them sell efficiently, such as up-to-date product information, as well as the ability to buy inventory online and receive it quickly. Here are a few ways direct sellers have gone digital to accommodate them:
1) Digitizing print materials
Amway, an $11.8 billion direct-sales company that supports 100,000 IBOs, transitioned to digital marketing materials more than five years ago and reduced print costs by 70%. This includes the company’s sales toolkits, various articles and clinical research papers, and interviews about research, development, and manufacturing processes. The decision not only saved them money, it also made current marketing and product information readily accessible in the digital format their distributors prefer.
2) Using business management apps instead of printed reports
Business-management applications allow IBOs to track business transactions like sales, order fulfillment, and payments, in real-time. Some enable the IBO to see beyond their individual business activity to that of their entire team’s transactions.
3) Making online shopping possible when stores are closed, or when consumers are in “undeliverable” locations.
Some direct sellers have been opening walk-in pick-up centers and offering automated delivery lockers that are accessible during extended hours. These solutions provide same-day delivery options, convenience, and protection from the risk of theft associated with traditional delivery methods.
Today, as a result of the restrictions put on us all by COVID-19, market leaders are also using mobile apps like the Advance Will Call software from Cura Resource Group to automate curbside pick-up and provide an efficient way for distributors to receive orders from the safety of their vehicle.
4) Assisting distributors in physical locations.
When full service walk-in sales centers re-open, IBOs will have access to mobile apps that help them find product information and make check out faster and easier. These apps can provide video or audio descriptions for each product by simply scanning a barcode.
Embracing a digital distribution model
In our digital age, a shift is underway to empower IBOs and distributors to reach more customers and prospects whenever and wherever they choose to operate — as well as meet their delivery needs. We’re helping some of the world’s leading direct sales companies navigate the challenges of digital distribution. To learn more, feel free to contact me directly.