5 Adaptive Strategies For Direct Sellers In The Digital Age

5 years ago · 5 min read

Direct selling enterprises — which have always boasted a relationship-first business model — are well-positioned to succeed in the digital age if those at their helms can recognize and seize the historical opportunity before them. As e-commerce continues its stratospheric ascent, consumers are increasingly turning to digital channels for goods and services once purchased almost entirely through face-to-face retail. For direct sellers, this represents a prime opportunity for achieving the operational pivots necessary for reaching and retaining connected consumers and leveraging and capitalizing on the exponentially growing demand for online sales.

To achieve these operational pivots, direct sales companies must aggressively adopt and implement 5 key adaptive strategies:

Invest in mobile technology.

Direct sellers must grasp that much of connected consumers’ lives are lived online and that thanks to the IoT, the distance between consumers and their devices is ever shrinking. Recent research has found that although internet adoption may be slowing, mobile usage is accelerating, with American adults spending a total of 5.9 hours per day using digital media in 2017, up from 5.6 hours in 2016. Those 5.9 hours break down into 3.3 hours on mobile devices, 2.1 hours on a desktop/laptop, and 0.6 hours on other connected devices.

For this reason, mobile is king, and in an evolutionary “fitness” landscape characterized by digital connectivity, direct sellers who fail to invest in mobile technology are essentially selecting themselves out of existence. To compete for survival, relevancy and market advantage, direct sellers must make their mark with mobile platforms and apps that serve consumers and distributors alike. (Digital innovations need to equally support internal and external stakeholders.)

Cater to the most connected.

According to direct-sales app creator CEO Bryan Palmer of Krato, interviewed in an article for Hyperwallet, “The direct selling industry will continue to be driven by the trend towards frictionless mobile experiences as the Millennial generation comes of age. These megatrends will converge, forcing even the most successful direct selling companies to innovate around their mobile strategies.”

Stock analyst and investor Mary Meeker of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins

Caufield & Byers released a 2018 report offering insight into how Millennials are driving some of the biggest trends in mobile usage and e-commerce innovation, suggesting that direct sellers would be well advised to focus on this demographic.

Actively mine data.

While the digital age is characterized by ubiquitous and exponential digital connectivity, this fact has given birth to Big Data and to the next generation of predictive analytics upon which much of the success of direct selling (and marketing in general) rests. Direct sellers must not only mine existing data to gain insights into prospects and customers based on historical engagement and consumption trends, they also must generate predictive data in the service of “seeing” the future and actively developing the strategies to actualize it.

Build social networks.

A strong social media presence is essential to e-commerce. Because social media currently provides one of the closest digital approximations of the face-to-face interaction upon which direct selling has been traditionally based, it is uniquely well positioned to powerfully pick up where this form of selling is increasingly leaving off.

In the past, certain social media platforms such as Facebook have taken some missteps that did not bode well for direct sellers. But with recent changes and an endless stream of active users, an unstoppable ad platform, an abundance of merchants, and transaction-enabled infrastructure, Facebook (and other social media platforms) represent a largely untapped resource for socially savvy direct sellers.

Empower your sales force.

Direct selling enterprises are only as effective as their sales forces, and in a digital age, to be effective is to be digitally savvy. (In the context of direct selling, being digitally savvy entails not only a level of technical proficiency but also high levels of social awareness.)

Implementing rigorous training programs to ensure that sales forces are digitally savvy and socially aware can pay significant dividends by way of enhanced performance. Training that is delivered through multiple modalities — SoS simulations, role-playing exercises, group discussions, and so forth — helps to cultivate the critical combination of technological know-how and relational skills that make a measurable difference in direct sellers’ bottom line.

Depending on the adaptive capacity of direct selling enterprises, the rise of e-commerce and the connected consumer bring with them great peril or unprecedented opportunity. At a time when the prime directive for businesses of all kinds is to successfully evolve or face extinction, these 5 strategies can help direct sellers win the hearts and minds of connected consumers and adapt, flourish, and prosper in the digital age.