Customers and distributors demand good tech experiences
By Teresa Craighead
Nearly half of all end-users say that if they land on a business site that is not mobile-optimized, they take it as an indication that the business does not care.
Last summer, online shopping overtook grocery stores and the restaurant business to become the second-biggest segment of the $520 billion U.S. retail market, according to business intelligence publisher Internet Retailer.
At the end of 2019, global consumers spent nearly $3.46 trillion purchasing items online. Every one of those dollars, which in a single stack would nearly reach the moon, was touched by tech systems at multiple points.
Consumers and their insatiable desire for fast, easy and convenient access to products have pushed the IT department to the forefront of nearly every business, certainly every business that sells a tangible item. Technology is inescapable in modern business.
Then there’s Amazon. There’s always Amazon. Though the giant will not replace direct selling, it certainly influences the way customers expect their all of their material desires to be handled—speedily and with all the extra value that can be added.
Even the longest holdouts have realized the futility of remaining off-line in this online world. For the first time in its 73-year history, and late to the tech party, Tupperware is launching online sales of its products to customers in the U.S. and Canada. Vice president of global brand engagement Chip Reingold says this action is in response to the changing behavior of consumers.
Within the flood of available and developing technology, how does a company strike the right balance between satisfying distributors and consumers while not breaking the bank chasing the latest tech development? Below are a few questions that may illuminate the path of your company’s tech journey.
Does it make your business fast, easy and convenient?
Blame it on microwave popcorn for starting a tech revolution that won’t slow down, but business standards have changed as consumers have become more demanding. Technological advances continue to speed up the desire for fast, easy and convenient. As consumers experience satisfying this desire in one area of life, they want it to spread to all areas.
All tech begins with a platform, just as a house is built on a foundation. Ed Jarrin, co-founder and President of Dallas-based software platform Exigo, relates a company’s expectation about their tech infrastructure to a home’s utilities.
Like the inner workings of wiring and plumbing in a house, tech “innards” may not be exciting, but it is expected to perform to a certain standard by the user. He says, “When you come into your house and turn on the lights, you expect them to work without thinking twice about it. Our clients may not care and probably shouldn’t care about the details of memory storage and processing speeds because staying on the cutting edge, even the bleeding edge of technology, is just expected.”
Jarrin adds that while the infrastructure innards may not make a dollar of sales at the end of the day, “If it doesn’t run fast, and it doesn’t route securely, and it doesn’t run efficiently, then you are going to suffer at month end or somewhere else along the way.”
Does your website include a customer-focused experience?
It’s not only the changing expectations of customers that are shaping tech decisions for online experiences, but also a desire to stay off the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) radar. As scrutiny continues to be laser-focused on penalizing companies that favor wholesale purchases by distributors over retail sales to customers completely outside the compensation plan, direct sellers continue to develop new customer strategies like Tupperware, mentioned above.
McKinley Oswald, president of global sales at Utah-based marketing firm Verb Technology, says he works with companies who are designing a completely different journey for customers than from distributors, some even going as far as developing separate marketing departments for each segment. He also takes the viewpoint that the channel is actually moving back to its roots by becoming more customer focused.
Oswald says, “Direct selling was created because companies had powerful products that build a customer base and change their lives. That’s our foundation and our identity, and we’ve veered away from that into thinking you can enter direct selling with any product because it’s just a vehicle for selling. That’s not going to work anymore.”
There’s no question that the traditional direct selling shopping experience is morphing, says Jarrin, but there’s a downside to a straight retail approach. “People want the experience to be more like retail,” he says. “I just don’t see the end game in that. I don’t know that it’s moving the needle. Unless you have a distributor salesforce out there already that’s been recruited, then customers don’t just show up. You need the distributors to go get the customers.”
What’s your mobile-ready status?
Is your company mobile-ready, mobile-optimized, mobile-enabled or mobile-friendly? Does it even matter? Jeff Mack, founder and managing partner of Charlotte-based Global Growth Consultants answers with an emphatic “yes.”
Mack says, “There’s a major difference between being mobile-responsive or mobile-optimized and being able to actually run your business from your phone, which is where you need to be.”
According to Mack, about 30 percent of the companies he observes still lack in meeting the very lowest bar of mobile optimization, which means their sites can’t be well-accessed on any smartphone. Tech company Web.com, says that 84 percent of small businesses who have invested in a mobile presence say they see immediate and long-term benefits. On the customer side, nearly half (48 percent) of end-users say that if they land on a business site that is not mobile-optimized, they take it as an indication that the business does not care (MarginMedia).
Are you adequately supporting the salesforce?
Regardless of any technological advancement, direct selling is built on people who find products, fall in love with them and share them with others. Some of those people build businesses, and those people need the best tech support their companies can offer them in order to be most successful.
The gig economy continues to grow as housing and living expenses continue to increase, necessitating secondary incomes for many people.
With so many options now available for part-time or freelance work, it’s imperative that direct selling companies offer top notch support for their distributors. To compete with the most attractive gig economy opportunities, this support often boils down to basic tech functionality.
Mack says, “If you don’t have a great customer experience and easy-to-use apps with multiple business functions, you are not going to get any penetration with people below the age of about 45.”
Mack adds, “Ultimately, from an entrepreneurial perspective, you are competing for people’s time. Do your people feel good about building their businesses with you?”
Though direct selling remains foundationally a people business, attracting a productive, robust salesforce and customer base relies on a smart tech approach.
Link to share this article: https://socialsellingnews.com/link/smart-tech-decisions-remain-a-priority-in-2020-7738/