Building a brand isn’t just about creating great products. Today’s consumer is bombarded with an ever-increasing selection of merchandise, and while more choices can be valuable, too many choices ultimately lead to what behavioral psychologists call “decision fatigue.” Search after search on Amazon for the perfect product makes the brain tired and ultimately decreases the likelihood of a purchase.
Winning the battle against decision fatigue requires a product that stands out from the crowd, but it also means the interactions a consumer has with your brand matter more than ever. For Amazon sellers, that usually means trying to generate more positive reviews and owning the algorithm. But the world of direct selling has a unique advantage—our distributed networks of independent sellers can be brand ambassadors that are much more valuable than an online review.
These personal interactions between brand, seller, and customer are what make this industry successful in the long term. It explains the projected growth in the industry that will result in over $400 billion in commissions payouts over the next five years. It’s how we empower sellers to rise above the challenges in their lives. And it’s why experience management matters.
What Is Experience Management?
At its core, experience management is all about being proactive rather than reactive. As your company grows, you’ll have sellers and teams with a wide variety of experience. Leaders in the field are often seasoned sellers and team builders who know what they need to do to drive sales, but most sellers aren’t full-time professionals.
When interacting with a distributed salesforce, effectively managing their experience means knowing what data, content, and training an independent seller will need before they need it, and it requires an intricate understanding of their journey within your organization. With support from sales and usage data, your company can understand and optimize that journey for each and every member of the team.
Why Does Experience Management Matter?
The majority of field sellers will be part-time gig economy workers—folks who already love your product and want to share it. Managing their enrollment, growth, and overall experience with your organization is paramount to retaining them as sellers and expanding your company’s reach. Because they may lack the expertise of their team leaders, newer sellers need direction that’s easy to digest—not to be confused or overwhelmed by data, content, or other interactions with your brand that aren’t relevant to their position in the life cycle.
Successful companies in the direct selling industry are those who deliver a recognizable difference not only for their end customers but for the sellers who interact with them—a difference that makes the lives of our customers and sellers easier and better. The companies that succeed will offer a tailored experience, supported by incredible products. The outdated model where customers orbit companies as users are being flipped. Now, customer-centric companies develop strategies to gracefully orbit their customers, giving their sellers the right tools to interact with them in genuine, impactful ways. These companies win customers seeking valuable, life-improving products because every seller is not only a product expert but a champion of the brand.
Watermark Consulting’s “2019 Customer Experience ROI Study” indicates that companies that excel at improving customer experience management outperform “laggards” by over 120 percent in terms of stock market returns. Their ongoing, 10-year study also shows that experience management leaders outperform the S&P 500 Index by almost 50 percent.
Research from Qualtrics explains what they call the Experience Gap—where 80 percent of CEOs believe their product or service is superior, only 8 percent of their customers agree. Leveraging a large, distributed salesforce can help direct selling companies close this gap between belief and reality, but only if that salesforce can accurately explain the unique value in their products or services.
How Can Technology Make Experience Management Happen?
Think about the technology you keep—you’ve probably tried dozens, if not hundreds, of internet-connected devices and applications. But how many of them actually improve the way your business runs? To become a valuable part of your business, technology needs to make your life easier and better. And when you’re competing for the time of your gig economy workforce, the technology they use has to be simple, elegant, and impactful—if it doesn’t help them sell, they won’t use it.
Studies show that companies who manage experiences effectively improve customer loyalty, experience less customer loss and realize higher profits. But without the right tools, there’s no way to discover what drives that loyalty or leads to that customer loss. It’s why we see such a focus on collecting and analyzing data; companies like Spotify, Google, and Amazon know their customer’s needs and deliver a delightful user experience. In other words, they learn from their customers how technology can make their life better. Shouldn’t the tools we provide our teams with do the same?
From my time in the industry as an independent seller and my experience in the world of technology, I’ve uncovered some of the keys to successful experience management. The list goes on and we’re constantly learning, but here’s how some of the fastest growing direct selling companies in the industry use technology to level up:
- Frictionless seller enrollment processes
- Seamless, shareable retail shopping experiences
- Simple, meaningful, and actionable sales data
Experience management is more than just a couple of buzzwords. It’s the future of successful companies, and it capitalizes on leading-edge technology and data. But it doesn’t have to be complicated for you or your teams: discover what drives sales and loyalty, and align your focus with what you learn along the way.
Even in the face of the changing consumer landscape we’re facing, there are reasons for optimism. Our industry can and should remain relevant, but we have to do our part to compete with an increasingly global and online world of commerce; that means we must focus on empowering our sellers with experiences that help them grow.
Rodger Smith is the CEO of DirectScale. He brings his experience as an entrepreneur in the direct selling industry together with his passion for the technology at DirectScale headquarters in Lindon, Utah. This article originally appeared in the December 2019 edition of Direct Selling News.