:: Industry Brief - DSA Conference Summary ::


We had the distinct pleasure of attending our first DSA Annual Meeting earlier this month in San Francisco. We help direct selling companies sell to consumers via the Internet with the only patented solution that allows the consumer to select a local sales consultant for purposes of compensation, even if it is the consumer's first interaction with the company.

Given this, we offer our comments about the DSA Annual Meeting relative to the world of eCommerce herein.


DSA SPEAKERS OF NOTE

Several of the speakers at the general sessions made points relative to the future of Internet selling in the industry that we believe are especially noteworthy.

Robert Barnett, CEO Shaklee Corporation

While there were many takeaways from his presentation, the most interesting was his conclusion that Apple and P&G would be among the largest, most successful direct selling companies. This interesting perspective (challenge?) is rooted, at least in part, on the recent notice that P&G has begun selling products online directly to consumers (http://www.pgestore.com/). Alice.com (itself a leading online storefront retailer), CEO Mark McGuire was recently quoted as saying, “We are seeing a huge wave …of consumer companies saying they want to direct to consumers….” P&G is clearly a thought leader in this movement with expectations that many more will follow.

Apple is often cited as among the most innovative developer of products globally. It is also at the forefront of a growing trend that breaks traditional business paradigms: Manufacturers becoming retailers, a trend that the Direct Sales industry pioneered, (Apple, Sony, Microsoft, etc) and retailers becoming manufacturers (Best Buy, Target, etc).

Orville and Heidi Thompson, Owners of Scentsy

This was among the most compelling and interesting presentations we witnessed. First, Scentsy was founded only 6 years ago. Generally recognized for their success (Scentsy took home the Rising Star Award), and with a great deal of respect and reverence for history, they also seemed to challenge some of the precepts of building and growing the modern day Direct Sales company:

1. Today’s consumers are different - they shop and buy differently (online, offline, daytime, nighttime, on their own, with friends,etc) - they rely heavily on their friends opinions - they have less structure and want the experience to be easy no matter the path they choose.

2. Today’s associates are different - they are completely wired - they prefer immediate success (regardless of the size) to a deferred gratification model. They want to be able to leverage their social networks. They want businesses adapt to them. They are highly motivated for personal success and reward - they prefer to work in small and solo ventures rather than get lost if larger corporations - in short, they want to make a difference.

Scentsy seems to have harnessed the power of those associates and married that power to its knowledge of its consumers to develop a winning model


SERVING YOUR CONSUMERS

With the acknowledged importance of the Internet and eCommerce, we were surprised there wasn’t a conference dialogue, presentation, position paper, breakout session or keynote focused on the subject of eCommerce. With that said, we had detailed meetings with over 20 direct selling companies and were thrilled with the response. In each case we presented the following scenario:

"I am consumer, online at 2 a.m., looking to buy your product right now:

I am unaffiliated - I do not know a sales associate - maybe I live in geography that you don't serve or am new to the area and I don't know anyone."


Can I buy your product right now?

If the answer is "no", you are losing revenue, opportunity, and the lifetime value of that consumer! Most of the people we talked to conceded that their companies (and the industry in general) do not make it easy for this consumer to buy even though more and more consumers are shopping this way. The most common rationale was the need to protect the sales consultants.


WIN-WIN-WIN

Nevertheless, the companies we met with quickly understood the powerful benefits of being able to sell online in the manner we propose to be:

1. Consumer - ease of use - easy to shop - easy to buy. When, where and how the consumer wants to shop. Give the consumer options and choices related to their buying experience. Use our tools to populate the selection list of associates to both meet the requirements of the consumer and those of the business.

2. Sales Associate - reward effort, loyalty - ensure earnings and customers are protected. Use rules to populate the list of associates as a Recognition or Motivational tool. Encourage self-marketing, networking and use of social tools. The reward of being selected by the 2am consumer and then getting an email at 9 the following morning detailing the purchase can have considerable motivating power.

3. Brand - consistent shopping experience - grows sales - complement field sales - fully exploit the power of the Internet. Use our flexible tools to manage and grow regions and people in a customized manner.