To the untrained eye Direct Selling companies might seem pretty similar.
The structure after all - whether single or multi level - is straightforward. Plus, empowering entrepreneurs is something everyone can get behind.
But anyone who actually works in Direct Selling can tell you that the difference between a Direct Selling company that's on top of their digital game and one's that are still analog is as vast as night and day.
And you know a Direct Selling company with a great online presence the second you spot it.
They just pop.
That's why today we'll be going over how Direct Selling companies use online catalogs to grow in digital spaces and boost sales while they're at it.
There's a reason why people spend hours on Instagram and Pinterest. We like to be inspired.
That's why in the last year catalog distribution has increased by 44% and hasn't - as one might assume - gone down with the emergence of the internet.
For 93% of shoppers, visuals like images and videos are a key deciding factor in the purchasing process.
We process images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of the information that's sent to our brain is visual.
Which explains why catalogs are still more effective as a marketing tool than a repetitive grid of products in a webshop.
This is something that Direct Selling companies understand really well. The vast majority send catalogs to their representatives not only to inspire them but also their network of shoppers.
Often however, that's where it ends.
The catalogs, once printed and mailed out, are either shelved or uploaded to the website as a PDF.
But the print catalog fails to respond to one major issue. Buying behavior is changing, people shop online and that goes for Direct Selling reps too.
What the reps have going for them, is their one-to-one relationships with their customers. After all, 90% of buyers are more likely to buy a product recommended to them by friends, family or someone they trust. At it's heart, it's a word-of-mouth industry.
Where Direct Selling businesses are often lagging, however is in making their print catalogs as easily available in digital spaces as possible.
Both in order to make it easier for their reps to buy but also, to track rep success.
Global direct selling revenue hit $182 billion and more than 107 million people worldwide were involved in international direct sales in 2016, according to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations.
So, obviously there's something about the Direct Selling model that just works across borders. Local reps understand local culture, language, buyer demands and how to sell in those markets.
However, the cost of providing marketing materials on a global scale is staggering.
Because online catalogs are digital, reps can show it to clients anywhere, on their tablets, on TV screens in their homes, even on their phones in a pinch. The point is, it's responsive across devices and searchable.
Meaning it saves the rep from carrying the catalogs around and from flipping through dog eared pages to find popular products.
On top of that, online catalogs can be integrated with WhatsApp or Facebook, so shoppers can just click on the items they want, which are then automatically turned into a shopping list sent directly to their assigned rep via social media.
Obviously Direct Selling is a people business at the end of the day. Relationships come first, and an online product catalogs won't change that, but for the companies that use them, they both modernize the buying process and make for a leaner more efficient marketing strategy.
When PDFs are uploaded to a website they stop working for you. Yes, visitors to your site can browse through them, but they don't enable any action.
Reps can buy directly from online catalogs. Their customers? They can order from their reps directly through the online catalogs too.
That's one very obvious way that online catalogs boost Direct Selling sales, simply by enabling them in the first place.
But more than that, online catalogs shorten the buying cycle because people can act in the moment, and the ease with which they can buy when the moment strikes, removes friction from the buying process too.
Besides this, online catalogs offers greater analytics. Unlike with a print catalog you can monitor page views, analyze which products readers hovered over most, which offers were most popular and tailor your marketing efforts and future catalogs to respond to that information.
By linking your online catalogs to your Google Analytics dashboard you can also track your reps' activities with greater accuracy.
Most Direct Selling companies that have gone through these digital transformations also do so to compliment an omni-channel marketing strategy. That's to say, to work alongside their online stores and reps and distributed across multiple online properties.
Because buying behavior has changed so significantly, you really can't be sure where your consumers are going to buy from. Social Media? Email? While they surf your website from the sofa? So knowing that you can embed your online catalog, essentially a shop on its own, on your site, in an email, on your Facebook page or link to it from your Instagram is a relief.
Teenagers average around 10 hours of screen time a day and 67% of Millennials prefer to shop online.
Many Direct Selling companies are only scratching at the surface of the potential that this audience offers. By shifting towards a digital model they'll become increasingly inclusive of newer broader audiences.
Yes, Direct Selling is a word-of mouth industry, but that's all that social media is too, right? When you get right to it, it's a tool that people and businesses use to connect with one another.
And consider the success of gig economy companies that operate exclusively online, the Ubers and AirBnB's. They have helped normalize Direct Selling to younger audiences and connected people worldwide.
In many ways, Direct Selling paved the way for these companies. It was the gig economy provider before the term gig economy was even coined.
But to capture newer markets, to adapt to changing shopping behavior and grow both in revenue as well as audience, there has to be modernization.
One of the greatest strengths Direct Selling has is flexibility. It offers reps flexible work hours, regardless of their background or even their location around the world.
But the world is changing, shoppers aren't just buying in stores or directly from independent contractors anymore.
Global mobile commerce revenue is projected to reach $669 billion dollars this year and last year the Global B2C eCommerce turnover was $1.84 trillion.
So it seems like it's becoming less of a question of whether Direct Selling businesses should embrace shoppable content and more a question of whether they can afford not to.
And given the entrepreneurial spirit and adaptability of direct selling strategies, the answer seems pretty clear.