Archive for April, 2018

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF launched the Fellows Program to support educational and research efforts to foster a deeper understanding of the direct selling channel and its impact. We now have more than 125 Fellows around the world from a wide range of disciplines – management, marketing, economics, entrepreneurship, sales, consumer studies – and provide them a rich offering of benefits and opportunities.

DSEF warmly welcomes our newest Fellows:

Dr. Yulong Li
Associate Professor of Marketing
Simmons College

Ms. Joanne Cao
Assistant Professor of Marketing
The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. David Altounian
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship
Associate Dean of Academic Programs
MBA Program Director
St. Edwards University

Dr. Crystal Scott
Associate Professor of Marketing
University of Michigan-Dearborn

Dr. Mathew Joseph
Emil C.E. Jurica Distinguished Professor of Marketing
St. Mary’s University

Dr. Minjeong Kim
Associate Professor in Merchandising
Indiana University-Bloomington

Dr. Sally Fortenberry
Associate Professor
Director, Center for Merchandise Education and Research
Texas Christian University

Dr. Sebastian Hohenberg
Assistant Professor of Marketing
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Cathy Curran-Kelly
Associate Professor, Management and Marketing
University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth

Dr. Jeananne Nicholls
Professor, Marketing and Management
Slippery Rock University

Dr. Scott Swain
Associate Professor of Marketing
Clemson University

Dr. Brian VanderSchee
Professor of Marketing
Aurora University

Dr. Diana Haytko
Marguerite and Guy Howard Professorship in Business; Professor of Marketing
Florida Gulf Coast University

Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales

Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales

On March 13, more than 150 students gathered at Elon University for the “Using Data Analytics to Drive Sales” panel discussion hosted by the Center for Organizational Analytics and Direct Selling Education Foundation. The panel featured Bassam Alqassar, Vice President of Information Systems and Technology at Princess House, and Yemi Mateola, Director of Solution Delivery and Architecture at ACN. The panel was moderated by student Matthew Jegier, graduating class of 2018, a finance and management double major.

How data drives sales in direct selling companies is unique, due to independent sales representatives, who are also consumers. “We look at how we can build information between devices and networks to best understand behavior,” Mateola says. A company’s ability to use data to anticipate and prepare for the future is critical. “It’s not just looking at the data and reporting what happens,” says Alqassar, “but also recognizing patterns to determine what could happen.”

For any direct selling company, integrating analytics into company culture can be challenging, but well-worth the effort. “It’s no secret, data drives everything nowadays,” says Mateola. “Culturally, every department has to find ways to take data more seriously, because using it produces better results and longevity as the business moves forward.” Alquassar agrees. “The biggest lesson we learned at Princess House was that people have to first change their mindset of how they think about business,” he says. “The three key aspects of embracing a data-driven culture include spending time analyzing not only what happened, but also what will happen; ensuring data quality because without that, data can be misleading; and knowing your focus as a business, so you can accomplish what you set out to do and not become lost in the analytical process.”

What are the most important trends in data-driven sales, in the next five years?

“Deep learning as a compliment to machine learning is at the top of my list,” says Mateola. “The importance of the Internet of Things cannot be understated.” Alqassar agrees.”There is so much information we cannot comprehend,” he says, “and with computer power we are able to input information, make a correlation and establish a cause and effect.”

In a data-driven age, employers are hiring college graduates that have a full complement of skills. Hard and soft skills go hand-in-hand when it comes to success. “You could have the greatest analytics idea,” says Alqassar, “but if you don’t know how to present it you will not be able to move forward and deliver your message effectively.

Technology needs to be part of, not separate from, a company’s business strategy. “Every company today is a technology company, so it is key to look at the business first and then see how technology can enable the company to deliver the business goal,” says Mateola.

Co-Creating Value in a Tech-Enabled Marketplace

Co-Creating Value in a Tech-Enabled Marketplace

From left, Jeff Dahl (31 Gifts), Tami Merica (Nerium Intl), Roger Morgan (pawTree)

The direct selling business model is predicated on creating value with its customers to build distributor networks. How our business model creates value through relationships and impacts business performance was discussed with nearly 900 students at the University of North Texas (UNT) on February 22.

DSEF’s “Co-Creating Value in a Technology-Enabled Marketplace” campus event, which featured three leading company executive speakers, was an idea conceived by DSEF Fellow, Dr. Lou Pelton, Associate Professor of Marketing and Logistics at UNT. With the rise of web-based, mobile and social technologies, customer expectations continue to rise. But faced with a myriad of choices, customers are turning to trusted sources – family members, co-workers and friends – when making decisions on a product or service purchase. “Direct selling is the 21st-century’s channel for optimizing value delivery in customer relationships,” says Lou.

In traditional retail, when wholesale manufacturers sell through retail distributors, they have very little control in how the product is sold or whether the customer leaves the store or website happy and satisfied. In direct selling, companies can visualize the customer journey and provide their independent salespeople with the training, tools and support needed to create it. “How do you create value with your customers? Not by putting products on a shelf,” says Roger Morgan, Founder and CEO of pawTree, a pet nutrition company. “Our products are best tried and trusted through relationships.”

Relationships are the heart and soul of every direct selling company. A company’s customers often sign-on to be salespeople, who in turn, share the value of the product with family and friends and motivate others to do the same. “Whether you work as a direct seller or start a company of your own, consider how you can add value,” says Tami Merica, Vice President of Sales at Nerium International, a premium skincare company. “Recognize people for their work. Create your own personal brand. Be a positive influence in someone’s life.”

Having a positive impact in people’s lives extends well beyond business, for many direct selling companies. “Five percent of our company’s revenue is given to charitable organizations every year, but not many Wall Street companies give at this level,” says Jeff Dahl, President of Thirty-One Gifts. Direct selling companies are uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of their customers, their independent salespeople and in their communities.

Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers

Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers

The advancement of digital technologies, mobile devices, and social media has led to significant changes in the way consumers shop. “Once considered a newest trend, omni-channel retailing is now the standard, but direct selling is rarely discussed as a channel option in college classes,” says DSEF Fellow, Dr. Jay Ryu, Associate Professor of Interior Design and Fashion Merchandising at Texas Christian University (TCU). “What’s great about hosting direct selling executives in the classroom is they share their sales and marketing strategies with our students and broaden their awareness.”

DSEF’s “Channel Strategies for Digital Consumers” campus event at TCU featured executives from four direct selling companies – Essential Bodywear, Initial Outfitters, Jamberry and Youngevity. Speakers discussed integration of various online strategies to support the direct selling channel, including use of online parties, websites, mobile apps and social media with more than 320 students and faculty in 13 classes. The event concluded with a real-time interview of our speakers on Facebook Live.

“Direct selling is about empowering individuals to be your distribution channel,” says Brian Posalski, Director of Digital Marketing for Youngevity, “and to build brand awareness across as many consumer touch points as possible.” Companies provide an online platform and develop marketing campaigns that distributors use in their businesses. Integrating marketing communications provides a seamless branded experience, regardless of channel or device. It benefits a company’s salesforce and customers, but it can be challenging as well. “As a company, we have to keep up with the changing channels,” says Alicia Storbeck, President and Founder of Initial Outfitters. “Facebook marketing, Instagram marketing, Snapchat marketing – all are critical for a viable company.”

A corporate marketing department standing ready to support their independent salespeople with websites, social media and promotional campaigns is only one advantage of the direct selling experience. Low start-up costs and flexible work hours are other hallmarks. Research shows that how successful an independent salesperson becomes is strongly associated with the number of hours worked, (Join Stay Leave study). “Direct selling is really customizable,” says Elizabeth Thibaudeau, CEO of Jamberry, “you can work as little or as much as you want.”

Finally, the skills gained through the direct selling experience are often transferrable to other jobs. With entrepreneurship on the rise and corporate jobs declining, college graduates need to be competitive in the employment space. They need people skills to be successful. “In my experience, relationship-building is often what’s missing in most college programs,” says Carrie Charlick, CEO and Founder of Essential Bodywear. “Direct selling companies focus on personal training and development of their independent salesforce. We fill an important gap.”

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report

Amway’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Report examines intrinsic and extrinsic factors that impact potential entrepreneurs. The data is based on survey data from nearly 50,000 people across 44 countries. Here are five of the most important findings to get a high-level overview of this year’s results (source: Amway).

  1. The global business environment has room to improve to be entrepreneurship-friendly.

Nearly 50,000 people were asked about different aspects of entrepreneurship, including technology availability, the education system, taxes, rules and regulations, and their country’s economic situation. As you might expect, there remains great opportunity to improve the global business environment. Unsurprisingly, people don’t find their country’s taxes manageable (only 33 percent do), nor do they think their country provides easy-to-understand rules and regulations (only 24 percent do).

  1. One of the most significant barriers to starting a business is the fear of failure.

It’s hard for people to start a business because they are afraid to fail. Less than half of people surveyed say they’d be willing to risk failure to start a business. Possibly, it’s because people see starting a business as a giant endeavor — a significant commitment. And it can be. However, there also are ways to start a business that are relatively low-cost and risk-free – direct selling is one of them.

  1. People need the most help raising money for their business idea.

When asked about different areas respondents would need help with when starting a business, raising money rose to the top, at 23 percent. In the traditional business scene, you’re investing a lot of your personal money, asking friends and family for support or pitching investors to finance your business. In direct selling, the average cost of a sales kit is just over $100 and includes a 90 percent buy-back guarantee.

  1. People prefer to build a team, rather than work alone.

When asked whether people prefer to work alone or hire people, the majority (57 percent) opted for building a team. In direct selling, you can create your own business – work independently or develop a team.

  1. Personal service still matters

In today’s digitally connected world, personal service is still significantly valued. The research found that 75 percent of people prefer to service customers personally than digitally. This trend remained consistent with even the under-35 demographic, countering the common perception that millennials prefer virtual interaction over interpersonal and indicating that personalized service is still highly valued around the world.