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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.”

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF’s academic partnerships serve to inform and educate students – highlighting direct selling as a go-to-market strategy and pathway to entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship.

DSEF warmly welcomes our newest Fellows:

 

Dr. Can “John” Uslay
Associate Professor of Marketing
Director of Special Projects
Co-Director for the Center for Market Advantage
Chair, Entrepreneurial Marketing SIG, AMA
Rutgers Business School at Newark and New Brunswick
Rutgers University

 

 

 

 

Dr. Fabian Eggers
Associate Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship
Menlo College

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Abdul Ali
Associate Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship
Faculty Director, Division of Marketing
Babson College

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. William “Bill” Johnson
Student Success Navigator
Life Design Catalyst Coach and Facilitator
Instructor and Coleman Fellow of Entrepreneurship
School of Health and Human Sciences
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 

 

 

 

Dr. Olivier Rubel
Associate Professor of Marketing,
Graduate School of Management
University of California – Davis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Dustin Bluhm
Assistant Professor of Management
College of Business
University of Colorado – Colorado Springs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Mark Peterson
Professor of Marketing
College of Business Department of Management & Marketing
University of Wyoming

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Lisa Spiller
Distinguished Professor of Marketing
Joseph W. Luter, III School of Business
Christopher Newport University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Chris Hopkins
McLain Family Professor
Raymond J. Harbert College of Business
Auburn University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Karen Flaherty
William S. Spears Chair in Business Administration
Professor of Marketing
Spears School of Business
Oklahoma State University

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Hopkins
William S. Spears Chair in Business Administration
Professor of Marketing
Spears School of Business
Oklahoma State University

 

 

 

Dr. Theresa Clarke
Professor of Marketing
Wampler-Longacre Eminent Scholar
College of Business
James Madison University

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Rajesh Srivastava
Associate Professor of Marketing
Jennings A. Jones College of Business
Middle Tennessee State University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Bo Dai
Assistant Professor of Marketing
College of Business
Georgia Southern University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Lori  Long
Baldwin Wallace University
Associate Professor
Chair, Marketing and Entrepreneurship

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Chen Liu
Assistant Professor of Finance
Assistant Professor of Business
Trinity Western University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Nathalie Duval-Couetil
Associate Professor of Technology Leadership, and Innovation
Director for Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program
Associate Director, Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

Dr. Sara Cochran
Entrepreneurial Programs Manager  for the University of Missouri System
University of Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Siri Terjesen
Dean’s Research Fellow in Entrepreneurship
Director of the Center for Innovation
American University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. John Bennett
Assistant Professor of Management
Donald R. Tapia School of Business
Saint Leo University

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Adam Bock
Lecturer in Management
University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Art Sherwood
David Cole Professor of Entrepreneurship
Director of the IDEA Institute
Western Washington University

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

   

 

Dr. Mark T. Schenkel
Jack C. Massey College of Business
Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship
Belmont University

Winners of the DSEF-Sponsored USASBE-MWE SIG Best Paper Awards

Winners of the DSEF-Sponsored USASBE-MWE SIG Best Paper Awards

DSEF, in partnership with the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s (USASBE’s) Minority and Women Entrepreneurship Special Interest Group (SIG), sponsored a paper competition on the direct selling channel of distribution and micro-entrepreneurship opportunity.

One of DSEF’s key priorities is to fund and develop research and case studies that advance understanding of the direct selling channel. We achieve this goal through our partnerships with Fellows and academic organizations and are gratified that seven out the eight authors of these winning papers are DSEF Fellows.

It is with great honor that we announce the 2018 winners of the DSEF/MWE SIG Best Paper Awards:You can view these working papers through the links below:

BEST EMPIRICAL PAPER

Direct Selling in South Africa: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs

*Dr. Victoria L. Crittenden, Babson College

*Dr. William Crittenden, Northeastern University

*Dr. Haya Ajjan, Elon University

BEST CONCEPTUAL PAPER

Entrepreneurial Environment and Culture in Direct Selling Entry Decisions Of Hispanic Entrepreneurs: An Acculturation Approach

*Dr. SherRhonda R. Gibbs, The University of Southern Mississippi

*Dr. Caroline Glackin, Fayetteville State University

BEST TEACHING CASE

Traci Lynn Jewelry: Maximizing Shining Opportunities

*Dr. Caroline Glackin, Fayetteville State University

BEST DEVELOPMENTAL PAPER

Exploring the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem of Marginalized Direct Sellers: Needs of Military Spouses

*Dr. Tracey Mays, Minot State University

*Dr. Art Sherwood, Western Washington University

Dr. Lyzona Marshall, Seton Hill University

*DSEF Fellow

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF’s academic partnerships serve to inform and educate students – highlighting direct selling as a go-to-market strategy and pathway to entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship.

DSEF warmly welcomes our newest Fellows:

Dr. Honghui Deng
Associate Professor of Business Administration
University of Nevada

Dr. Nawar N. Chaker
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Ronald E. Michaels
Professor & Chair, Department of Marketing
University of Central Florida

Dr. Kacy Kim
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Ramarao Desiraju
Professor of Marketing
University of Central Florida

Dr. Mark Bergen
Associate Dean, James D. Watkins Chair in Marketing
University of Minnesota

Mary Hunt
Assistant Professor of Business & Psychology, Internship Coordinator

Dr. James Lynch
Associate Professor of Management and Law
Brooklyn College

Dr. Annie Liu
Associate Professor, Marketing
Texas State University

Dr. Angeline Close Scheinbaum
Associate Professor, Advertising & Public Relations
University of Texas at Austin

Ms. Heather Cooper Bisalski
Instructor of Management
Dalton State College

Dr. Kaustav Misra
Chair and Associate Professor of Economics
Saginaw Valley State University

Ms. Wendy Plant
Director, Center for Student Engagement
Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship
Florida State University

DSEF and USASBE Announce Call for Papers

DSEF and USASBE Announce Call for Papers

DSEF, in partnership with the U.S. Association of Small Business’s (USASBE’s) Minority and Women Entrepreneurship SIG, is pleased to announce a 2017 Call for Papers. Winners of each of the six categories will receive $1,000 and an opportunity to participate in one of three annual industry conferences (U.S. domestic travel reimbursed). To submit an entry, please email an electronic copy directly to USASBE. Use the conference submission site at https://www.softconf.com/i/usasbe2018/.

Submissions must follow the guidelines set forth by USASBE for competitive papers.  They must be typed in 12-point font and no more than 30 pages in length. All submissions must include:

  • An academic abstract (no more than 100 words)
  • An executive summary (no more than 300 words). The executive summary should include a synopsis of the central thesis, methodology, findings, how the author’s work contributes to the advancement of direct selling and entrepreneurship and how the findings can be implemented.
  • Fully developed paper (not developmental)
  • Winning papers must be presented at the USASBE conference in Los Angeles during January 2018.

Key Dates

Submissions Accepted: May 15 to October 15, 2017.
Proceedings Due: December 15, 2017.

Recommended Topics

Direct Selling Entrepreneurship among Underserved Populations: Direct selling offers people of all backgrounds an opportunity to launch independent businesses in any product or service sector, with the intention of empowering millions of would-be entrepreneurs who left out of the mainstream economy through factors such as inability to access higher education, prohibitive job training costs, and challenges in adhering to fixed employment schedules due to family or other commitments. Topics may include, but are not limited to the following communities/demographic groups: military spouses/personnel, veterans, minorities (African-American, Hispanic), rural residents, and women.

Direct Sellers as Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs: Corporations are investing in innovation and record levels and have begun to focus on building core competencies around innovation and intrapreneurship. Direct selling companies are uniquely positioned to receive immediate feedback from their independent salesforces – that serve as both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs – to generate faster problem-solving, innovation and competitive advantage.

Ethics in Entrepreneurship: The direct selling industry has a long history of protecting direct selling entrepreneurs and their customers through self-regulation.  This differs from gig economy companies (Uber). All Direct Selling Association (DSA) member companies are required to adhere to a Code of Ethics as a condition of membership. Companies go beyond the Codes to provide ethics training for their salesforce.

Entrepreneurship Comparison – Direct Selling, Etsy, Start-ups: Direct selling companies create the products and brands, conduct R&D, implement compensation plans, manage IT systems, track inventory, provide customer service through call centers, maintain quality controls, ship, and provide a royalty-free platform for marketing sellers’ independent businesses.  All of these empower would-be entrepreneurs to build a business and learn valuable business skills for the cost of a start-up kit (average cost: $100).

Direct Selling Company Case Studies:  The stories of and decisions facing direct selling companies can provide excellent material for case studies.  The founders have identified opportunities in compelling ways, made strategic decisions, and faced numerous challenges.
 
Social Entrepreneurship:  Many direct selling companies make social entrepreneurship a foundational component of their business model. Independent contractors are drawn not just to the entrepreneurial opportunity and products, but to companies’ philanthropic efforts, which are often tied to product sales.

About DSEF

The purpose of the Direct Selling Education Foundation is to engage, equip and empower educators to provide students with an accurate understanding of the direct selling industry as a powerful go-to-market strategy, distribution model and entrepreneurial option, and to teach the correct principles of direct selling, with an emphasis on ethical business practices.

DSEF partners with members of the academic community to support research and education programs that expand knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of direct selling. The Foundation works with professors in a variety of disciplines—including entrepreneurship, marketing, ethics, business and economics—to deliver multi-faceted programming aimed directly at the contemporary issues facing direct selling companies and consumers in a global marketplace. DSEF also sponsors campus programs to help students and faculty better understand direct selling as an industry, a channel of distribution and a pathway to entrepreneurship, and to introduce them to career opportunities at direct selling company corporate headquarters. We also sponsor and support various events, projects and initiatives, like campus events, to further support our overall mission: DSEF engages and educates the public about how direct selling empowers individuals, supports communities and strengthens economies worldwide.

About Direct Selling

Direct selling is a retail channel used by top global brands and smaller, entrepreneurial companies to market products and services to consumers. Companies market all types of goods and services, including jewelry, cookware, nutritionals, cosmetics, housewares, energy and insurance, and much more.

The direct selling channel differs from broader retail in an important way. It isn’t only about getting great products and services into consumers’ hands. It’s also an avenue where entrepreneurial-minded Americans can work independently to build a business with low start-up and overhead costs.

Direct selling consultants work on their own, but affiliate with a company that uses the channel, retaining the freedom to run a business on their own terms. Consultants forge strong personal relationships with prospective customers, primarily through face-to-face discussions and demonstrations. In this age of social networking, direct selling is a go-to market strategy that, for many companies and product lines, may be more effective than traditional advertising or securing premium shelf space.

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF Welcomes Its Newest Fellows

DSEF’s academic partnerships serve to inform and educate students – highlighting direct selling as a go-to-market strategy and pathway to entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship. DSEF has partnered with more than 75 professors over the past year, and is making significant process toward mainstreaming the channel on college campuses across the country.

DSEF will continue creating partnerships within the academic community by reaching 200 DSEF Fellows by 2019 and expanding student reach to promote deeper knowledge of direct selling as a legitimate channel of distribution and path to entrepreneurship. We are excited to welcome our newest Fellows:

Dr. Mark Bergen
Associate Dean, James D. Watkins Chair in Marketing
University of Minnesota

Dr. Nawar N. Chaker
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Angeline Close Scheinbaum
Associate Professor
University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Honghui Deng
Professor of Business Administration, IC2 Fellow
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Dr. Ramarao Desuraju
Professor of Marketing
University of Central Florida

Mary Hunt (PhD candidate)
Assistant Professor of Business & Psychology, Internship Coordinator
Ave Maria University

Dr. Kacy Kim
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Elon University

Dr. Annie Liu
Associate Professor of Marketing
Texas State University

Dr. James Lynch
Associate Professor of Management and Law
Brooklyn College

Dr. Ronald Michaels
Professor of Marketing
University of Central Florida

U. N. Umesh
Professor of Marketing
Washington State University Vancouver

Cutting Out the Middle Man: New Video

Cutting Out the Middle Man: New Video

DSEF recently released its newest video teaching tool, The Direct Selling Business Model: Cutting Out the Middle Man.

The new video was filmed live at the University of Texas at Arlington during DSEF’s Business Ethics Forum Campus Event. Al Bala, President and CEO of Mannatech, explains the direct selling business model in a way that business students and entrepreneurs can understand. “Eighty percent of the cost of a product in normal retail channel is in distribution. A large percentage of that is spent on advertising. Direct selling cuts out the middle man by redistributing the costs of advertising and distribution to pay independent contractors.” says Al.

The video was distributed to DSEF Fellows and is designed to be used both by direct selling companies and easily incorporated into a variety of university and community college courses, such as:

  • marketing classes
  • distribution channels courses
  • sales classes
  • entrepreneurship classes
  • management, communications and ethics/reputation courses

DSEF’s growing bank of video content also includes the Ask the Experts series, which may be viewed on our Vimeo channel.

DSEF-Funded Research Wins Best Paper Award

DSEF-Funded Research Wins Best Paper Award

At the 2017 Global Sales Science Institute (GSSI) Conference held in Mauritius in June, Julian Allendorf (Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Marketing, University of Muenster, Germany) received the GSSI 2017 Best Doctoral Student Paper Award for his paper on “Direct Selling Distributors – Why Do They Stay or Leave!”, developed through a grant and data provided by DSEF. The prize-winning paper is based on Allendorf’s joint work with DSEF Fellows Dr. Anne T. Coughlan, PhD (Northwestern University) and Dr. Manfred Krafft (University of Muenster, Germany), and demonstrates how DSEF ‘s academic partners are producing data-driven research that validates the channel. The award was presented to Manfred Krafft by the President of the island nation of Mauritius, Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, during a conference reception on June 8.

“Being awarded the GSSI Best Doctoral Student Paper Award for the work we have done so far feels like a great honor to us and provides the motivation for future endeavors,” said Allendorf.

In their joint research, the authors highlight similarities and differences between traditional sales and direct selling, and build on Agency Theory to develop predictions about the ways in which individuals stay in the direct selling distributorship, and what explains their intention to leave.

The authors analyzed a unique dataset of over 13,000 individual direct-selling distributors from 68 firms and asked the the “nature vs. nurture” question: does a “stayer” retain the same motivations as a “joiner,” or do distributors develop and change their motivations over time? Nurture doesn’t refer only to environment. Joiner-Stayers do indeed receive support and training from their companies and uplines, but they also learn about themselves (personal development).

The Stay-Leave decision is represented by the question, “How likely are you to continue representing the company for the next year?” Dr. Coughlan and Dr. Krafft used regression analysis to determine which factors are most likely to have a positive or negative impact on the decision to stay versus the decision to leave.

The drivers of income identified in the study, also called predictor variables, are consistent with those used in academic research and the long history of research on selling. The incremental effect, in dollars, of a change in a predicted variable – either positive or negative – is explained in the study. All effects assume that other drivers are held constant and should be interpreted for changes on the margin.

The results are consistent with the authors’ modified Agency Theory model and suggest academic, managerial and policy implications regarding direct selling investments and assessments.