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.”