I’m in the process of doing my holiday shopping. As someone who loves the direct selling industry, I would like to give a lot of that business to direct sellers. Since I simply don’t have time to attend a party for every company I wish to shop with, I am hitting the websites of these companies, and connecting with local consultants.

Now some companies do a good job here. I get to my consultant’s website immediately, can select the items I want, and place my order efficiently. This is great for me, and helps me get this task done. However other websites are brutal. (Sorry, but it’s true.) All I get is the PDF version of the catalog (which is hard to read) so I can’t shop immediately. Some require me to input a lot of information to get matched with a consultant, rather than just giving me a list so I can pick the one I want to work with right now. This is an outdated way of doing business, and it’s going to come back to bite us.

We have to come to terms with the fact that we are living in the “Amazon.com” generation.  People expect immediacy, and they expect ease in their online interactions.  If you make it too hard for me to shop with you, you can be darn sure I won’t.  And then you’ve lost the chance to offer me the opportunity in the future.

We think that by making it hard (or impossible) to order through our websites, we’re making it easier for our consultants to get parties, but I’m sorry to say that this just isn’t so.  Take a look at new direct selling companies.  Do you think ANY of them are preventing people from ordering online?  Of course not! They understand that this is a requirement in order to compete today.  And the consultants they’re trying to attract understand that as well.  More established brands may be getting by with their barriers, but new companies understand that they have to throw the doors wide open if they hope to have a chance.

If you want your company to be relevant in the next 10 years, the old ways of thinking have to be thrown off.  And that means fixing the website.  Online ordering for today’s consumer is a requirement.  And your site MUST be as easy to navigate as Amazon.com or that customer will be on to the next thing.  Choosing to ignore or avoid this change simply deprives our consultants of that business.

The direct sales industry is changing.  We can’t rely on all the old ways of doing business and hope to survive.  This doesn’t mean we should lose our essence of relationship-driven selling and recruiting.  But we must understand that today’s consumer is different from the one of 20 years ago.  If we don’t cater to the consumer, ultimately, we lose our edge.

Will you adapt, or become irrelevant?  The choice is yours.

Your thoughts?

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.