Retail Reinvented: Ben Riley Weighs In on Pros and Cons of the Omni-Channel Experience

The way we understand retail has shifted—big time. COVID-19 brought the retail industry to its knees in many ways. Brick and mortar shops once-daily frequented, saw a dearth of clients (if any at all). And even though reopenings are well underway across the nation there is still that hesitancy among many to actually enter a store or building of any kind. A recent survey found that since the pandemic 9 out of 10 customers have actually switched to online purchases of otherwise traditional in-store buys. While high, this number is not surprising given what the world just went through. 

What is likely to happen coming out of this? Retail will have to pivot—again, big time. In fact, we are probably going to see in many circumstances retail reinvented as there is a significant emphasis placed upon eCommerce and even more online buying. One of the key players subsequently emerging onto the scene in light of the reinvention of retail is the direct selling industry.

We recently had a chance to interview the Chief Global Sales Officer at Younique Products. A well-established veteran in the direct selling industry—previously he held similar leadership positions at both Young Living Essential Oils and Avon—Ben offered us his expert insights into how he sees the world of retail and direct selling responding to and growing from the current crisis. 

Digital and Data-Driven – What Retail Reinvented Really Looks Like

As with most things, retail has to evolve in order to be relevant in a digitally-focused world. That said, with the pandemic the emphasis on not only digital transformation but also moving to more mobile platforms (versus strictly a website presence) became key to pretty much any company’s survival. Without a robust digital presence, they truly were dead in the water. As Riley emphatically notes with specific regard to direct selling during the crisis:

Just as we have seen significant disruption in the retail space due to direct to consumer competition and the advent of e-commerce, direct selling companies have in some cases become redundant, or in other cases relevant, with the adoption of technology, social selling, and affiliate marketing. As with all businesses, the most innovative and relevant companies win.

It is largely about innovation, in multiple sectors, and innovation almost always has a digital/technological facet attached. And then of course, there is the data factor. One of the primary reasons why this shift to more entrenched digital models is possible is because of a company’s ability to gather data and then utilize that data to create more personalized shopping experiences, drive social media marketing initiatives, as well as assess how such efforts are working and then adjust as needed. This will come to define the future of work; this will enable a true “retail reinvented” movement. According to Riley when asked about the increased ability of retailers to gather data and use it to create an even higher level of personalization: “I think retailers would be completely enamored with the level of information and relationship a company can create with its sales force and patrons…I believe many retailers would greatly benefit from the intimacy of this relationship.”

Another component of the retail shift to personalization that we will see—that we are actively seeing now—is the way in which companies engage their workforce. With communications streamlined, they are going to be able to offer more dynamic just-in-time training and engagement from compliance updates to key strategic initiatives.

A Major Retail Shift and The Resurgence of Direct Selling

Not only in light of critical retail shifts is the direct selling sector witnessing perhaps one of its strongest moments ever, but more and more traditional retail outlets are in fact entering the direct selling game in their quest to pivot. Consider the following coronavirus related statistics:

Without question, in this shift to retail reinvented, we are going to see more and more players in the direct selling industry. The direct-to-consumer model is gaining monumental traction in our current environment. Case in point: Kraft Heinz implemented Heinz to Home in the UK, while PepsiCo is now also in the direct-to-consumer game. 

As an increasing number of retailers do move toward similar models, it will be important for them, as Riley explains, to have a differentiation of products. In other words, “direct selling businesses thrive on exclusivity and the unique selling proposition of their products. Therefore, if a product is available in mainstream retail, it becomes far less attractive in a direct sales model.” The key for retailers looking to enter this sphere is going to be mastering what Riley deems a “delicate balancing act…If a company intends to enter the direct selling space, it is advisable to have a differentiation of products and requires a significant commitment to do it well.” They cannot blur that line between businesses and product offerings otherwise their endeavor is essentially doomed before it even gets started.

A Huge Boost to the Direct Selling Industry

Overall, the image of direct selling is certainly getting a facelift you might say. An increasing number of traditional brands entering the space in their efforts to figure out how to survive in a retail-light world means greater prestige and recognition for direct selling in general. Many people tend to have outdated perceptions of the industry, conjuring the likes of Tupperware circa the 1950s for instance, which is in the process of reinventing itself by opening a retail store in New York’s trendy SoHo neighborhood in the pre-COVID-19 times. With this resurgence of direct selling as hastened by COVID-19 though, people are most definitely taking a second look. 

Riley expects great things for direct selling companies in the months to come because, as he notes, direct selling “sits on the precipice of the convergence of some very exciting macro-economic trends”; namely:

Affiliate Marketing – The fastest growing marketing channel.

Gig Economy – Everyone seems to be looking for a side hustle nowadays.

Social Networking – We are spending more time socializing online than ever before and there is no sign of it stopping.

He goes on to say that “if a company can successfully sit in the convergence of these three trends, it can see exponential growth. Similar to what Younique has experienced since it was founded in 2012.”

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how retail actually does emerge from this. How it manages to reinvent itself, and how many companies ultimately will be able to utilize data in innovative ways, such that allow them to more seamlessly expand into direct selling channels. Because as Riley emphasized: “The bottom line is you always have to be innovating, otherwise you risk facing extinction.” 

Rallyware is invested in helping companies grow by integrating systems that enable them to innovate in the most effective way possible. Schedule your demo today to learn more.

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