How to make online shopping tools accessible to distributors & customers.
Making a tech tool easy for anyone to use doesn’t mean you have to water it down.
he amount of shopping we do from smartphones, smart speakers and smart TVs has made shopping in person seem almost novel. From the couch, kitchen or car we browse and buy online in minutes—especially as we stick close to home because of the pandemic. But don’t mistake tech ubiquity and convenience for tech accessibility.
Accessible e-commerce technology is more than the sum of a slick mobile app, a buzzy social media feed and a members-only corner of your website.
In our January issue, we told you that accessible technology—one of the four tech benchmarks of a strong e-commerce strategy—is personalized (like when the algorithm remembers and helps a customer reorder their favorite product) and customized (offering certain content for distributors and certain content for consumers).
It’s even more than that.
Accessible tech is easy to operate regardless of a user’s technical skills; it doesn’t see customers as modified versions of distributors; and it respects the power of social media and uses it strategically and responsibly. Let’s dig deeper into what accessible technology is and the strategies that will help you create it.
Just because a distributor can log in to your back office or a customer can download your app doesn’t mean they’ve mastered your technology. They need to be able to use those tools in ways that help them get products they want or build the business they want.
Assume that no one is a tech native, and you’re more likely to design intuitive systems that someone with even minimal skills will feel confident using immediately. Making a tech tool easy for anyone to use doesn’t mean you have to water it down. It means you design it so that a customer or distributor can accomplish a goal without having to think about how the tool works. For example, minimize the number of clicks it takes to find a product and then to purchase it. Other ways to make your app user friendly include:
- adding a “bookmark” function so the user can pick up later where they left off;
- making it cloud-based, which saves device memory;
- allowing passwordless log-in (with face or fingerprint identification);
- adding voice command capability; and
- making it responsive and adaptable.
Just because you think you’ve created the user-friendliest app or website ever doesn’t mean you have. You must validate that with data. Pay attention to if and how people are using your tech tools. Track shopping cart dropout rates and app usage trends. Document which functions people are using and which tasks they’re regularly completing in your back-office system. Ask customers and distributors if your tech tools allow them to do the bare minimum or if they make it easier for them to do their jobs or order their favorite products.
These are just some of the meaningful points you should be gathering so that you can measure the effectiveness of your technology. We’ll talk more about data collection in an upcoming feature.
Our industry is making great strides toward being more customer-centric, and we have more ground to cover. As you develop your e-commerce tools, look for ways to design online customer experiences that aren’t just tweaked distributor experiences.
For example, It might seem efficient to use your distributor enrollment process as a template for customer recruiting—just turning certain features off, for example. But if it’s built on a distributor model, it’s still probably going to feel alien to a customer. Ask yourself what you would create if you were starting from scratch for a shopper.
You might be asking a customer for personal data that you really don’t need if that customer isn’t interested in being a business builder. You also might be missing an opportunity to add something that would make the customer experience safer and more enjoyable. A customer who enjoys shopping with you is more likely to shop with you again, which also keeps distributors happy.
Aside from making your tech logistically simple, as we talked about earlier, consider the latest e-commerce tool trends, like shopping via video. For example, the NOW Technologies app allows users to click on a Facebook video about a product to purchase that product. Making it easy to return a product without talking to a customer service representative is also a growing trend in customer-centric e-commerce, as are strategies like these:
- posting videos of influencers talking about your brand and products
- highlighting how your brand aligns with consumer values, like environmental protection or support of certain charitable and civic causes
- offering more personalization and loyalty programs
- diversifying (non-credit card) electronic payment options
Direct selling’s biggest advantage over traditional retail and other ecommerce gigs is the fact that we are relationship-driven. We don’t work if we don’t make personal connections. But these connections have to be rooted in authenticity or they won’t last.
Social media may be the biggest, if not the most important, item in our accessible tech toolkit. It allows us to start personal conversations more quickly than ever, but it can just as easily damage trust, which is hard to rebuild. It takes seconds for a distributor (usually unwittingly, but still) to post misleading product or earnings claims for a massive number of people. Once something like that goes viral, containing it can become impossible.
Social platforms also are rolling out increasingly popular but proprietary commerce tools that don’t always work well with our back-office systems. Your technology development team will need experts who can make your systems as compatible with these social commerce tools as possible.
On a more troubling note, social media platforms are beginning to take a harder line with our industry in general. In December, TikTok banned multi-level marketers from using its platform to talk about their products and experts say it won’t be the last social media site to do so.
Companies are nervous. And with good reason. Social media is becoming more and more difficult to operate, as the rules constantly change. The good news is, we are an adaptable industry. We have weathered big storms before, and companies that lead with integrity and continue to demand compliant, ethical behavior will distinguish themselves in the marketplace from those that don’t.
Before COVID-19, our industry was moving toward becoming more digitally forward. The pandemic accelerated the move. While we will return to in-person experiences once it’s safe, we have likely transformed our relationship to and use of technology. It’s no longer an option. It’s an imperative. Make it an accessible one.