So far this series has looked at the early activity of the direct selling industry online. The first piece in this series looks into the initial attempts at moving product sales and recruitment on to the web. Part II is about replicated sites gaining popularity among distributors. Today we will see the natural progression with suppliers beginning to emerge in order to fill an industry wide need.
Emergence of Suppliers
There was already a number of back-office software suppliers that serviced direct selling companies at the time, so naturally these were the first service providers to build software that could handle website replication for this growing industry need.
These suppliers were experienced in providing traditional back-office software like compensation plan management, inventory & order fulfillment, and genealogy.
However, since these suppliers didn’t have a focus on consumer marketing, they approached creating a solution for replicated websites from a functional perspective, without putting much thought into the marketing implications.
Replication of basic, standardized websites was the answer, but the real challenge was providing distributors with an effective way to market themselves online to generate leads.
One after another, back-office software suppliers started rolling out cookie-cutter, “me too” replicated website solutions into the suite of tools they provided to direct selling companies. Soon, replicated websites became a must-have for direct selling companies if they were to be competitive at all.
The industry standard solutions, however, were very limited and of low quality. But these early replicated websites pacified distributors and companies for a period of time. From the companies’ perspective, replicated websites were an acceptable way to provide distributors with an online presence.
Newly enrolled distributors were also happy to have a place online to call home, where they could send interested prospects to learn more. But distributors on the front lines started seeing the actual results, and they were less than impressed.
Part IV: Negative Sentiment from Distributors
The web was evolving and company provided replicated websites were not keeping up. Savvy distributors eagerly wanted to market themselves and their business online, but were beginning to feel that their company website was no the best tool for the job. Part V will focus on distributor concerns.
photo credits: steve jervetson (cookie cutter replicated sites)
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