Technology marches ahead at a relentless pace, and the sales industry hurries along with it. Direct selling has always been a flexible endeavor — any salesperson with an impressive sales history has achieved it through frequent reinvention, always changing their approach to suit the situation, and this is reflected in the booming ecommerce field.
Today, you don’t even need a physical store to make a sale — in fact, you technically don’t even need a product (the wonders of dropshipping) — and you can sell on a 24/7 basis to anywhere in the world. It’s an amazing time for entrepreneurs, but it’s only going to get better, because things aren’t done changing.
Wondering what’s around the corner for your business? Here are 5 mostly-realistic predictions for the future of direct selling to get you suitably hyped for what’s to come:
Cryptocurrency will eventually become stable
Accepting Bitcoin and selected other cryptocurrencies has already become somewhat common in the retail world, but it’s far from a commonplace option for shoppers. The problem with Bitcoin is that it has too much baggage to be an everyday currency at this point — its value has fluctuated so wildly that people may never feel comfortable using it that way, plus it has been exploited so heavily as a digital investment that it has formed a massive bubble.
However, cryptocurrency is still a very recent development overall, so it has plenty of time to mature as a practical tool. Sooner or later, a cryptocurrency with a well-established value (possibly even backed by assets somehow, similar to the silver standard) will come along, and shoppers will finally feel comfortable using cryptocurrency. For sellers, that simply means more viable customers!
Buying through chatbots will become standard soon
One-click buying through messaging apps and chatbots is already out there. Indeed, Facebook has offered it for years now — but it has yet to become standard. As I see it, this is largely due to one thing: the insufficient convenience of using current-generation chatbots. The primary appeal of using such a system would be to save time, but it’s generally faster to visit a site and place an order than try to use a chatbot.
So why do I think buying through chatbots will become standard soon? It’s simple: personalization. First-time purchases (or buys of new items) will still be done through retail websites or mobile apps, but repeat purchases (and other predictable orders) will fit the chatbot model perfectly. Imagine that you’ve been meaning to buy some new printer cartridges: you get a message from a store chatbot telling you it has added suitable cartridges to your cart, and it can get them to you by the following day if you proceed immediately.
This type of reminder-based assisted buying should make life a lot easier for many of us, and it will open up remarkable new opportunities for smart retailers.
The first VR stores will open in the near future
AR-assisted stores have been tried in various ways, but something we have yet to see is the advent of VR stores. VR hardware might not be mainstream yet, but look at it this way: the hardware is going to reach that point soon enough. It’s already pretty good, and WMR (Windows Mixed Reality) headsets have brought costs down immensely.
Imagine what a VR store could involve. A shopper could get a full visual reproduction of a real store, with haptic feedback for interacting with products and incredible preview options (they could simply pick up a chair and place it into a virtual model of their house, for instance). This is perhaps one of my least realistic predictions, but I still think it’s going to happen sooner than most people would expect.
Fully-automated marketing campaigns are on the way
You have a new product in your store, and you want to begin promoting it — so you press a button, and an AI system gets to work. It devises copy, collates visuals, and hooks into all relevant social media channels to begin distribution. Once everything is live, it monitors the performance and adjusts the parameters automatically to yield optimal results.
A fever dream? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. I think it won’t be too long before systems like this are in widespread use — not for all marketing campaigns, obviously, but for very specific briefs.
All the ingredients are there: the natural language processing to generate copy that makes sense, the visual interpreters to pick out suitable images, and the integrations to reach across to any and all platforms. It may not even be that long before AI systems can automate video and audio ads (Google Duplex makes this clear).
Sellers will have more freedom to get creative
Why are all the predictions I’ve mentioned so exciting? Because of this last prediction: that, as a consequence of all the shifts in technology, the average seller will have incredible opportunities to get creative with their sales efforts. They won’t have to waste hours of valuable time working on ad structures, or puzzling through payment issues, and they’ll have new avenues to explore through multi-channel selling and virtual environments.
Technology in direct selling isn’t something to be feared: it’s something to be welcomed, and embraced for all the good it will do. What do you make of these predictions about the industry? Do you have any to add to the list? Give it some thought!
This also means that there will be a lower barrier of entry for new startups and micro businesses. By using new, more creative, sales tactics small businesses will be able to compete with larger brands and offer a unique experience for the consumer. Small businesses will be able to target new markets by offering a more personalized experience that meets the wants and needs of their audience.