Evolution in direct selling
In a project that will be extended in 2014, Natura seeks tools to complement the work done by NCs with a view to boosting sales and finding new ways of interacting with consumers
A major transformation is underway in Natura’s commercial processes. The goal is to extend the concept of direct selling to new platforms, enabling consumers to choose how and when to experience the brand and to acquire company products, as well as to leverage relationships – one of the Natura brand’s key attributes – through the intensive use of technology.
The strategy is aimed at meeting two growing challenges for the company: increasing consultant productivity and leveraging business through digital tools.
The Natura Network is the first experience in this strategy, with each consultant having her own internet page through which she may relate to consumers and sell products. “We are connecting the offline and online worlds. We maintain the fundamental role the consultant plays in the sale, based on the relationship she establishes with her customers, while offering consumers yet another alternative”, explains João Paulo Ferreira, Natura’s Commercial vice president.
More than 35% of the orders placed in Brazil are now delivered to the NC in up to 48hours. The average delivery time has decreased from 5.1 to 4.5 days. Part of the strategy to improve the quality of services provided for consultants, this rate is the result of significant investments undertaken since 2010. In 2013, the new Natura administrative and distribution center was inaugurated in the city of São Paulo (São Paulo). The high technology used in the distribution center enabled the company to pick a record 4.5 million items in a single day.
In 2013, a pilot program was run in Campinas and then extended to São José dos Campos in a second phase. Both are large cities in São Paulo state. In 2014, work will begin on extending the initiative nationwide.
The example of Rosi Da Dalto illustrates the new tool’s potential. A Natura representative for more than 20 years in the Campinas region, she increased her customer base and income by 50% using the internet to complement her work. “The other day I asked a friend of mine who had bought a product via my virtual space to publicize the novelty among her contacts. Soon after, a friend of hers became my customer”, says Rosi. “I am no longer responsible for placing, delivering and charging for orders. That leaves me the role of delighting the customer, which is the essence of consulting”, she adds.
In São José dos Campos, the trial evolved to attract new NCs, with no prior Natura consulting experience. This led to the incorporation into the sales network of a younger consultant profile already at home in the digital universe. “We realized that not all the NCs are interested in working with the digital model and that there are some difficulties with inclusion, in spite of the training and guidance provided. There is room for us to operate in both the online and offline environments, with different consultant profiles adapted for each platform”, declares José de Luca, Commercial Innovation director.
Evolution of the commercial model represents a major challenge, while also offering the company a valuable opportunity. Geography no longer constitutes a boundary for relationships, and the principles underpinning the brand's historical model – dialog, recommendation and entrepreneurship – apply fully in the connected digital universe of the social networks. And these may constitute a differential in other sales channels, such as physical ones. “Natura has been a social network for a long time, an offline network that has built up a culture, identity and values recognized by the market. Our aim is to value the relationship the consultant has built with her customers, with new tools that will enable improved service”, José de Luca adds, underscoring that the new possibilities complement the existing system.
Even consumers accessing the Natura product site have to choose a consultant to conclude their purchase. To do this, they can search their own or their friends' social networks or search by area code, among other possibilities.
With this model, the consultant no longer has to worry about logistics and charging her customers; she is free to focus all her attention on the relationship and is thus able to serve a larger number of customers in her network. “We believe that technology will facilitate things for the NC network, strengthen social entrepreneurship and reinforce relations between consultants, their customers and Natura”, says João Paulo Ferreira.
In addition to being able to place the order whenever they like via the internet, consumers can now choose to receive the product via direct delivery from the company’s distribution centers. Expanded since 2010 and equipped with high technology, the Natura logistics system is prepared to receive this new order flow and speed up delivery times for consumers.
Service at a click
The Natura Network is still in its pilot phase, but the experience acquired from this project and Natura's heavy investment in technology are paving the way for digital solutions that are already in place throughout the consultant network and the sales force.
In 2013, an application that provides support for new consultants was tested. Accessing the tool by cellular telephone or tablet, the consultant can place orders, access the full product portfolio and customer contact information, as well as receive tips and news. In the future, this tool will be extended to other consultant profiles, such as university students.
For the NCAs, a new communication channel was established via SMS messaging. At no cost, the consultant can send a message using a key word to receive information about the status of the sales cycle, the NCs in her consultant base etc. The fact that it permits use of a cellular telephone has proved very useful. This service is expected to be made available to NCs shortly.
The development of digital tools makes life easier for the sales force in general, offering solutions for managing relations with the consultant network. For example, in the Natura encounters held every sales cycle to publicize new products and promotions, Relationship Managers can monitor the participation of each NC via cellular telephone and access information on the profile and status of each NC in real time.
In a year of record investments in technology – a significant proportion of the R$ 553.9 million invested in infrastructure –, Natura also consolidated its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The system works like a large data base on the NCs and NCAs, integrating data to permit in-depth analysis of the information available on the sales network. For example, it permits the company to map opportunities to expand the NC base and its productivity city by city, prioritizing growth in areas in the interior of certain states which show high business potential. Specific actions for determined regions were carried out based on this mapping exercise. In another initiative, segmented actions enabled the identification and reestablishment of a working relationship with ex-consultants.
In 2014, new resources will be activated in the system, with focused measures based on the profiles identified: region of activity, average spend per purchase, most popular products and new NCs, among others. With the expansion of the Natura Network and direct delivery to the consumer it will also be possible to gather more information about the end consumers.
In 2013, average NC productivity grew by 1.4% and by 6.2% in the last quarter. This increase was driven by investments in information technology, by a series of actions to gradually increase the range of products consumers buy, by product and concept innovation, as well as changes in sales force incentives, among other initiatives.This effort will be maintained in 2014, with the development of new cellular telephone applications to assist in business management and to map the practices used by the most productive consultants and disseminate them to the rest of the network, among other measures.
Segmentation of services for consultants was made possible by the consolidation of CRM technology, which reinforced tracking of NCs, enabling more focused service based on the definition of profiles, such as new consultants; the most productive consultants, among other segments.
This work will continue in 2014, with the development of more cellular telephone applications to support business management and the mapping of the practices applied by the most productive consultants, so that these may be replicated throughout the network, among other actions.