In its 20th anniversary, Asian industry champion QNET tells us how technology has helped it grow a global direct selling business...
Direct selling remains big business across the world, amassing $183bn in revenue in 2016. The industry is growing rapidly in Asia and Middle East, with QNET playing a prominent role in the region.
With sales increasing by up to 20% year on year, unlike its competitors, the e-commerce based direct sales company has adopted a 100% digital presence for two decades as part of its aim to further promote accessibility to customers and distributors (known as Independent Representatives at QNET).
“As part of our three-year roadmap, we have identified key regions for growth which include countries in Africa, Middle East, and the Russia-CIS region. We also want to engage with millennials, as this demographic houses an entrepreneurship mindset,” explains Chief Information Officer, Ivan Woo.
“We also want to significantly increase the female customer and distributor base. In certain countries, we're aiming for a 30% rise.
“Lastly, we also want to look further into consumer behaviours to see what we can do to become an integral part of our customers' day-to-day lives.”
The implementation of personalised tools has provided increased insights into the consumer experience within direct selling. However, Woo explains that QNET has differentiated themselves from the competition in a number of ways, with technology remaining a key driver.
“At QNET, we have adopted the same IT infrastructure and processes worldwide to provide our customers with a seamless and familiar experience wherever in the world they are growing their business. We have millions of people in our database in more than 100 countries, and they speak different languages, come from different cultures and different levels of exposure to technology.
“We wanted one unified platform serving the entire world. If you ask the other CIOs in the industry they may say you are dreaming, but this is what we are doing. We are constantly looking for new technologies to improve our customer experience,” he says.
Technology has become a vital tool for QNET to engage with distributors and customers. With up to 40 different nationalities under its umbrella, it has built an exceptionally diverse and global employee base. QNET’s social media team routinely engages with customers in up to seven different languages through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Instagram.
“The way we communicate and engage with our distributors is constantly evolving. We are always experimenting with different types of messaging platforms and language-based demographics, age, gender etc.,” reflects Trevor Kuna, CEO of QNET.
“Direct selling is not a unique industry and has been around for a very long time. However, I would say that one of the things that makes QNET different is the fact that we have a much stronger engagement with our network of distributors and customers than perhaps any other direct selling company anywhere else.
“The founders of QNET used to be distributors, so they understand what it takes to really succeed in the field. They made it a point that if they were ever going to start a company, they would always make it a customer-first company and support the growth of the business and the distributors on the ground,” he says.
Woo adds: “Our distributors have a growth path that enables them to increase their income potential over time. We offer different types of ranks and they have to qualify through each rank starting at Bronze, Silver and Gold, all the way up to Blue Diamond, the highest possible rank, with the largest income potential.
“In the past, the distributors had to keep track of their own performance and figure out how to graduate to the next level. This year we have rolled out a mobile app that seamlessly integrates all business features into a single app to give our distributors the ease and convenience of tracking their performance. The app also helps them see what actions they need to take to qualify for the next rank. Since we are a global network, we have also added custom features for different countries. For example, we will soon launch an eKYC feature for distributors in India for digital authentication through the app.
“With Microsoft AI and machine learning we are in the midst of transformation to enhance the technology capability to proactively tell our IRs the kind of things they can do in order to move to the next rank and improve commission performance,” he continues.
“I believe this will take us to the next milestone, as we have a very loyal customer base, a very good product portfolio and a fantastic business opportunity.”
Whilst the company originally built its front and back-end systems in-house, QNET has sought to overhaul its IT infrastructure with its people in mind. Partnering with Microsoft has enabled the business to develop its customer-focused eStore, as well as utilise Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to enhance its customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities.
“Microsoft is changing itself to becoming more people-focused. They are helping us to move to much bigger cloud migration adoption,” explains Woo.
“We decided to migrate our HR system to a Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Talent. As a very diverse and international company, we needed a fully cloud-based solution to manage our 1000-plus employees in over 25 countries. Dynamics 365 for Talent has been very helpful in enabling our HR Transformation by helping us improve many of our core HR processes to better employee management. We see Microsoft as a key technology partner and are very happy to continue our more than a decade old partnership,” notes Woo.
“For cloud migration, it’s no longer a choice; it's how and what kind of things you can leverage and adopt. The challenge is to find the right formula to maximise your investment, leveraging public cloud computing power to achieve what you cannot achieve in one premise. It can be cost-saving, it can be speed to market, but I think the challenges for a CIO is to find the right formula that meets the needs of the company.”
“Moving forward, we hope to accelerate digital transformation by embracing more AI based technologies. We are looking to explore the adoption of AI services and tools available on Azure in our operation, with the aim to enhance efficiency,” he adds.
The user experience
By partnering with Dynatrace, QNET has also eliminated any potential delays in service.
Being a 100% digital business, the company believes in creating the best possible user experience for its customers, Dynatrace has been a key partner at QNET for the past five years and ensures that the company provides superior online experience to customers at all times.
“The digital experience insights provided by Dynatrace has helped us monitor our Mobile App & site performance in terms of speed and user experience. If users are unhappy, they are able to track the root cause and report back to our team,” explains Woo. “The proactive monitoring of our website and services also helped prevent any potential downtime which might have caused significant financial impact to our business.”
This year, QNET is now focusing on expanding its coverage due to Dynatrace’s increased focus on AI.
“Looking the latest Dynatrace’s AI-powered, full stack, and automated monitoring capabilities, we are also considering expanding our investment with them. We see many opportunities leveraging on Dynatrace’s ability to support all types of cloud environments with easy, automatic deployment. This will allow us to scale faster and operate simpler as we embark on our cloud transformation,” continues Woo.
“By late 2018, we will gain the ability to leverage the AI of Dynatrace to have auto-recovery. When issues happen in a specific region, we can do sort of adjustment automatically to enable a positive user experience.”
Long-term, QNET will work to continue inspiring those who wish for work to fit around their lifestyles and not the other way around. The company will also seek to invest in areas which will benefit local communities. Investing in a full-fledged university in Malaysia, for example, has further given QNET an edge over competitors.
“I don't think there are any direct selling companies out there that can say that they are part of a group that has a university as their sister company. We have a financial services company, as well as hotels and resorts in different parts of the world that help us support our holiday product line from QNET,” reflects Kuna.
“Whilst technology helps us fuel the business through our e-commerce platform, it allows us to provide cross-border opportunities to people from all over the world and grow a network without encumbrances brought about by geographical lines,” he adds.
“Many people become entrepreneurs thanks to direct selling. It's not just about financial gain, but about other skills which you learn along the way: leadership, goal setting, financial planning etc. It's also about how to talk to people, how to deal with people, how to overcome challenges, how to manage rejection. All of these things are an integral part of all of the training programmes that we provide to our distributors.”
“I cannot think of any other company that encourages this kind of personal development and provides the type of opportunity that QNET does,” Woo concludes. “If you want a challenge and you want to do something that is impactful, direct selling is definitely an industry which people should embrace. I still find ways to enjoy this industry after 15 years in the business.”