by Jonathan Gilliam, Momentum Factor
Direct sellers became more relevant when the pandemic hit and people began social distancing, retailers had to immediately evolve their business model in order to survive. Consumers were opting to shop online while avoiding traditional brick-and-mortar stores. If people weren’t coming to them, retailers had to go their customers and take a more direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales approach. While this was a drastic shift, retailers embraced their survival instinct and went all in with regard to e-commerce. It was a new way of doing business for a new day.
For direct sellers, this transition to strictly online customer interactions was not completely foreign nor as dramatic as it was for retailers, but it did pose challenges. Success in direct sales has always hinged on building long-lasting relationships. Many of these bonds are formed during one-on-one, in-person interactions. But due to the pandemic, in-home events and on-site meetings were out of the question. Being in front of these customers was also the way that most field representatives were able to maintain order regularity and consistency. To overcome these obstacles, change was also required for direct sellers. Although some digital transformation had already taken place in the industry, field members began relying more heavily on e-commerce and leveraging technology – such as social media, video conferencing and live streaming – to foster relationship-building efforts. Thanks to these measures, most direct selling companies flourished during this lockdown period. Still, a larger issue is on the horizon – how do direct sellers stay ahead in a much more competitive D2C environment?
The answer is simple really – adapt while focusing on their expertise and strengths. Many retailers did well in transitioning to e-commerce. Not only did they survive the brunt of the pandemic, but they increased sales while embracing new ways to connect with customers. These new interactions were fostered by technology companies, especially social media platforms, providing innovative ways to sell online. This included having storefronts built into social media channels, product events live-streamed to close sales, incorporating “buy now” buttons on social posts to encourage impulse purchases, and more. What was even better about these new sales avenues was that they worked— and well.
Direct sales companies can utilize the same online tools now at the disposal of retailers while taking years of D2C experience to leverage them in more effective ways. This industry knows how to build relationships and can use the technology to make those consumer bonds even stronger.
Additionally, customer expectations are much higher when they are engaged directly. While this presents a new challenge for retailers, it’s just another day at the office for direct sellers. Field representatives place a premium on customer service at every step of the sales process. They are used to these high expectations and know how to exceed them.
The direct sales industry has a history of evolving to meet the marketplace. This time, they can do it again. Despite the new competitive D2C landscape, direct sellers need only adopt and influence these new online tools by leaning into their relationship-building prowess to find continued success.