Some believed that when the Internet arrived, it marked the death knell for direct selling, as people would just bypass individuals and go straight to retailers online, but this overlooked the power of word-of-mouth recommendation. No matter how technologically advanced we become, people still want the personal touch, and being able to get a genuine recommendation from another person, whether face-to-face or online, still holds the trump card.
Whatever your business, word-of-mouth recommendation has always been important if you want to achieve sales success, but for the direct selling industry, this is its defining modus operandi. However, with the advent of the Internet, it was feared that this sales method, and the direct selling industry in general, would not survive, but how wrong can you be?! In fact, with the rise of social media and online customer reviews, business owners who make the most of word-of-mouth recommendation, in all its online and face-to-face forms, are thriving – not least of all direct sellers. And now, recent studies suggest that word-of-mouth recommendation is becoming even more powerful than ever before, especially among the young.
The recommendation revolution
According to a study by Nielsen, the vast majority of us (84%) now make buying choices based on recommendations. In fact, it seems that the power of word-of-mouth recommendation is on the rise with younger generations, as a recent survey found that Millennials ranked this as the number one influence in their purchasing decisions about many items. Furthermore, recent research from The Center for Generational Kinetics suggests that Generation Z, who are just coming of age, may be putting even greater store by the recommendations of others when making their buying decisions. In fact, in the 30 days prior to being polled, 78% of participants had used online reviews before purchasing an item, and the influence these had was said to be second only to that of family and friends. In fact, another recent survey found that 85% of us trust online reviews just as much as we trust personal recommendations from those we know. So, all this bodes well for direct selling businesses built on genuine recommendations from personal experience, as it is clear that this is what the modern customer wants. Indeed, recent years have seen a recommendation revolution and direct selling is at the helm.
Customers selling to customers
You may say that a word-of-mouth recommendation from a direct selling professional is not the same as that from a customer, as they stand to gain from their recommendation. However, people who choose to run direct selling businesses generally start out as customers of a company, buying its products and services, and impressed by their purchases, progress to building a business by recommending the products to family and friends, and then social selling online. To be successful in this field, you have to be confident in the quality of the products you sell, and choose a reputable company to join, such as those that are members of the Direct Selling Association. Sure, if the person giving the recommendation makes a sale, they receive commission, but if they get a reputation for selling poor products, they will not last long. The most successful direct selling professionals know all about the products they sell, from using them themselves, and speak from experience when they say, ‘try these, they’re great!’ Indeed, it would be counter-productive to recommend substandard products, as research suggests that 95% of customers also share bad experiences with others. So, the repercussions could mean a wrecked reputation and business.
It is therefore perhaps not surprising that recent years have seen an increase in popularity of direct selling, especially among younger people. Indeed, with an ever-widening range of high-quality products available to buy this way, and the evident rise in power of word-of-mouth recommendation, this may be just the beginning of a boom in the industry. This could also be seen as just part of what is being called a peer-to-peer (P2P), or sharing, economy boom, where people opt more and more to buy and sell goods and services directly with each other. Direct selling may have its roots in days-gone-by, door-to-door selling, but it has definitely moved with the times and the modern reality of the industry is worlds apart from its beginnings. Any direct seller worth their salt now knows how to make the best use of social media, and even the most up-to-the-minute, technology-based products and services are available through direct selling companies, such as those offered by the forward-thinking organisation LEO, including online courses, crowdfunding and cryptocurrency. In fact, by adapting to the age of the Internet, not only in how it sells, but also with what it sells, the direct selling industry has blossomed and is now doing better than ever.
So, the signs certainly look good for the direct selling industry, which may have a business model founded in the past, but now looks set to lead the way in the 21st century world of e-commerce.