In those dark, grey, drizzly pre-internet days, direct sales was a revolution giving people, and notably women, the chance to run their own business.
The well-worn business model of direct sales was proven for decades for thousands as a source of additional income. In recent years it has seen a resurgence, according to figures from the Direct Selling Association that show that there are now more than 400,000 direct sellers in the UK, at least 20,000 more than in 2009.
The industry also accounts for sales in excess of £2 billion annually in the UK. The US seems to be a step ahead of the UK in the direct selling market. We launched Stella & Dot to the UK last year. Social selling has been going on in the States for a few years now but we were the first to bring it to these shores and it has taken off.
The old vision of salespeople shivering on a doorstep and lugging a cumbersome suitcase across the street are a far cry from today’s entrepreneurs embracing the social selling phenomenon. Way back in 2010 Mark Zuckerberg said: “If I had to guess, social commerce is next to blow up.” Unsurprisingly Mr Facebook himself was right, although this was quite a weighted prediction. US entrepreneurs like Jessica Herrin founder and CEO of Stella & Dot had seen and seized this opportunity way before Zuckerberg made his bold statement.
Even advanced retailers are still trying to work out how to surf the ‘s-wave’ and incorporate social-selling into their business models. An example in the past month is the Tesco pop-up Facebook Halloween shop. The temporary shop enabled fans of Tesco to benefit from exclusive previews and discounts available through a specially designed pop-up app.
Retailers trying to tack s-commerce onto their business models are finding it harder than those that already have a sociable selling model that lends itself to existing in an online space. However, this desire to embrace s-commerce is a sign of the change in the market landscape – the trust and reliance put into the power of social channels has leapt and companies are desperately trialing different methods to integrate s-commerce to find out what works with their market.
As direct selling is the UK’s largest provider of part time, independent earning it would make sense for more direct selling companies to take their lead from companies that use s-commerce. The lucrative market has changed, the consumers are tech savvy, they reside on facebook, they post on twitter, they don’t have house phones to call and doorbells to ring nowadays. They rely on texts and find out what their neighbours are up to by trawling through their recent status updates.
Currently it is thought that around 81 per cent of consumers receive advice from friends and family when purchasing a product through a social networking site and almost three quarters of consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchases.
This shift in need for ease, simplicity and integrated networking has been addressed by the invention and growth of social commerce. The bug-bares of the traditional model have been addressed, people run their own businesses and build careers earning decent money and fitting their work around their lives.
S-commerce has been integrated into some models of business smoothly and effectively. Others are still at the teething stages of how it can benefit them, but there is no doubt s-commerce is here to stay.