Ding dong, Avon calling!

The direct selling channel is one of the few bright spots in retail right now. But how does a model that is based on human interaction adapt to today’s challenge of social distancing?

This week, I had the pleasure of chairing a roundtable discussion hosted by the Direct Selling Association and the opportunity to learn more about this £2.7 billion-a-year channel of UK retail where products are sold directly to consumers outside of a fixed retail environment.

Panellists included:

  • Cliff Jones, Sales Director, The 1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan
  • Peter Kropp, Global Director, The Body Shop at Home
  • Alessandro Martinez, Managing Director, Vorwerk UK
  • Susannah Schofield OBE, Director General, The Direct Selling Association
  • Andy Smith, General Manager, Amway UK & Ireland and Chair, The Direct Selling Association

Here’s what the direct selling channel gets right:

Agility. Direct selling is an inherently nimble, flexible, and low-risk channel. One thing that has become clear this year is that necessity is the mother of invention so when the pandemic hit, at-home demonstrations and shopping parties quickly went virtual. The panellists believe that this blended experience will stick post-COVID as online and offline worlds continue to merge. Pandemic pivots have actually enhanced certain aspects of the CX and enabled brands to reach a broader customer base.

Community. The panellists all stressed the importance of selling an experience, not a product. Moving beyond the transaction to build a community and foster a sense of belonging is going to be vital for traditional retail as we move into 2021. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of strengthening community in a digital setting – an active online community that swaps ideas, recipes and advice will garner greater loyalty in the physical world.

Brand evangelism starts internally. The very nature of this model grants its ‘consultants’ a significant amount of autonomy which empowers and enables them to offer a highly personalised, relevant experience to customers. The panellists stressed the importance of authenticity here – consultants are the brand’s first customers; if they don’t believe in the product, they’re not going to not sell it. We must not underestimate the importance of training and supporting consultants/staff. They are the face of the brand and, ultimately, retail’s most important asset.

Some important lessons here for the wider retail industry as we begin to emerge from this crisis. 

Categories: Retail trends