Retail trends

DTC: 2020 Review and 2021 Expectations

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

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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.