Social selling – or strategically leveraging social media to engage customers and make sales – has become an increasingly important channel for multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. It’s not difficult to see why. Social media selling platforms and MLM software capabilities continue to evolve, integrating and improving the shopping experience and ease for customers. Then, on top of that, the pandemic rapidly accelerated the comfort levels people of all ages have for shopping and interacting online.
Today, MLM companies are making social selling a key element within their growth strategies for four compelling reasons.
Reason 1: Social media is where your customers are.
More than half of the world’s population – 54 percent – is connected via social media platforms. For North America, the number jumps to 74 percent. In 2020, the number of users surged, with social media gaining 1.3 million new users each day. (That’s an average of 15.5 new users every second!)
On average, users worldwide spend almost two and a half hours interacting on social media. With that kind of usage, it’s no surprise that brands are able to successfully engage with potential and current customers through social media.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram not only make it easier for individuals to connect with people all over the world, but they also make it possible for social media users to share products and experiences they love with their friends and followers. Direct selling – which is always based on personal, social relationships – is a natural fit for social media. The platforms make it possible for MLM sales representatives to reach more potential customers, expand their connections, and interact with their network.
Because of the one-to-one connections, social media platforms create a built-in sense of personalization and credibility. Customers and potential customers can interact with MLM representatives and companies by liking posts, mentioning a product, rep, or brand in their own posts, or direct messaging an MLM rep or brand. As customers engage, sales follow.
Social media is an essential element in today’s purchase process. More than half of consumers report using social media to research products and services before making a purchase. Almost half say they depend on social media for recommendations that help them make purchasing decisions, and seven in ten consumers who have a positive experience with a company on social media are likely to recommend it to their family and friends. Even pre-pandemic, 55 percent of consumers said they had made purchases via social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Reason 2: Moving customers from social engagement to shopping can be seamless.
In the beginning, MLM companies and their representatives tried a variety of tactics aimed at finding and engaging their target customers on social media. In recent years, a few key methods have emerged as proven approaches based on the products, customers, and direct selling models involved.
First and foremost, successful social selling starts with representatives consistently posting content that is helpful and relevant for their target customers. By establishing a foundation of useful content that’s not overly sales-focused, MLM representatives provide value their followers can’t get anywhere else and strengthen their customer relationships. MLM companies can make it easier for sales representatives to share effective – and compliant – social content through the rep’s back-office MLM software tools or a stand-alone app.
When it comes to translating posts into sales, the dropship (or corporate-fulfilled) inventory approach is common for many MLM companies. Social media posts – or live events (see more in the #4 reason section below) – leverage the company’s MLM software to seamlessly and automatically link to a representative’s replicated website and shopping cart where customers are able to make their purchases. The orders are then drop-shipped to the customer from the company’s warehouse.
In some cases, MLM sales representatives may be selling on-hand inventory (also known as field-fulfilled) directly to customers via social media. This approach means the representative will rely on a set of turnkey tools that enable her to collect the payment and ship the products to her customers. MLM companies should choose social selling tools that integrate with your MLM software to streamline and simplify both the customer and rep experiences.
Whether sales are corporate- or field fulfilled, look for features like one-click social sharing icons, end-to-end tiebacks of sales to the representative no matter how many times a link is shared, and a simple and secure checkout that takes multiple forms of payment.
Reason 3: Shopping experiences can meet – or exceed – e-commerce expectations.
Today’s MLM customers have high expectations for online shopping. Any obstacle that makes the browsing and buying experience feel complicated can cause them to abandon their cart without completing their purchase.
The replicated websites provided by your MLM software must deliver a seamless, one-click transition from social media. Once the customer “lands” on the replicated site, they expect shopping to be simple to navigate from any browser or device. Optimizing online shopping experiences for mobile devices is no longer a “nice-to-have,” it’s business-critical. Online shopping via smartphone – also known as m-commerce – is projected to account for 73 percent of e-commerce sales in 2021.
The shopping cart experience is central to closing sales initiated through social media engagement. Today’s e-commerce shopping carts do more than capture the items customers decide to purchase. MLM software functionality can also help online shoppers search for products by leveraging filters, product categories, price ranges, or styles. MLM software shopping cart capabilities can also continue the customer engagement by alerting customers when products are newly added, best-selling items, or on sale. This type of tag function can tie into the integrated inventory system to let customers know if there are only a few of the item left in stock.
Customers also expect an MLM company’s replicated e-commerce sites to include features like the ability to view and zoom in on products from different angles, see ratings and reviews from other customers, make and save wish lists, and view “you might also like” suggestions. Research shows that 53 percent of online shoppers appreciate personalized recommendations based on what’s in their shopping cart or past purchase history.
Reason 4: Live selling events bring together the best of in-person and e-commerce worlds.
In addition to interacting with customers through social media posts and shopping links, live selling events are an effective way for MLM representatives to leverage social media. By hosting live events, a representative can showcase products as well as her expertise. The choice of live selling tools is crucial.
Many MLM representatives use free or low-cost social media platforms for selling, like Facebook or Zoom. However, it’s important for MLM companies to provide tools that integrate the platform’s functionality with the e-commerce capabilities provided by its MLM software.
Right now, Facebook is a primary social selling platform for many MLM representatives. But there are guidelines and restrictions related to selling that can get a representative blocked from selling on the platform. For example, having a business name on a Facebook page or making a large number of posts with external links in a short amount of time are red flags that can land representatives in so-called “Facebook jail.” If your company chooses Facebook as its social selling channel, make sure representatives have both the tools they need and the information about what’s allowed. Plus, stay up to date on best practices and evolving guidelines as Facebook implements and enhances options to facilitate selling, such as Facebook Shops and Messenger Rooms.
As representatives promote, host, and engage with customers via live selling events, there must be an easy way for customers to purchase products. Most often, when using platforms like Facebook Live, a “comment selling” approach is used to let the representative know who is purchasing. Fully integrated live selling tools – which bypass social media platforms to provide live selling capabilities – build purchasing into the interface, enabling a customer to click to add an item to her shopping cart and even complete the purchase without leaving the event or requiring any real-time involvement by the MLM representative. Third-party live selling tools, integrated with your back-end MLM software, can help reduce the complexity, cost, and maintenance of social selling.
How to choose the right social selling tools
When evaluating and selecting tools to empower social selling, balance what representatives need with the associated costs from both a corporate and a field perspective. In addition, prioritize technology, compliance, and training considerations. Tap into your MLM software partner as a valuable resource for information and best practices to help you assess your company’s needs and evaluate options to enhance your social selling and e-commerce capabilities.
Your company’s representatives can also provide insights to help gauge how your current social selling tools stack up. Make representatives a part of testing and training as you prepare to launch new tools. Training sessions that include corporate staff, vendor experts, and influential sales representatives are highly effective and credible for participants. And don’t stop engaging representatives after rolling out a tool. Create a forum for them to share feedback, user tips, and social selling success stories.
Your sales representatives are plugged into their customers’ needs and well-versed in the current challenges of social selling. By leveraging them as a valuable resource when exploring and evaluating tools – and providing them with training and support to improve their social selling skills, you’ll set them – and your MLM company – up for ongoing social selling success.
ByDesign collaborates with MLM companies to provide insights, solutions, and partnerships based on the experience and best practices we’ve developed over our 20-year history. Explore ByDesign.com to learn more about our MLM software solutions and end-to-end e-commerce capabilities – and contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss what ByDesign can do for your business.
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