The future is bright for social commerce. In 2020, social commerce generated $475 billion in sales worldwide. And the total is projected to grow exponentially to $3.37 trillion by 2028. So far, China leads the way, with 46 percent of its Internet users making purchases through social media networks in 2021. But U.S. consumers are gaining ground, with 36 percent of Internet users leveraging social commerce. Is your direct selling company ready to capitalize on social commerce in the months and years ahead? The key to success will be found in the social commerce tools and resources you deliver to your sales teams. Here’s why.
Social media is where the shoppers are. Eight in ten American adults between the ages of 18 and 29 report using social media on a daily basis. Overall, people spend just under two and a half hours on social media each day, so it’s only natural that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have become go-to consumer resources. Whether they’re sharing their latest purchases, recommending a favorite product, or seeking recommendations from their network, 80 percent of consumers say Instagram helps them decide whether to buy a product or service.
For direct selling companies and their representatives, establishing a presence on social media is essential. Looking ahead, taking the next steps to move from awareness-building to social selling to social commerce will be crucial.
- Awareness-building on social media is table stakes for direct-to-consumer companies. Eighty-five percent of businesses report creating social media content designed to build brand awareness and connect with their customers.
- Social selling is a strategic practice of engaging customers and cultivating relationships through social media in order to drive sales.
- Social commerce enables customers to make a purchase within a social media experience.
Brand awareness, social selling, and social commerce are all part of modern direct selling. Social media communities greatly extend the networks and reach of direct selling representatives. Direct selling companies are capitalizing on the opportunity by providing tools that empower reps to take full advantage of social media in four complementary ways.
1. Enable social selling.
Even if they have the opportunity to engage with customers in-person, direct selling reps must also connect with current and prospective customers by regularly sharing content through social media. At the same time, direct selling companies need to manage brand consistency and compliance requirements. The answer is providing turnkey social media content that representatives can easily access and post. Invest in developing an expansive social media content library with a range of messages, compelling images, and actionable click-throughs.
Do the research at the company level to determine the social media platforms of choice for your target customers. Share the insights with your representatives – and create tailored content for the specific platforms, including videos and gif – aka animated image – files. When it comes to optimizing social selling through direct selling representatives, a company’s primary goal should be to deliver a wide range of fresh content options so that reps won’t need to create their own.
Make social media marketing training part of your representative toolbox. Offer insights about what works well and share real-life examples and best practices. Integrate brand and compliance guidelines throughout the training resources. And finally, recognize and reward representatives who effectively leverage your tools and see success.
2. Encourage (and reward) customer endorsements.
Social media is all about sharing news, status updates, and experiences, both positive and negative. For direct selling companies and representatives, it’s about creating experiences that inspire positive word-of-mouth as a way to reach more customers. In recent years, companies have begun to operationalize the ability to generate word-of-mouth marketing and significantly expand distribution through affiliate and influencer marketing programs. In fact, eight in ten brands have some type of affiliate marketing program in place.
Through affiliate marketing, a company pays a reward or commission for sales that result when a person promotes the company’s products or services. Affiliate marketing programs offer a relatively easy-to-implement and low-cost way for companies to expand distribution and drive increased direct-to-consumer sales.
As a start, build in social share opportunities throughout all online customer experiences so that it’s easy for customers to post about their purchases and advocate on behalf of your brand. Then, layer in an official program where customers can enroll online as affiliate marketing representatives and receive a unique URL link or promotional code they can share with family, friends, and followers through social media. Sales that result from the affiliate’s posts are attributed based on the unique code or URL, with the affiliate earning discounts, promotional gifts, or commission compensation.
Affiliate marketing programs are highly effective. Sixty-seven percent of consumers report buying a product after seeing it on social media. And 52 percent of consumers say they would buy from a brand they follow on Facebook. When you factor in the personalized endorsement of affiliate representatives, customers are even more likely to buy. Eighty-eight percent of people say they trust recommendations from people they know over traditional marketing messages.
3. Facilitate virtual selling events.
Consumers value social media’s connections and convenience, but they also want to be part of a community. Successful direct selling representatives blend personalized interactions and social media through online events. Providing representatives with tools that enable them to host virtual selling events through platforms like Facebook Live enables them to showcase and sell on-hand inventory by creating “reply-to-buy” codes for customers to enter into the comment field. The code triggers a purchase experience that allows the customer to complete a purchase through the rep’s Ecommerce link or opt for an invoice to be sent to their email.
Representatives are able to interact with customers in real-time, delivering added value through demonstrations, makeovers, and personalized tips, just like they do in more traditional one-to-one or event selling situations. They can also answer questions and thank customers, which adds to the feeling of community and connection.
Look for technology solutions that make virtual selling easy for customers, representatives, and your company. Most importantly, make sure that apps and Ecommerce tools can be seamlessly integrated with back-end direct selling software platforms for automated payment calculations and payout ease, inventory management, and comprehensive reporting.
4. Enhance the end-to-end social commerce experience.
While social commerce is taking off, it’s still in its early stages. Today’s social commerce makes the online shopping experience much more personal and interactive than traditional Ecommerce. Going forward, social commerce will continue to evolve so entire customer experiences happen within the social media platform. Customers will move from initial awareness and interactions with a like-minded community to personalized recommendations from direct selling representatives. Then, they’ll be able to make purchases while continuing to engage with the community and representative through social media.
Look for technology partners who keep pace with evolving social commerce capabilities and help you deliver a modern direct selling experience for customers and representatives. ByDesign Technologies’ Freedom platform enables you to manage, grow, and scale your direct-to-consumer business, both online and off. And our newest solution – Wayroo – delivers an all-in-one app to provide reps with integrated social commerce solutions, mobile payment ease, and inventory management.