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Think of direct selling and the image of a Tupperware party somewhere in leafy post-war suburbia might spring to mind. However, this would be a misperception on a grand scale. It’s safe to say that direct selling has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) Annual Report 2016, there are now over 103 million entrepreneurs involved in direct selling worldwide, a figure which is up 4.4 per cent on the previous year.
The DSA summarises direct selling as “a method of marketing and retailing goods and services directly to the consumers, in their homes or in any other location away from permanent retail premises.” By selling goods outside a fixed retail environment, it offers complete flexibility for the seller. Indeed 51% of direct sellers work fewer than 10 hours per week. In essence, direct sellers are able to expand their business as much or as little as they want, helping them to balance their work with other commitments such as family life.
As a flexible business model, this has clearly impacted the range of products available to the direct seller. The direct selling industry is now open to a range of products that can be showcased at parties including cosmetics, cleaning products, nutritional products, homewares and paper craft supplies to name a few. The breadth of choice means the contemporary direct seller will inevitably find a product they like.
Once a direct seller has selected their product, it is then a case of getting it out there by maximising all available sales channels. Traditionally direct-selling was associated with the door-to-door sales approach. By no means a redundant technique, in a modern context it is important to consider this process as part of a broader mix of activity. Stampin’ Up! UK is a leading craft company which operates via a network of direct of sellers. In our experience, demonstrators particularly like to host product parties as they are a great way to meet new people.
Online platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook will also help you to share your product to a wider audience any time, anywhere and video formats such as YouTube enable you to build your profile and interact with your audience.
As direct selling continues to move into new and exciting territories so too does the direct seller. Today’s industry is a vibrant and dynamic one that appeals to a broad audience; nevertheless certain aspects of the industry have retained a timeless quality. Direct selling is a business model that has always emphasised social interaction. The key for today’s direct seller is being able to successfully strike a between classic face-to-face interaction and new digital communication channels.
*Paula Gorry is UK Business Development Manager of Stampin’ Up! UK.