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Social Selling: The Future of the Gig Economy

4/10/2020 | Maria Voorhees Maydan

Over the past 20 years, social media has changed our digital landscape with a dramatic impact and now has an effervescent and constant presence in our day to days. Direct selling companies are keeping up with these trends, moving beyond face-to-face selling situations and going digital. The days of hosting parties and going door to door are beginning to sunset. Some would say that the world has become more flat with this rise in social technology. Now, more than ever, we can communicate and connect virtually around the world with anyone who can access the internet. How has the gig economy led to the rise of social selling? Early pioneers of social selling like Mary Kay, Avon, and Tupperware built the foundation of peer-to-peer marketing. Part time or full-time employment with these companies 70 years ago encouraged mainly women to utilize their personal networks to sell these products.

Personal networks have become social networks

Not only have our networks grown due to the reaches of technology but they have become more social, rather than strictly personal. Companies that have been around for a while have built a strong, consistent brand presence and retooled product offerings which appeals to new social sellers looking to break into the market. Through social networks, these new entrepreneurs can leverage the power of well-established brands. Avon offers sales representatives a free website, allowing them to choose whether they would like to promote through social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram. New sellers are thriving by bringing their unique experience and tapping into an established brand network. Furthermore, they can connect with other seasoned sellers to look to for inspiration or selling tips. With the be-your-own-boss mindset, new representatives can build their own schedules and adjust it to fit in with their lifestyles.

It’s all about the personal touch

In a world where convenience and experience sell more products, consumers seek personalization and have come to expect a certain level of recognition during their purchasing. This is why social selling has endured and thrived in our everchanging digital environment – it’s super personal. Consumers who want to feel connected to a product or business are attracted by social sellers who understand them and how their offerings can fit into their lives. Customer reviews also play a big role in the decision-making process for consumers who rely the recommendations of strangers all across the world. In social selling, a consumer can get to know the reviewers: who they are, what their life is like, and what their experience has been with the product in question. If the buyer can relate to a seller through their reviews and purchase a product expecting a similar experience, they are more likely to become a brand loyalist.  Influencers cultivate their followings, not by savvy sales techniques, but through conveying a relatable presence, building relationships, and providing honest feedback.

How to thrive in social selling

A picture is worth a thousand words

Words only go so far. Shoppers want to see, hear, and feel the products they are contemplating buying. This is where imagery comes into play. By sharing quality or artistic photos of products, retailers can appeal to an audience looking for a certain style or aesthetic. For a more functional purchase, photos showing before and after images would attract a customer looking for results. How do sellers spread the word? By shouting it from the rooftops – in other words, by sharing on social media. When influencers apply hashtags to posts on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, browsers can find a page or a post while browsing by keyword. Many visually oriented sites, such as Pinterest offer nothing but eye candy, as followers sift through pretty photos that show items in their best light.

Crowd Sourcing: The power of an influencer

Today, consumers are relying more on reviews of products to influence their decision-making. The author of a review can make or break a sale. A typical buying journey usually begins with questions and doubts: Will it fit my body type? Will it make my skin breakout? Is it worth the money? With these questions in mind, the consumer will scan reviews of the product until they are persuaded or dissuaded. Ultimately, finding a review of a fellow consumer with a similar body build or skin concerns can be the deciding factor.

Join the club

Consistent and enticing branding from social retailers can attract customers and keep them coming back by understanding that consumers want to be a part of a movement larger than themselves. Social selling can play an important role in helping buyers feel like they are part of a movement and part of an exclusive group. Curiosity is peaked when they see certain logos all over the place or see their friends buying or selling cool products. When it comes to recruiting new social sellers, incentives also come into play; many social selling companies offer promotions for new sellers who were referred by a friend. Leveraging their network for new sellers is as effective as leveraging social selling to sell products.

Words Matter

Social selling begins with the notion that everyone is treated as an individual rather than just a potential client or sale. One of the top indicators in customer satisfaction is the answer to a simple question – “would you recommend this product to a friend or family member?” The words that the retailer and seller are very important. They must be honest and genuine. If anything, social channels have taught this one lesson. Consumers and would be social salespeople value honesty and transparency above all. The social world will not tolerate anything less.  

Industries that favor social selling

The health and beauty industries are where it’s at. If a seller wants to break into a market, look no further than health and beauty. In our daily lives, we find ourselves regularly thinking about how to lose weight, improve our hair or what new makeup products to try. In conversation, sharing tips or compliments comes naturally and organically so it makes sense that these product categories would render well to social selling.

Houseware and cookware are also still big categories in the social selling world. Remember Tupperware parties of the 60s and 70s? Well, cookware and bakeware remain top social sellers. In our Instagrammable world, it is easy to share recipes and supply recommendations online, so it makes sense that this category is still a big hit. The difference between Tupperware – then and now, is the audience. Tupperware parties in the 1950s were attended mainly by married women who managed a household. Nowadays, social sellers of kitchen supplies and cookware come from (and appeal to) all different walks of life and ages.

The Gig Economy

Believe it or not, you might know someone who sells Mary Kay or Avon products. Their energy and success show us how the gig economy has permeated the social fabric of our society. Social selling could be a side hustle or a main gig, but it is a modern force to be reckoned with.  Social selling makes up about 34% of the workforce in the United States and is projected to reach over 40% in late 2020. While social selling is often associated with the American dream and entrepreneurial spirit, it has also provided a sense of freedom for individuals, encouraging social sellers to adopt a be-your-own-boss mindset.  The gig economy is also a global economy and enables anyone who has a laptop and connectivity to build their own business.  In parts of the world, like Asia and the Middle East, most businesses were dominated by men until recently when women started building successful businesses, thereby contributing to their respective countries’ goal of expanding the economy through social selling. In this new world of social selling, technology has made it possible for anyone to test, promote, and sell items in their social network, all from the comfort of their homes.

About the Author:

Maria Voorhees Maydan, Digital Strategy Consultant

As a UX/UI researcher and audience analyst, Maria works with other VPs to create a 360-degree analysis of client’s digital properties through one on one user interviews to site audits and analytics. To inform user experience design and content architecture, Maria acts as a subject matter expert to voice the concepts and concerns of the end consumer and works closely with the Studios and Content Teams, and is involved full circle in user testing from initial discovery to the final product. With a background in digital marketing and public relations, she also assists in maintaining Tahzoo’s social channels, websites, and marketing efforts. As avid world traveler, Maria is keen to work on international projects and will jump at the opportunity.

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