Direct Selling’s Retail Remodel: How Retailers Are Influencing Today’s Direct Selling Innovators

From training for sales reps to consumer relations, the harmony between direct selling and retail is evident. Just the same, the challenges they face right now are similar. Both are crowded markets where earnings have fallen, with retail sales dropping 1% in March 2023 and direct selling’s leaders showing disappointing numbers for 2022. Both rely on the capability of their workforce to make sales conversions, and both depend on consumer behaviors for their success. 

Just as many retailers are “gigifying” the frontline, making them more independent and self-guided, some direct selling leaders are embracing in-store sales as one possible future for “DS.” Let’s dive into what this looks like and what it means for the future of direct selling–the kind of market it possibly points toward, the training for sales reps that’s required, and so forth. Those who want to be several steps ahead of their competitors, and the market in general, ought to pay attention.

What Is Direct Selling?

First, let’s get this definition out of the way. 

Direct selling is a business model in which companies sell products or services directly to consumers, typically through independent sales representatives or consultants. The sales representatives usually work on a commission basis and may earn bonuses or other incentives for meeting sales targets or recruiting new salespeople to join their team. 

Distributor-facing learning and development, incentives and recognition, and opportunity management technologies help the direct selling field be more effective. Training for sales reps is ongoing, and the result is upskilling, which boosts sales results.

Direct selling is different from traditional retail sales, which typically involve the purchase of products from manufacturers by wholesalers or retailers who then sell those products to consumers. In direct selling, the sales representative is the intermediary between the company and the consumer, and is responsible for marketing and selling the products directly to the end user. 

Some common examples of companies that use direct selling include Avon, Mary Kay, Tupperware, and Amway.

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The Direct Selling-Retail Connection

With direct selling leaders having experienced a downturn throughout 2022, executives and operations and sales managers will have to be as resourceful as possible, seeking new sources of revenue. This includes selling products in stores to grow the business and build the brand in consumers’ minds. 

For instance, Tupperware has begun selling their products at Target. The same is true for BeautyCounter, which has partnered with Ulta Beauty to distribute their products in store. In addition to being “omnichannel” selling, this is “cross-channel” or “multichannel” selling. This makes a lot of sense. The training for sales reps might have a lot of overlap as well. We’ll talk about that below.

Example 1: Tupperware at Target

Everyone knows Tupperware, the famous prep and store containers, mostly for food products. Tupperware’s brand has always relied on direct sales. Now, they’ve decided to enter the retail market with availability at Target. 

The company has been clear that this is part of an omnichannel/multichannel sales strategy, helping them sell their products in more varied ways. The more channels they exist in, the more probability is that their merchandise will fall into shoppers’ view. The company has underlined that part of the reasoning here is generational. Younger shoppers, millennials and Gen Z, spend time in retail stores. They don’t have much familiarity with the direct selling channel. Thus, this is a great example of the industry adapting to grow.

Example 2: BeautyCounter with Ulta Beauty

BeautyCounter is partnering with the retailer Ulta Beauty to drive in-store sales. Though BeautyCounter already has their own stores and a presence in some other retailers, Ulta Beauty is a large and important chain of beauty stores. 

Similarly to Tupperware, BeautyCounter’s leadership has made clear that this is part of a larger omnichannel strategy. They’re hoping to spread their resources across channels at a time when such diversification is necessary. This is smart. Like Tupperware, they’re adapting to grow. They’re not transforming their business model but expanding it.

Retail and Direct Selling Enablement and Training for Sales Reps

Vice versa, some retailers are said to be exploring direct selling and influencer marketing as a model for driving sales. The reasons why are not obscure. It’s a great way to build brand loyalty, grow the business without making huge investments in new business arms, and take advantage of social media channels. 

Additionally, there’s a natural affinity between the channels: they both face consumers and rely on sales forces for revenue. They both have an eCommerce and in-person portion. They both require learning and development and rewards and recognition to upskill the sales force. Thus we might say that beyond the way they reach consumers, the manner in which they enable their sales forces has a lot of overlap. The way they train, upskill, and engage their sales forces could very well demand similar technologies.

Both sales forces require ongoing training, upskilling, and rewards and recognition for continued engagement. One of the major problems with retail training in the past has been that there’s initial training but hardly any follow-up and reinforcement. Similarly, direct selling distributors might have knowledge reinforcement via digital apps, but rarely is it ever tied to their performance goals.

The answer here is enablement, specifically Performance Enablement, technology. Such technology provides ongoing training for sales reps, in addition to rewards and recognition and customer relation-building technology. All actions taken on the platform are tied to the individual’s past performance data and future goals, whether that individual is a distributor or a frontline worker.

To learn more about how Performance Enablement activates sales forces for large, distributed enterprises, request your demonstration of Rallyware today.