Direct sales (or multi-level marketing) comes with a set of unique and often frustrating challenges that other retail brands or companies don’t experience. As a direct sales company, you need to figure out how to grab the attention of potential distributors and successfully pitch your business model to them so your products have more pipelines to move from point A to point B. Your direct selling strategy can’t be to wait for consumers or distributors to come to you. There are myriad moving parts.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that direct sellers face today is competing in an omni-channel ecommerce landscape with marketplace giants like Amazon or Walmart. Not only are these big fish in the retail pond, they can be a big threat to your direct sales strategy. Play the game right, however, and you can steadily grow your distribution channels without being disrupted by other marketplaces.
How marketplaces harm company direct sales strategies
Gone are the days when your brand could sleep easy at night without ecommerce channels undermining brand control beneath your nose, and gone are the days when selling through your downlines was the most effective way to grow. Marketplaces have made both much more difficult, and one of the biggest reasons is that they’re an easy solution for your distributors trying to make a sale.
Let’s say a company is carrying a new hair product, and they choose to take the direct seller route to market. They’ll sell their product wholesale to a distributor, who in turn will sell that product at the retail price to people in their circle of influence who are interested in improving their hair care routine. They may do this by hosting product parties or making grassroots contact with friends and family. This not only helps the brand grow; it also helps that distributor rise in the ranks until they’re eventually able to make a tidy profit and have more incentives to sell.
While some distributors might do everything the right way and excel at hitting their sales goals, others may struggle and seek out alternative methods to move products and support their business. An easy solution? Taking products to ecommerce marketplaces.
To sell or get rid of their products, a distributor—and even some of a brand’s customers—will gravitate toward Amazon, or other online channels, where they can make a business storefront, list the product, and sell it there rather than through slower traditional marketing methods. Sometimes to compete in this space and make the sale, the rogue distributor will drop the price down. That single unauthorized action is a trigger that complicates the entire market and makes selling much harder for the distributors doing it the right way.
Customers who are interested will go to Amazon, find the product listed for less, and choose to purchase it there with no incentive to buy it from anyone else at the higher, but normal, price point. The brand’s other distributors, in turn, will not be able to compete unless they markdown the cost of their own inventory.
Soon, that company is fielding complaints that the online price is too low and the rest of their distributors can’t make a profit selling their inventory unless they get it from the company for less. If that company marks down wholesale prices, they lose margin. If they don’t, they start losing distributors. In one fell swoop, that company’s downline, its upline, and the entire brand at large takes a hit, all because they didn’t have a strategy to take control and stop unauthorized practices on Amazon.
The fact is, if you aren’t putting your products on Amazon, somebody else is, and they’re likely doing a worse job than you would. You don’t want to be the brand that has no control of the direct sales strategy because it allowed distributors and third parties to dictate its marketplace presence and prices.
The opportunity cost of not selling on marketplaces
Lack of control and price erosion across channels aren’t the only business costs of not being on Amazon. The truth is that direct sales strategies are getting trickier to do via traditional methods—that’s why brands are turning to influencer marketing to sell their products. Social media and marketplaces make up a big chunk of the market. Leaving it up to distributors and their circles of influence alone to get the word out means your product is unavailable to a large segment of consumers, and fewer consumers means fewer sales.
In order to change that, you need to have control online, and you need to have a presence on marketplaces. This opens the door to big sales opportunities that can help your brand grow in exciting ways without harming your distributors. That’s not something you should miss out on.
How Pattern can help
At Pattern, we’re marketplace experts, and we also understand the direct selling space better than any other partner you can find. Our people have the tools, data, and know-how to help you get your brand under control on marketplaces.
The Amazon market is complex with lots of moving parts, as is the media pointing to the market. Our Pattern experts work in close collaboration with your brand to help you establish a powerful and personal ecommerce presence and direct sales strategy that reflects your brand image and has messaging congruent with your overall brand strategies. We help you create clean and beautiful listings, capitalize on the right marketing keywords to increase conversions and retain control of the Buy Box, and identify third-party sellers who are undermining your sales in an unauthorized way to prevent price erosion. We also provide data to help you set optimal pricing and control policies among your distributors.
Another benefit of working with Pattern to get control of your brand on ecommerce is that you’re able to give your distributors more breathing room. Having a presence on Amazon and establishing rules for control gives your distributors more freedom and opportunity to sell there, too. Instead of just their immediate circle of influence, they’ll have their friends and family plus all of Amazon’s consumers to sell to. This strengthens your brand’s relationship with the independent sales reps putting in the work to help it succeed, and it ultimately helps you reach a wider audience.
Last but not least, Pattern not only helps you optimize your current efforts for success, but also helps to identify international marketplace opportunities to expand into. And, of course, we’ll be with you every step of the way, applying our same proven methodologies in every new region we tackle together.
To learn more about what a Pattern partnership can do for your brand’s direct sales strategy, contact us today.