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Photo: Ricardo and Claudia Zermeno, Amway Independent Business Owners.

The in-person, social media hybrid known as “social selling” is now commonplace across the direct sales channel, but hard data on the model remains scarce.

New research commissioned by Amway Corp. sheds light on consumer preferences when it comes to making the social sale. According to the State of Social Selling Survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, 60 percent of Americans have been contacted by a social seller. Of those, one third have made a purchase, and a staggering 85 percent are repeat customers.

What drives that repeat business? A few factors, according to consumers, who emphasized the importance of building trust, particularly by exhibiting knowledge of the product and the customer’s needs. Of respondents, 87 percent said it is important for a seller to use the product themselves. Three-fifths indicated they would not trust a seller who does not know the product well.

“Amway Independent Business Owners are often frequent users and walking testimonials of the products they sell,” said Jim Ayres, Managing Director for Amway North America. “When a seller can effectively communicate the premium quality of the products, particularly through using the products themselves, they will always be seen as more trustworthy.”

Of course, persistence is also key—in moderation. The survey found that, on average, those who have made a purchase did so after the seller reached out at least three times. Equally important is knowing when to desist. About half of consumers felt that social sellers are more aggressive than face-to-face salespeople, while 64 percent said they have made a purchase as a result of peer pressure.

Another finding—the importance of cultivating relationships with customers—speaks to a strength of both the channel and the up-and-coming Millennial generation. “…Young people in particular are proving to be a huge driver of the social selling industry,” noted Jackie Nickel, Amway’s Chief Marketing Officer for North America. “The relationship-driven industry appeals to their generation, particularly when they are contacted on social media by a friend.”

Having a trusting and friendly relationship with the customer helps to seal the deal, according to 83 percent of those who have purchased from a social seller. This will come as no surprise to veterans of the direct sales channel, who, with or without the aid of technology, are in the business of building social networks.

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