The social selling channel has seen tremendous growth during the COVID-19 period. Arrival of the coronavirus brought abrupt changes to every aspect of Americans’ daily lives. As we noted in early posts, the changed brought about by the pandemic last year drove a renaissance in social selling. Companies across the channel who had maintained supply chain agility and deployed modern information technology saw their recruiting and sales race at growth rates not seen in decades.
In the last week, changes in COVID-19 health practices in the United States have kicked off the next chapter of this story for social sellers. The CDC made an unexpected announcement on May 13th that has changed everything. The CDC now says that two weeks after completing a full regimen of covid-19 vaccination doses (usually two, but just one for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), people no longer need to wear masks. They concluded that vaccinated individuals could not carry or transmit COVID-19, setting aside one of the great worries that had kept everyone masked up and social distanced. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/05/17/americas-cdc-abruptly-changes-its-e-on-face-masks
Social Sellers are now going to see conditions we have not dealt with in months. Consumers who had been building up savings at a record rate, can now freely shop and travel for the first time in more than a year. People who have been isolated by social distancing rules can now gather and do things together for the first time since March 2020. Sports venues, concert halls, and theaters are preparing to open at full capacity in most states. Pent-up demand for social interaction and travel will drive explosive growth in entertainment expenditures and leisure travel over the summer months.
What does all this mean for social sellers? It’s going to be harder to engage those new representatives that enter the business, as they will be distracted by many other things as society reopens. Customers order size is likely to go down and reorder rates will likely fall as consumers spend lavishly on travel and experiences that just weren’t available over the last year. Inflation will push upward, making the necessities they buy each month more expensive.
We’ve already seen signs that we’re moving into the next chapter in the U.S. economy. Online sales growth rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the start of the pandemic. Leisure travel in the U.S. is already racing, with airlines running at their highest capacity since the start of the pandemic. Social sellers need to move now to sustain their summer growth and carry it into the holiday season. Trip incentives are a hot ticket now, and you’ll see fabulous trips with qualification rules designed to sustain recruiting and sales levels announced over the next few weeks. The best ways to prospect for new recruits are shifting right now, and you’ll see training and corporate money flowing to support in-person events. Multi-channel initiatives are in vogue, and you’ll see social sellers kicking off a record number of online and retail partnerships.
The heady growth enjoyed by the social selling channel in the United States is waning, and companies in the industry are going to have to work hard to maintain strong growth through the end of 2021.