How direct selling’s leading brands are competing (and winning) against traditional retailers in several key categories.
WE ALL KNOW IT—EVEN IF WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT VERY MUCH. There’s a lingering negative perception about direct selling. The idea that people buy direct selling products because they want to help out their niece, encourage a neighbor or maybe just support a friend’s entrepreneurial dreams.
Unfortunately, this stigma is something the channel has earned over the years. In the past, the key elements of customer-driven, crave-worthy products simply weren’t a priority for some companies in the channel. Efficacy was an afterthought. Exclusivity didn’t matter much. And strategic omnichannel marketing campaigns weren’t even topics of discussion.
Thankfully, direct sellers have made impressive strides in recent years, and some companies are truly changing the narrative by taking ownership and course correcting toward more customer centricity, better efficacy and next-level customer experience initiatives.
Slowly, surely and with intention and purpose, direct selling companies are earning their spots as true “category kings.”
Slowly, surely and with intention and purpose, direct selling companies are earning their spots as true category kings, winning the war on customer loyalty and market share in many retail categories. So…who are the companies that have earned their rightful spot alongside more traditional, upper-echelon retail brands? What sets them apart? And how are they competing and winning against brands with more traditional retail business models?
The companies earning this designation take a holistic, comprehensive approach to improving their brand’s reach, their customers’ experience and their overall reputation. They are focusing on exclusive products and proprietary ingredients; quality sourcing; in-depth research and development; and innovative approaches to social selling. They are effectively flipping the script on outdated perceptions about the channel, the products it produces and the overall customer experience.
Another important commonality is the size of these companies; many of them reached at least $1 billion in annual revenue in 2021 and have an impressive global footprint. Is being a global billion dollar company required to be a category king? No. But name recognition, proprietary ingredients and science, overall sales and longevity all are important parts of the equation.
Ben Riley, Acting President of Young Living, shared the impact of their global presence. “In the past two years, we have shipped nearly 37.5 million orders across 141 unique countries and have positively impacted billions of lives around the world. Each year we strive to create meaningful impact globally while building our portfolio of health and wellness products.”
Products to Be Proud Of
The main driver of the renewal and renaissance direct selling companies are experiencing is the increased legitimacy of the products that they offer. The top companies are going “all-in” on product efficacy and innovation, crafting comprehensive yet focused product assortments.
This intense focus on improving the efficacy of these products has taken many forms. From enhanced research and development to the use of patented exclusive formulations and proprietary ingredients to careful sourcing of pure, rare, natural ingredients to a combination of all three, these are products customers actively seek out and truly believe in.
According to Elana Gold, Chief Marketing Officer at Rodan + Fields, “We have a world-class laboratory where our team of scientists work together to develop breakthrough products. And we tap into a global network of scientists to scour the earth for the right ingredients and technologies. This ensures everything we create is based on proven science and clinically validated.”
Healthy Products = Healthy Sales
Health and wellness in general, and supplements in particular, have long been standouts in the direct selling space. So, it should come as no surprise that several category kings comfortably occupy this market.
The legacy brand Nutrilite accounts for over half of Amway’s sales and continues to grow. Euromonitor ranked Nutrilite as the world’s number one vitamin and dietary supplement brand in 2020. Amway’s Chief Marketing Officer François Renard, shares that Nutrilite’s overall philosophy is simple: plant, grow, thrive.
“From the 6,000 acres of certified organic Amway-owned farms as well as botanicals sourced from partner farms located on every continent except Antarctica, Nutrilite is commited to bringing the earth’s finest nutrients and health and wellness solutions to customers around the world. We extract the best from nature to provide vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements designed to fill nutritional gaps in our customers’ diets.”
The main driver of the renewal and renaissance direct selling companies are experiencing is the increased legitimacy of the products that they offer.
Another health and wellness company dominating in their category is Prüvit. Prüvit owns nine patents in the ketones space and is the largest distributor of exogenous ketones in the world. Their flagship product, KETO/OS NAT is the world’s preeminent pure therapeutic ketone.
But Prüvit is looking to go beyond supplements to become a more comprehensive part of their customers’ health regimen. They are achieving this by addressing evolving customer preferences head on.
As Co-Founder and CEO Brian Underwood explained, “We recently launched into the food delivery category with Prüvit Meals and Snacks. So regardless of diet, whether the customer is full keto, carb conscious, Paleo, Mediterranean or something else, there is a plan that will work for them.” This innovative approach allows Prüvit to seamlessly provide more offerings, convenience and solutions to their customers’ lives.
Another company making a strong impression in the health and wellness space is Herbalife. The global nutrition company was named “The World’s Number One Health Shake” and “The Number One Brand in Active and Life Style Nutrition” by Euromonitor. The company also retains its top rank in the world in four other Euromonitor categories, including weight management and wellbeing; weight management; meal replacements; and meal replacement and protein supplements combined.
Building Better Beauty Brands
Retail beauty brands have long set the standard for global dominance with powerhouse conglomerates owning significant chunks of market share. But there are several direct selling beauty brands that have carved out impressive niches for themselves based on longevity, name recognition and customer loyalty.
There are several direct selling beauty brands that have carved out impressive niches for themselves based on longevity, name recognition and customer loyalty.
One such brand is Artistry from Amway. This comprehensive line of skincare, cosmetics, fragrance and bodycare relies heavily on its research and development efforts to promote the brand’s efficacy. Botanicals, ongoing research and personalization options give the brand a unique, compelling story for consumers to respond to and engage with.
Artistry has scanned and analyzed over 32,000 faces from all over the world to truly identify the skin concerns and needs of all people. The products are clean, vegan and backed by traceable proof that the products are pure and the formulas safe and effective.
“We pride ourselves in using the latest cutting-edge research paired with plant-based nutrients in our skincare and makeup solutions,” said Renard. “We know where products come from and how they are made. We obsess over quality, relentlessly checking at every step from raw ingredients to finished product.”
Perhaps no other name is more synonymous with direct selling and beauty than Mary Kay. The company will mark its 60th anniversary next year and has been known for innovative high-quality products since its launch in 1963.
The company reports that they see remarkable loyalty across their skincare, bodycare and color cosmetics lines. The company equips its sales force with cutting edge products and tools and a flexible business opportunity that fits a variety of lifestyles. Best-selling products include their TimeWise skincare line, Ultimate Mascara and Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, and they continue to enhance their line with regular product launches across all categories.
Nathan Moore, President of Global Sales and Marketing at Mary Kay attributes their longevity and reach to trust. “People know they can trust us. Trust our products; trust our opportunity; trust our commitment to safety and research and to giving back. And with that trust we feel a true and deep responsibility. Our legacy guides us and we continue to be creative, innovative and disruptive.”
Cosmetics isn’t the only beauty category that direct selling shines in. Both MONAT and Rodan + Fields have achieved remarkable dominance as premium haircare and skincare brands respectively. And “premium” is an important distinction for each. Euromonitor has recognized both companies as leaders in these categories.
“We have always benchmarked our products alongside other professional and salon brands. This means innovative ingredients and formulas and a high attention to quality,” shared Stuart MacMillan, President of MONAT. “When we launched, no one was talking about anti-aging for the hair—and certainly not in the direct selling space. Most people that come to us have seen the effects of aging on their hair: pollutants, bleaching, coloring and excessive heat. Our products not only help with those challenges but also help create a healthy scalp environment.”
MONAT’s hero product, Rejuveniqe Oil is by far their best seller. In fact, 2.3 bottles of Rejuveniqe are purchased every minute around the globe. And it often serves as a gateway product for MONAT’s typical customer (their largest demographic is women ages 25-35) who then choose to adopt the company’s shampoos and conditioners into their daily beauty routine.
Rodan + Field’s hero product line is Regimens, and over the last 5 years, Rodan + Fields has, on average, sold a Regimen every four minutes. Gold attributes this to providing innovation that truly works and delivers visible results. Regimens address core skin conditions and reflect a large percentage of the company’s sales. The line features ground-breaking technology and serves as the centerpiece of the brand, addressing primary skin concerns such as aging, dullness and discoloration, dryness and sensitivity and acne.
“Innnovation is in our DNA and is at the core of everything we do,” shared Gold, Chief Marketing Officer. “Our goal is always to make the most clinically efficacious formulas we can. Each and every step of skincare from cleansing to renewal to hydration to targeted treatments and environmental protection is optimized for peak performance.”
Happy at Home
The concept of your home being a haven has never been more relevant than it has been the past two years. As the world shut down and billions around the globe stayed inside their homes, they looked for ways to make that space cozier, healthier and happier—a true respite from the harsh realities found outside their front door. Enter direct selling companies like Young Living and Scentsy—two billion-dollar companies perfectly poised to provide the products people were looking for in this unique moment in time.
Young Living, a pioneer in the field of essential oils for nearly 30 years, shared that one of their top-selling “hero” products in essential oils is their Thieves home line. This line strongly resonates with their key demographic of mothers 25-45 looking to improve the health and wellbeing of their families without harsh chemicals.
With products in the line ranging from waterless hand sanitizer, household cleaner, toothpaste and laundry soap, the Thieves essential oil blend finds its way into practically every room of customers’ homes. As Lyndi Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at Young Living shared, “Customers and distributors alike enjoy the warm spicy scent and many benefits of Thieves throughout their home, and with the Thieves home line, they can have it.”
Scentsy has also become a category king, specifically in home fragrance. While Scentsy’s customers come from all walks of life, their biggest target market is moms with small children. “They’re drawn to Scentsy because of our unique, exclusive fragrances and superior quality products,” explained Lacy Hanson, Vice President of Consultant Sales and Product Development. “We develop such a wide range of fragrance products—from home fragrance to cleaning products to scented products for children and pets—that there is sure to be something for everyone.”
Despite competition in the market, various studies continue to place Scentsy wickless candles at the top of customer-preferred brands. Hanson attributed that primarily to three key differentiators: high quality products, the variety and complexity of the fragrance offerings and a wide range of hard-good product designs to appeal to all styles of home décor.
The Ultimate Differentiator
A not-to-be-overlooked component of the emergence of direct selling brands is the undeniable power of a passionate, motivated distributor base. Their advocacy for the products and organic product recommendations—increasingly achieved through social media—have tremendous power to grow a brand’s reach and influence. As brands continue to use social media and influencers to bring new customers into the fold, the most successful brands craft a cohesive, intuitive customer experience.
It’s certainly true at Scentsy. “Our primary competition is in the retail sector due to the immediate access to the product after purchase, as well as the ability to smell and experience the products in person before purchasing,” explained Hansen. “However, the relationships our Consultants build with their customers continue to ultimately win the purchase every time. Scentsy Consultants offer personalization and customization to a shopping experience you can’t find at Amazon or Wal-Mart.”
Gold agreed, “Rodan + Fields Consultants provide high-touch personalized service. It’s easy and convenient to connect with a Consultant via text, phone or video chat. And they have incredible digital tools to help customers find the best skincare products for their needs.”
As Ryan Napierski, CEO of Nu Skin recently told North American CEO, “Social media platforms are becoming more than just social platforms, they are becoming commercial platforms with the rise of influencer and affiliate markets. Nu Skin has been doing influencer marketing for more than 30 years, just in an analog form. We have always believed in the power of word-of-mouth marketing going all the way back to the beginning of the company.”
Part of a Lifestyle
This sense of community and shared enthusiasm and authenticity lends itself to customers making these products part of their lifestyle in a bigger, more overt way. They become true brand advocates, sharing their product experiences and interacting with the brand online and becoming part of a bigger movement. This often leads to customers making the organic transition to distributor.
“It’s common for customers to be so excited about their experience that they start sharing it with others,” said Underwood. “It makes becoming a Prüvit Promoter where they can earn free products, cash and other rewards for referrals a very authentic next step.”
“MONAT has an amazing global network of over 400,000 Market Partners getting the message out about our revolutionary products,” added MacMillan. “Many of our current distributors started as customers.”
Napierski agreed, “By taking advantage of the macro trend in influencer and affiliate marketing, as well as the shift from retail commerce to e-commerce and now to now social commerce, we believe that our go-to-market strategy becomes significantly more powerful.”
This “brand-as-lifestyle” trend has another powerful benefit: customers incorporating more of the companies’ products into their routine. “We find that it doesn’t take long for customers and Brand Partners to start branching out,” shared Smith. “In fact, by month three, on average 60 percent of Young Living’s new 2021 enrollments had tried three or more products. By month six, that number increased to 77 percent!”
Brand synergies play a key role at Amway as well. “We recently launched Skin Nutrition, a clean, traceable and vegan skincare line that works like supplements for the skin,” shared Renard. “The products are infused with Nutralite-grown botanicals. This crossover introduces Artistry customers to Nutrilite and Nutrilite customers to Artistry.”
And at Scentsy, they utilize licensing agreements and corporate alliances with global giants like Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Warner Brothers and the NFL and NHL to expand their reach to new, loyal audiences as well as establish credibility with a broader audience.
Sitting on the Top Shelf
Whether their dominance is best evidenced through sales figures, name recognition, longevity or a combination of all three, the leading direct selling companies are producing high-quality products that people want at a competitive price and with measurable results.
It’s no surprise that each of these companies embody the tenets that direct selling was founded upon. As Ryan Rogers, Chief Investment Officer at Mary Kay explained, “We remain committed to my grandmother Mary Kay Ash’s guiding principles: live by the Golden Rule; give and expect nothing in return; and make everyone feel important. For nearly 60 years, these have been the moral compasses of our company. To remain committed to these values while leading the industry as a global company in nearly 40 countries is a really incredible thing. And we are really proud of it.”
From the May 2022 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.