From Tupperware Parties to Instagram Feeds: The Evolution of Direct Marketing into Social Commerce

Technology might change how we interact, buy, and sell. But it doesn’t really change the core human values, behaviors, triggers, and motivations.

From Tupperware Parties to Instagram Feeds: The Evolution of Direct Marketing into Social Commerce

Technology might change how we interact, buy, and sell. But it doesn’t really change the core human values, behaviors, triggers, and motivations.

How many of you remember the kitty (or Tupperware) parties?

Kitty party is a name given to get-togethers where women would catch up with their friends during the afternoon or evenings. There would be games, a lot of conversations, complementing each other on new dresses and great food.

And there was also commerce – showing new clothes, beauty, and skincare products, and a lot of kitchenware. The brands were Tupperware, Amway, Avon, and clothes sources from special places like Lucknow or Patiala.


 

That was “Social Commerce” before the world became crazy about the rise of social commerce with platforms like Whatsapp, Line, Meta, and so on.

My aunt was a master of social commerce during those times. She used her social score to sell skincare products and fashionable suits.

Let us look at how the same principles have become the phenomenon called – Social Commerce.

Personal Relationships and Networking:

Personal relationships were the core foundation of these parties. It was all around sharing conversations, hosting at home, cooking the best food, and having a good time. This led to larger networking in your neighborhood and city.


 

Today it is replaced by social media. Relationships are now built via WhatsApp or Instagram. The friends are now your followers who can be anywhere in the country.

Word of Mouth and Trust:

My aunt was great at these parties. She relied on the trust she built with her circle and how they recommended her to their network. It was more about her “trust and name” than the actual brand.

Today youngsters discover a completely new skin cream to get glowing skin for their favorite influencer. They buy it because the influencer is a source of inspiration for them. The power equation is tilted towards them.

“Perhaps, what my aunt lacked was the ability to make very data-driven decisions. She had her tiny notebook to keep account of her sales and receivables – make no doubt about that. She was able to handle it because of her small circle.”

Personalized Shopping Experience:

My aunt knew everything about her customers. The acne problem, the shade of lipstick, the health conscious and value-seeking relative. She had all her segments and personas defined in her head.

Today getting a personalized shopping experience is an important part of social commerce – you can chat with the seller, ask questions and get the right fit for you.

Community Building:

Aunt and her gang also followed many mutual interests and causes. They were usually around festival celebrations, birthdays, and anniversaries. She knew how to build a community around shared interests that unite everyone.

Today commerce still drives around “Diwali Gift Ideas”, ” Look great for that wedding”, or ” Christmas Party recipes”.

Data-Driven Decision Making:

Perhaps, what my aunt lacked was the ability to make very data-driven decisions. She had her tiny notebook to keep account of her sales and receivables – make no doubt about that. She was able to handle it because of her small circle.

In contrast, today’s social commerce gives you data at scale and at your fingertips. You know what SKU sells the most, what are top complaints and user feedback.

Key Learnings for Running Successful Social Commerce

  • Technology might change how we interact, buy sell. But it doesn’t really change the core human values, behaviors, triggers, and motivations. No doubt successful brands are always human-centered.
  • Shopping is a “Social Experience”. Do not let technology take that away. Instead, build a great customer experience while selling.
  • Brand building is important, it helps you build the demand generation but just like retailers, your actual social seller or KOLs are integral parts of your business. Choose them, build mutual success, and treat them well. It’s their relationships with customers you are leveraging
  • Social Commerce is a Route to Market or Key Channel in itself. Do not think that being on Whatsapp, Line, or Meta and broadcasting messages is going to build your sales. It needs a strategy, investment, time, and nurturing.

That is all for now, I have to get to this livestream where I want to get some sneakers.


The views expressed in this article are personal, and not necessarily those of the author’s employer.

Image by Rob Hampson

Picture of Amandeep Singh

Amandeep Singh

Amandeep is SVP - Client Solutions & Integration at VML in Mumbai.

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