Honesty and transparency are hallmarks of the direct selling industry


It has become common these days to find interesting stories on social media, where people share their frustrations about what they ordered online versus what they got. Although some of these stories are hilarious, they show how some online business-people are riding on shoppers’ ignorance to exploit them by presenting enticing images of products online – yet selling inferior ones to customers because they know it may be challenging to track them down.

In the past, companies did not prioritise transparency and honesty in business. Most organisations operated opaquely, and not even employees had first-hand information on all the company’s operations. In today’s market, however, companies must learn that honesty and transparency inspire trust; and as the level of trust increases, so does the likelihood of success.

Businesses need to do more to gain and maintain customer trust through transparency and honesty, in an age when customers have more options and understand customer rights and privileges – and with easy-to-access regulatory agencies and multiple social media platforms to express their dissatisfaction.

A consulting firm, Label Insight’s survey, found that 94 percent of consumers prefer brands which practice transparency. Studies show that 52 percent of millennials research background information about products before purchasing, and 42 percent expect to know what goes into products and how goods are made before they purchase them.

The two fundamental elements of honesty and transparency have emerged as the benchmark for businesses in today’s society, and companies are reaping remarkable benefits economically while at the same time building their reputation.

Treating employees, partners and customers how the business owner would want to be treated aids in creating an environment of trust and support. Such become the building blocks of long successful relationships – a phenomenon no different in the direct selling business that has penetrated the African market, somewhat aided by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is direct selling?

Direct selling is a method of marketing and retailing goods and services directly to consumers in their homes, or any other location away from permanent retail premises. It is a sales channel companies use to promote their products away from a physical retail location, directly to the end consumer, primarily relying on word-of-mouth promotion by existing users.

According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) report, Africa in 2020 saw a 17.3 percent year-on-year increase in the number of individuals involved in direct selling; with brands like QNET tapping into the trend by expanding its presence in the region.

Why are transparency and honesty important in the direct selling business?

The direct selling business relies heavily on salespeople getting in front of customers in non-traditional settings to sell products. When marketing products and services, every salesperson has no choice but to be honest and truthful. If they deal honestly in business and consumer confidence is positive, customers will forge a long-lasting relationship with the brand. Dishonest business practices will only lead to long-term brand reputation damage and a trust deficit.

On the other hand, honest business practices in direct selling build foundations of trust with customers and every other individual and entity. By putting credible information in people’s hands, they can make more informed – and therefore better – decisions and choices.

QNET, for instance, launched in Nigeria last year to give Nigerians access to high-quality products and offer a unique opportunity to earn additional income in an internationally tried-and-true business model. The company discloses essential business operations, goals, values and information.

Firms and individuals involved in direct selling must deal with customers through integrity by backing up their work and products to be everything they have been advertised as, because consumers expect this as a bare minimum.

The value and importance of honesty and transparency in direct selling have apparent and subtle implications. Small and big direct-selling business owners should operate based on a commitment to provide valuable services or products. Failing to meet your corporate responsibilities establishes a climate of mistrust and potential illegality.

From the foregoing, businesses have no choice but to remain transparent.  Integrity in business enhances your reputation – which can help attract and retain customers, boost employee loyalty and become a more attractive investment proposition. Business integrity is strongly correlated with financial performance, so organisations must espouse transparency and integrity to thrive in an increasingly competitive market.

>>>the writer is a financial economist and analyst. He started his career at Citibank in New York more than 30 years ago, and has since held leadership and strategy positions in the administration of his country, Senegal, as well as in leading companies. He is now sub-Saharan Africa Regional General Manager for QNET Ltd. Throughout his career, Mr. Fall has developed a keen interest in visual arts and geopolitics, to name but a few some of his personal interests and hobbies. He believes in sharing and giving to the community, and is a man whose determination to play a key role in helping African youth is unwavering.

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