Social selling gets social
The idea is to encourage women to become entrepreneurs by setting up "trunk sales" - in other words selling from home using parties. Older readers will think this sounds familiar through things like 'Tupperware Parties' in the 1970s. Arguably the women themselves don't get to be huge entrepreneurs (although they may make a living); for Stella and Dot itself it looks as though the business is going to turn over £6.6m in year one and then, says UK manager Kathleen Mitchell, it should double every year until year three.
E-sellingWe've come on a bit since the 1970s of course, so now every seller - or stylist, as the company calls them - gets a website through which they can engage with their customers as well as doing it face to face at parties. Mitchell describes it as a combination of advanced technology and a great product. "Our jewellery and design is fantastic quality at affordable price points," she says - understandably as she's building the business.
There may be scope for involving more than women, although at this stage Stella and Dot is targeting only the female jewellery market; blokes wanting cufflinks can whistle for them, at least for the moment, as that isn't the focus. "Our customers are generally women rather than men," she confirms.
The social element is everything in the business model, she says. Globally, peer to peer recommendation has never been more important either in person or electronically, and the convenience factor is important. "Our stylists connect with clients and post products and events on Facebook, they use Twitter, they use Pinterest, but we see 'social' as person to person as well," says Mitchell.
To a very real extent this restores the "social" back to what has become known as "social". So far, to marketeers at least, "social selling" and "social commerce" have involved almost exclusively electronic communications, with communities or groups being gathered on the Internet to buy in groups. This is how companies like Naked Wines and others work; they get like minded people who otherwise wouldn't operate together, and negotiate prices they otherwise wouldn't get. In some instances this keeps businesses running which might otherwise have gone under.
The whole idea has been to bring people together to be "social", which is what they do naturally anyway. This revival of an existing idea, which has gone through numerous iterations - Tupperware, Ann Summers, Avon (identified more for door to door sales than parties but they certainly happened and no doubt continue to do so) and others. Formalising the electronic element and attaching it to the previously existing model should in theory do very well for anyone with the right product.
Come to think of it, it's a surprise Naked Wines or something similar hasn't already done it. Wine in a social setting, it would almost certainly work...
Guy Clapperton is the author of "This Is Social Commerce"