Direct-selling firms which traditionally rely on in-person interaction are one of the most affected industries, since face-to-face communication has been suspended.
For some, earlier efforts at digital transformation are now paying even greater results.
Herbalife China is one such example.
In fact, the company told NutraIngredients-Asia that its business performance in the first two months of the year kept “a strong momentum in growing the business” despite the pandemic.
It attributed the business continuity to the use of digital tools such as the ‘Herbalife Nutrition Personal Store’ available on WeChat to continue engaging with customers during the outbreak.
The store allows distributors to promote products and provide personalised services on the WeChat platform. It also links the company's online and offline offerings.
Its other digital tools include its official website and mobile app.
“Our digital transformation initiated in last September is one of the most critical moves taken to ensure a stable business operation during the pandemic,” Woody Guo, SVP of Herbalife Nutrition and MD of Herbalife Nutrition China told us.
He said the company had also encouraged distributors to use live broadcasting platforms to engage the customers and for online training.
With China’s rollout of the 5G technology, it is expected that the popularity of short videos and livestreaming will grow from strength to strength. There are already overseas nutrition companies, such as New Zealand’s Clinicians, using livestreaming services to engage the Chinese consumers.
Other plans, such as the launch of its product innovation centre year in Shanghai’s Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park by the third quarter of this year, remain unchanged and will go ahead as planned.
Immune products launch
On the other hand, the company has focused on speeding up the market launch of new immune products.
An example is its ‘Immunity Essentials’ powder product. The product is already sold in other markets and was recently launched in China on March 2 via cross-border e-commerce.
To facilitate its quick market entry, Guo said the company had speeded up on the pre-market approval work.
This is in response to customers’ huge demand for immune boosting products.
The product contains trademarked fermentation ingredient EpiCor, vitamins, polyphenols, sterols, phospholipids, and other nutrients.
In addition, the company had mobilised resources available to restock its other immune products, including the Mega Garlic Plus, Trip Berry Complex, Cordyceps Capsule, and Performance Protein Powder.
“Professional health management and services as well as quality nutrition products will surely enjoy a promising future amid the robust growth of the nutrition industry.
“We will continuously produce products that meet the needs of consumers and make contributions to the development of China's nutrition industry,” he said.
Ride out the storms
The company has also implemented new business initiatives to help keep businesses going.
Some examples include products marketing and discounts on product shipping costs.
To help ease the cashflow problems that distributors faced, the company had also released a ‘Buying on Credit’ plan.
As part of the arrangements, distributors eligible for the plan can buy the product and pay for it later. Credit will need to be settled in full in the month after.