South African Trade Group Establishes E-Tailer Guildelines

There’s nothing
wrong with trying to make a little money — which means you’ve got to
ask people for the stuff, i.e. market to them. But improper marketing can infuriate, particularly
in the e-world, where marketers can reach us anywhere through email and,
soon, SMS. In South Africa, one marketing trade group is trying to combat “improper marketing” in an effort to help ensure a pleasant experience for the e-consumer (and
profits for the e-tailer).

South Africa’s Direct
Marketing Association
(DMA) has drafted a set of guidelines it hopes
e-tailers will follow.

The
guidelines were introduced by speakers from Amorphous
New Media
, Y&R Gitam and Tutuka.com.
Their motives were far from altruistic — they’re businessmen wanting
to do business, holding up the guidelines as a code of good business

Three
sections of the guidelines received the most stress: disclosure,
information practice and customer satisfaction.

Disclosure
How you do business is your business: set whatever terms you like,
collect all the information you want to. But make sure that users can
easily find your terms and policies and understand them. The point
is not to obscure, but to ably demonstrate that your policies of
disclosure are such that they create implicit agreement on the part of
your users.

Disclose
as much as possible: your identity and how to reach you, how long it takes
to deliver, what things cost, the time period allowed for returns,
anything else you can think of and reasonably implement.

Key
here is reasonably implement — if you can’t afford a phone
number on the site because of the number of calls you receive and its
not essential to your business, it’s unnecessary.

But
make sure that everything that a client must know before doing
business is clearly written where the public eye falls. Including your
privacy policy.

Privacy
If you don’t have a privacy policy, you shouldn’t be on the Web.
But having a privacy policy isn’t enough: a well-crafted, easily
understandable policy is becoming de facto requirement to doing business
on the Web.

The
DMA believes your policy should contain what information you collect, why
you collect it and what you don’t collect. If you’re going to use it
to market to people, tell them.

And
always, always identify yourself, identify marketing messages as such and
allow people to opt out at any time.

Customer
satisfaction
Customers with queries should have a clear channel for complaints,
should be able to track any purchases they’ve made and know when to
expect anything they’ve ordered. And doubtlessly they need to know your
returns policy.

The
concept ties back into disclosure: customers must know almost as much as
you do about the status of their order.

Pragmatism
As you’d expect from marketers, all the proposals are practically
motivated.

Every
business has a “desired consumer experience” that will maximize the
business’ profits. The DMA’s guidelines are their proposals on how to
help create a pleasant experience and profitable consumer response. Brand
affinity, they say, is at stake.

And
every business fears regulation imposed from above. By suggesting
guidelines and offering advice, the DMA hopes to avoid state-regulation
— which it believes would make the business of marketing extremely
difficult.

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