Considering and mitigating risk is an unavoidable and very important task for all small business owners. The ability to make prudent decisions means that a savvy business owner is often a generalist, capable of stepping in, optimizing, and understanding every lever that can be pulled in order to minimize efforts and maximize profits within their small business. Sometimes however, decisions involving technology can be a blind spot. In 2021, there are few businesses left that don’t rely upon technology in a big way. E-commerce allows small business owners to reach a wider audience than may have otherwise been possible. Conversely, it also widens the pool of competition: your customer base can have something shipped to their door from another country, often at a cheaper rate than the one you are offering.
Stop for a moment to consider two restaurants. They sell the same kind of fare, but Restaurant A has filthy menus, sticky bathrooms, and apathetic staff. Restaurant B is immaculate. It would be reasonable to wager that the food is all better at Restaurant B. Consumers use these kinds of heuristics all of the time in order to make decisions, but did you know that these ‘tells’ also exist for e-commerce businesses?
Website Look and Feel
Your website’s homepage is your opportunity to make an amazing first impression. You should avoid sites that are a jumble of text and a few haphazard images. Equally as important, avoid having a generic and forgettable home page. Written copy should resonate with your intended audience. Making a purchase through your website should be a seamless and easy experience. Norms on the internet change quickly. The best websites are those that make frequent incremental changes to their content in order to stay fresh and relevant. For something as important as your face to the world, it’s astounding how many business owners choose to save money by hiring a family member, unqualified friend or attempting to design their website themselves. A relatively small investment on this front can pay significant dividends in the long term.
Did you know that in the global community, Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988 is considered a particularly prescient piece of legislation? This is because it manages to directly address your business’s obligations to its customers regarding HTTPS, even though HTTPS didn’t exist until 7 years after the act was written! This is because the Privacy Act of 1988 requires that reasonable steps must be taken in order “to protect [personal information] from misuse, interference, and loss”.
HTTPS, when present in the first part of a website address (such as https://www.google.com), guarantees that information is encrypted (unable to be intercepted) between your customer’s computer and your website as it travels over the public internet. It also guarantees that your website is authenticated (you are who you say you are). HTTPS is a wonderful way to keep your customers safe, but it is also an opportunity to make an impression. HTTPS works by having a trusted third party (a ‘Certificate Authority’) issue a certificate to your website marking it as safe. There are different levels of guarantees a Certificate Authority can provide however, with pricing that corresponds to the level of effort it takes to do their due diligence in order to make such a guarantee.
The two most common types of validated certificates are ‘Domain Validation’, meaning that the Certificate Authority makes sure that you own the rights to the domain name from which your site is served, and ‘Organization Validation’, meaning that the certificate authority has taken their guarantee to the next level, and has made sure that the business in question is honest and reputable, and has a real person as its proprietor. For instance, you can purchase extended Validation certificates at https://www.ssltrust.com.au/ssl-certificates/business. For business segments requiring an even more thorough vetting, Extended Validation certificates provide a warranty to assume liability as well as a visually green address bar in many popular browsers.
Many businesses like interacting with their customers on social media platforms. Running a Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram account is becoming more and more common, even among businesses that traditionally have only had a brick and mortar presence. The best advice on this front is that you should do it well, or not at all. Many businesses with the best of intentions set these pages up and then let them languish. It is extremely off-putting to potential consumers to follow a link from a company’s website to their twitter, only to see that the company’s last tweet was from months or even years ago!
Social media becomes a foil for your business: an inactive profile casts doubt on whether your business itself is still active! Take stock every six months. If you are not going to put in the work to frequently update any and all social media accounts, take them down. Contrary to popular belief, you are better off using a single social media platform regularly rather than having a profile on everything under the sun and never interacting with your customers.
Social media is also an excellent way to signal to your customers that you take their concerns seriously. Public, positive interactions with customers whose initial experience was less than stellar conveys integrity and transparency. While unreasonable customers do exist, it is more important to most people that a business is trustworthy than that it never makes mistakes.
Keeping these insights in mind can help bring new customers to your site or store, as well as nurture existing relationships with customer base. It is never too early or too late todeem your online presence as absolutely vital to the success of your business in the digital age. Consider what you yourself look for when shopping online. The next time you’re shopping online and empty your cart instead of checking out, ask yourself why, and consider what the retailer could have done to have made your decision swing the other way.
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