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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