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How to manage perception in e-commerce


Acting big

When we start a business, we naturally want it to grow. Yes, size IS everything, but sometimes it’s best to look smaller than you really are.

What kind of self-respecting big company could possibly want their business to look like a startup? It seems counterintuitive, but these companies do exist.

You might even decide to become one of them. We’ll look at the reasons later on. But right from day one of trading, most e-commerce startups will want their businesses to appear bigger than, well, your everyday e-commerce startup. If your business is perceived as being substantial, customers will engage with your site with a number of positive preconceptions. 

Even if it is just you and a laptop, there are loads of quick, low-cost things you can do to persuade people that you’re more than a sole trader operating out of your study. Maybe you’re doing some already – check out our tips here.

What being big means to customers:

You’re open for business longer than 9-to-5

No, that doesn’t mean you should work to the extent that sleep becomes a distant memory. We’re talking perceptions here. Just avoid phrases like ‘normal office hours’ or ‘closed at weekends’ on your website.

Your prices will represent better value

Assuming, of course, that you’re able to match or beat your rivals on cost, there will be a perception that your prices are competitive because of your strong buying power.

You have systems in place to keep track of orders and data

In their minds, people will have an image of a slick, automated process that looks after all the complexities of buying online. If they visualize a stressed office junior juggling paper clips and post-it notes, you’re doing something wrong.

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The order process will be safe and secure

Trust is an absolute make or break issue for e-commerce, so make sure you have an SSL certificate. It encrypts sensitive data like credit card numbers and personal information, and tells customers you take their security seriously.

Learn more about SSL Certificates.

There will be someone on hand to sort out queries

Customers will want to be confident that their questions will be answered, or at the very least responded to, in super quick time. Again, this doesn’t mean staying up all night. It just means putting in place procedures that stop customers feeling they’ve been left in a state of limbo. You may even consider a chatbot.

You’re able to deliver what your website promises

You can help erase any doubt about your online business by always being professional, responsive, trustworthy, friendly, fair, considerate, imaginative, responsible and customer-focused. Easy ;)

You’ll be around tomorrow, and the next day

This reassurance will stem largely by you having a professionally designed website with clear, confident copy. A regular blog will help demonstrate your long-term commitment to your business.

Remember, being ‘large’ doesn’t have to mean sounding like an impersonal, corporate goliath. It just means giving an impression of trust and permanence.

When small is beautiful:

Not all companies want to convey an image of enormous size and scope. For strategic commercial reasons, some want to make themselves look small and specialized, even quirky.

In the US, Shock Top Brewery is one of the country’s fastest-growing craft beer makers. Its tone of voice, packaging and website all lead the casual drinker to think that it’s an edgy, independent craft brewery operating out of St Louis, MO; a ‘disruptor’ brand shaking up the beer market.

In fact, it’s just one of 400 brands churned out by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company.

Anheuser-Busch InBev recognized that the cool reputation of a craft, artisanal beer would quickly evaporate if they rebranded the beer or emblazoned their logo all over it, so keep their involvement very low key.

If the shoe fits

Free-spirit millennials who buy into cult footwear brand Converse as an indie alternative to the global, all-conquering colossus that is Nike might reconsider if they knew that Nike bought Converse outright back in 2003. Again, the bigger company saw the commercial value of maintaining the smaller brand and not trumpeting its ownership credentials.

When being small might work for you

If your niche is handmade or artisanal, then you have a business that absolutely should look and sound small. After all, you’ve got something that larger companies rarely have – and often spend big bucks trying to get. You’ve got a personality. A human face. You have warmth and charm, and can talk to your customers like an actual person, not some office drone reading from a script.

Being small but perfectly formed can sometimes be a major asset, and you should exploit that cottage industry vibe wherever you can.

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