Be transparent. Never ever trick the user

This is the part 4/8 of the article Digital marketing and consumer rules

In the offline world, with companies of brick and mortar, advertising sometimes exaggerates – to say the least – in the qualities of a product or service.

I am not here to discuss business ethics, but merely to say that traditional advertising and commercial promotion strategies seem to create facts and half-truths with the intent to attract consumers and sell more.

It is common to enter a shop with a sign of ‘everything 50% off’ only to find out that said ‘discounted price’ is basically the same market’s average price. The tactic to increase the price of a product to discount it then, faking an offer, is forbidden in many countries but is still allowed in others.

When I refer to tricking the user, I mean to give them information or message that is not true, or maybe it’s only half right. Sales like the best price, half price, just today, and only this week generate mistrust in the consumer, who will usually use search engines or social media to verify the sales accuracy.

But besides the mistrust and eventually the refusal of the shopping, there is another, even more damaging, consequence when one tries to trick the user.

The easiest thing to do online is spread information. It spreads like wildfire, and the more interesting it is, more quickly it travels through the web. And there is nothing more interesting than the news of an unfulfilled promise, or something the user considers inadequate or untrue.

When a person is tricked, people will have a renewed energy to promote what has happened. They want to talk and complain. And this is very easy to do online. So never, ever, fall into the temptation to trick the user by making a promise too hard to keep.

An example is the online shopping websites that don’t prepare their stocks for the sale they’re making, and then find it hard to deliver the product. The very electronic market is full of those, and if you research a little bit will find thousands of complaints about laptop companies that promised deadlines and updates that later were impossible to deliver.

Another example is websites that promise a delivery deadline that never happens. The famous ‘buy here and get it in your home in 24 hours’ is the shortest way to negative advertising. Many online shops create for themselves, to this day, the same problem every end of the year. It is very common to find forums and blogs full of complaints against substantial virtual shops that have ruined the Christmas of many children by delivering the toys only after the deadline.

Abusing trust is another way of tricking the user. Never be tempted to do something the user doesn’t want. An example of this is websites or promotions that register user information for then to sell that data to other companies. If you use someone’s information for a different intention than the one visible online, make sure you announce that action, like ‘Do you agree with receiving information from partner companies?’.

Think and plan well every time you have a sale, promise or even collection of information from an online consumer. Analyze your online communication and advertising carefully, and avoid spreading exaggerated or untrue information about your products and services. Avoid putting your company in a risky situation where you can’t keep your promise.

Misleading or unethical advertising in the media is terrible; to do that on the Internet is suicidal.

Read part 5/8 of the article Digital marketing and consumer rules