Why You Should Always Consider Ethics in Online Marketing

It’s getting pretty easy to point out examples of e-commerce marketing that are a little, well … questionable. At this point, most of us are familiar with the bad: spammy emails, word salad blogs, and articles stuffed to the brim with unrelated affiliate links. Many marketers also like to use a technique that goes by the name “puffery” — when you exaggerate a bit in your marketing to help bolster perception of your products. But what about when you puff a little too hard? Is it worth making dubious claims to secure the sale?

The Value of a Relationship

If you take a look at examples of real-life online marketing missteps, the answer is definitely no. Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. is paying off over $1.5 million to consumers who were misled by advertising claims of products being plant based, all natural, and chemical free. Fake, paid reviews fill Amazon product pages and e-commerce sites, mostly from writers who have never laid hands on the “totally amazing” product they’re talking up. Over-optimized content that no human would ever want to read abounds.

Online marketing

Most e-commerce marketers worth their weight understand why these techniques don’t work: they’re dependent on tricking your customer, and once you’re caught, your reputation is at risk. Websites designed for robots don’t do you any favors. No one wants to be known as an unethical company, and having a good relationship with your customers is worth more than a temporary boost in sales from spun article nonsense on your site.

Real Honest Company

It’s common sense that honesty can be a big advantage for your business.

The first way honesty can help is the way it frames your business against your competitors. If dubious online marketing is something that’s common amongst your competitors, having marketing content that’s professional, honest, and real shows that you care. It shows that you value your business and your customers, and want them to have good experiences when they interact with the content that represents your company. The more upfront and real you are able to be with your customers, aka sidestepping that annoying web of lies that poorly advised ecommerce companies sometimes weave for themselves, the better equipped you’ll be to take on the next technology challenge. You won’t be distracted by little things when the expansion of IoT becomes a daily reality, and the e-commerce security implications it will inevitably carry become a reality too.

The second way it helps is that you can deter customers who ultimately just aren’t for you. When you use over-optimization or spam to try to get a sale, no one ends up happy. Considering whether it’s worth your marketing dollars to buy a list of emails. Will any of those people actually buy what you’re selling? Are those paltry sales worth the damage to your reputation? It’s often better to focus your efforts on marketing to the consumers who your business really serves, as this results in a sustainable way of achieving sales and growth.

Conversely, this also allows you to focus your e-commerce marketing efforts on your real target market. You’ll vastly improve the relationship you have with your real base once you stop selling your products to people who, frankly, don’t want them. Instead of misleading customers, use your marketing as an opportunity to tell stories that help customers create connections with your brand.

Honesty Fosters Loyalty

If you understand the downsides of ethically questionable marketing, that’s the first step towards a marketing plan that works to achieve your business objectives. The next step is developing content that converts. This requires an understanding of what you want to achieve and what your target audience wants.

While a great story is what sells your product to your customers, a story means nothing if it’s not backed up by facts. Instead of selling yourself as “the best,” tell stories about why you’re the best. Give real examples of how you’re better than your competition.

Think about what you want for your company. Going forward, a great brand reputation will do more for your business than any black hat technique ever will. Forbes writer Jason DeMers explains, “Consumers will have access to newer forms of technology and more quantities of information, which means greater overall transparency, and the number of businesses switching to organic and inbound marketing campaigns will similarly increase, adding competitive pressure to the mix.” Get ahead of the competition.

Consumers are notoriously disloyal today, when they can easily compare you to every one of your competitors with a quick Google search. Giving them the facts, saving them time and energy sifting through their options, might just be what a customer needs to convince them to buy in. Don’t make dishonest online marketing a mistake that harms your business.

In e-commerce marketing you need to build a relationship in order to harness loyalty, and relationships depend on trust. Can your customers trust you?