Ecommerce and the Informational Internet

Everyday there are those who will ask me questions like, “What’s on TV tonight?” or “Do you know what the capital of Connecticut is?” or “How do you really pronounce Lancaster, Pennsylvania?”

What amazes me is there was a time when I would have referred to print publications to answer these questions. It would either be a television directory, atlas, encyclopedia or dictionary.

Today I spend a few seconds online in my favorite search engine and produce the answers I need from a variety of sources. I get to choose which sources I place the most trust in.

If your child is having difficulty with their homework and they ask you to help you can generally find supplemental materials online to help them – and yourself.

If you have questions about tax laws you can find information on the web.

If you simply want to know what’s playing on television at any given time there are a few alternatives to finding exactly what will be on your system. Those alternatives will be found online.

This is reality in the 21st century. Some may call it information overload, but for those who need to know they are most often turning to the Internet for answers.

As a business owner, how are you tapping into that ‘need to know’ mentality of your customers? What are you doing online that will assist them in understanding your product better?

There’s nothing worse than for a mildly motivated consumer to visit an ecommerce site and find something that seems interesting, but then leaves them in the dark about what the product can do.

They are thinking, “Man, I really liked that Whatzit, but I’m not sure if it’s a can opener or a weed whacker used by mice.”

The World Wide Web has become the dominant source for information. In the 21st century people are convinced that being able to access news when they want the information is imperative. Consumers have come to expect the immediacy of information and product availability.

One of the things I love is when I get an email from someone asking if I remember a certain product. I love this because in many cases I can conduct a few minutes of research and find that the product is still being manufactured and where it can be purchased. I feel like a purveyor of product reunions.

The web brings the trivial and the necessary together in one hi-speed connection.

You can set your business site apart by paying attention to the details of detail. Do you just sell a product or can you help your customers understand the product? Do you simply provide a service or do your customers know what to expect from your service?

The Internet is the equivalent of information in the new millennium. When people want to know and they want to know now they look online.

Your business website has to provide more than products to sell. It must also provide information needed to evaluate and imagine what life with your product will be like. When you fail to provide the details you also limit the ability of consumers to appreciate the value your product can offer.

Team Building and the Invisible Thief

I was visiting with a motivational speaker recently and I discussed some of my views on team building. There was discussion on the need for making sure everyone could identify with the goal of the team and they understood their role in the team.

Since my friend had been a part of a major team oriented business throughout his career he could identify with what I was saying and he found himself in general agreement with my assessment of the need for team building.

1) They are not employees they are team members.

2) Productivity increases when team members work together as opposed to a business comprised of lone rangers.

3) Problem solving is best observed in team-oriented brainstorming.

When we began discussing some of the problems inherent in a lack of team building I mentioned the lack of productivity and cooperation. My friend agreed and then he said something that I hadn’t considered, “It won’t be long before those employees steal something.”

At first I found the comment strange. After all, why would an employee steal something just because team-building ideals were not observed?

The more I thought about the issue the more I began to understand the scenario my friend was talking about. You see, employees often look at what they do as slave labor. Yes, they willingly took the job, but they often find the notion of being an employee frustrating as their job satisfaction level plummets. Many of these workers will say things like, “They do not pay me enough for this.”

“Employees” can often find themselves in a place where they simply carry out orders without being considered as useful in overcoming problems. They can get frustrated when they feel that you really do not consider them valuable. In larger corporations they might wonder if you even know who they are.

If these frustrated employees come to the conclusion that you do not consider them valuable and rewards are non existent or minimal they may reach out and reward themselves. They believe there should be more to a job than what they experience, but no one has given them a voice to express their opinions on matters that affect them.

These ’employees’ may steal time, office products or other items that may not be missed. Of the items listed it is time that is most often stolen. These employees will figure out ways to manage the bare minimum in duties and then they might spend time on the Internet or talking to other employees or on the phone.

Many employees find ways to take their work as slowly as possible to keep a low expectation of their efforts. In this way they steal from their employer.

Team building not only maximizes potential it also provides the purpose many need to feel as though their work is valued and that they can contribute to the overall success of a company.

No one likes to feel invisible, but if they do expect the potential for employee theft.

How’s Your “Ecabulary”? Shifting Our Perceptions of Words in the Ecommerce World

Megan, a college sophomore at Indiana University, punched her credit card number into a website with a mailing address somewhere in China. She needed to buy a new $800, 36″ plasma TV with FREE DELIVERY for her Sorority House. Seems that there was an “accident” that found the old TV in the bathtub wearing a pink tee shirt and a happy face drawn on it with lipstick–the day after a weekend “study party.”

Megan’s dad at home in Park Ridge, IL meanwhile, shreds enough junk mail daily to stuff enough scarecrows to protect all of Iowa’s corn crop, and he melts old credit cards on the stove and burns every other document that list his name-even the bill from the lawn mowing service for raking leaves. He believes that punching in a credit card into a computer is like giving his cash to the devil to buy coal. Too risky.

Generational differences in how ecommerce and communication online is perceived, accepted or not is a hot topic and the biggest challenge for marketers to get Megan’s dad to pony up his credit card to buy online, trust the system or sign up for a social media site and get hip, man. Like any other technology, change is unwelcome when it involves a lot of reprogramming the mind as well as the remote control. Simply suggesting a shift in how to view a topic can be enough to get a new dialogue started.

One way to define these differences in generational views of the web is to use a invented word to describe this phenomenon. Here it is: Ecabulary. Yes, it sounds more like a medical term describing a part of your lower gastro intestinal tract, yet it’s a easy way to differentiate some subtle and big shifts in psychology of using the ecommerce more each day.

Psychology and the internet–how we buy, sell , research, learn, listen, talk, etc. is still less than 20 years old. Concepts of trust, intimacy, emotions and expectations are falling under different levels of personal adjustment and acceptance based on demographics, gender, race, culture, religion, education, geography, as well as the sophistication level of one’s employer and the technology utilized in daily work.

Here’s a list of some examples of old vocabulary expectations and new ecabulary realizations highlights differences and perception of consumers regarding ecommerce.

Relationship-Elationship: We think of relationships in a more emotional aspect of the human connection: see, touch, smell, hear. We’re able to use all our tactile senses to size up relationships as they grow. Elationships are fragments of data, we don’t always know where, what, why, how or who that “someone is” behind the font or even the picture. Their voice to us is words. No inflection, cadence, accent, pacing, breathing, laughter, sadness, etc. We begin to form opinions of this someone from only a few clues-relying on our bias, stereotypes and level of intellect to form judgments or rationalize the situation. Trust and commitment is a deeper concern and lingers on.

Intimacy-Etimacy: Intimacy is a highly charged word in humans; a word saved for special things, special people and rarely used by us in a casual context. Intimacy in ecommerce can be dangerous to our emotional balance because we want to believe the person’s expressions and sincerity in whatever dialogue we’re having, yet the lack of tactile clues and belief of a viable, validated/legitimate peer leads to perpetual suspicion for many people. Etimacy is much more restrictive and guarded than what would be described as intimacy.

Authenticity-Ethenticity: Authentic suggests a certain grounded-ness and genuineness to something be it a product, food, recipes, friendships and the like. Ethenticity relative to products, services and social network relationships are missing parts of human touch and the chemistry that goes with it. Fragmented conversations, days between twitters, tweets and postings creates inconsistent messages, raising doubts to the authentic intentions of the relationships. Delayed gratification becomes a lost art.

Deal-Eal: Doing business, making a deal on a handshake and a promise is not part of our web world. Enter ecommerce and the “Eal.” No face, no handshake, no voice-only a PayPal logo, a security firewall that “looks authentic” and we give our credit card number to a stranger because the website looks legitimate, or should we say “egitimate?” Either way we’ve become more conditioned, even desensitized, to giving away data we long held in total secrecy unless we say the eyeballs of the person we’re making the deal.

Emotion-Eemotion: Similar to intimacy, emotion can be based on words written, photos that could be real or stock photos from Getty Images. Graphs, testimonials, a video presentation, as well can be 100% truthful, yet because no physical presence, a slight doubt can linger. No voice inflection, eye contact, sweat on the forehead, the broken arm in a cast, the child standing next to you. For us primates that have been programmed for face recognition, ecommerce is a challenge.

Opportunity-Epportunity: Suspicion hangs over ecommerce as long as deceptive people and thieves live on earth. Risk is ever-present and we continue to seek more checks and balances the higher the price tag goes. Brand name businesses have the edge in the trust factor.

Reputation-Eputation: Social networking sites are getting better at dismissing the fakes. LinkedIn and others have filters and kill switches that will cut out those who are reported as liars or deceptive. Big companies have an easier time selling their brand as legit than the plasma TV folks online in China, but this is changing.

Voice-Evoice: Tones, pitch, timbre, baritone, tenor, nasal, bass, soothing, irritating, authoritative, dimwitted-all describe human voice. Evoices lack the human element of comparing/contrasting and reference points. Evoices can’t elicit memories or help us retrieve clues to help us make decisions or confirm impressions. Evoice is hard to create a brand called “individual personality” or humanness that helps ground us. A customer service tech named Steve, living in India, is hard to accept for some skeptics living in Omaha.

Identity-Edentity: Like the Second Life site of make believe for adults, our identity outside ecommerce is composed of experiences we’ve left with others, as well as the residue we take with from them. Identity, as defined as “you” is complex and ever-changing in our perceptions of self as we grow, learn, love, fail, or succeed. Edentity can be made to be magically perfect. Flaws, faults, blemishes and age lines can be erased liked the ecommerce video ads wipe soap scum way in two seconds. One’s edentity can be intentionally or unconsciously fabricated to fit our modified public self we choose to present and leave the wrinkles and bad stuff off the record. Like the weight stated on your driver license: it never changes for some people.

Peers-Eers: Credentials, accomplishments, press, media exposure, pages on Google can suggest more power, fame-even wealth than is actually the case. Illusions abound and smoke and mirrors are on sale now. Peers know you one way, but Eers only see the face of the public relations spin and marketing angle whether be your Facebook, LinkedIn, your alumni bio, or your company profile. What appears on screen can be distorted and presumed to be something more or less than what the real person behind the credentials is all about. Good or bad, the consequences of basing decisions solely on Eers words can last a long time.

Perception-Erception: Like reputation and Relations, Perception is based on combined experiences a person has to form certain biases, or heuristic devices to make fast decisions. Ecommerce affords more tools to the intended marketer to sway or dis-sway a person from doing something without more data, clues or time to decide. “If you don’t purchase these tickets in 2 minutes, they will be put back into the For Sale slot.” Decide NOW!

Attitude-Ettitude: Attitude is courted by intention and self-confidence status. Ettitude can be masked and distorted with phrasing and pictures to persuade based on guilt, fear, loss, authority, scarcity, social proof, habit, consistency, among other elements of persuasion theory. Attitude when turned to Ettitude takes time to sort and define all the messages and intentions.

Energy-Egerny: Personal energy is more than physical activities like gestures, fast walk/run, facial movements, rate of speech, etc. Energy is an aura that surrounds a person in ways we can’t always define. Intellectual, sexual, athletic, business energies are all different. Egerny is subjective, and, once again, be manufactured to be what the provider wants to present. Like edited video tapes, different messages can come from the same mouth.

Credibility-Eredibility: Longevity, loyalty, success, value-all part of credibility. Eredibility relies on ecommerce policies and others to police the web to sort through the bad product and swindlers. Credibility remains with compelling value, stayed products and consistent reviews. Longevity in business is not a ecommerce value due to its adolescence age. Value is the operant word.

Behavior-Ehavior: Bad behavior/Bad ehavior all get noticed fast and word spreads even faster. Fortunately, some things remain the same.

Believe-Elieve: One phrase describes the similarities: Trust from other sources to confirm our impressions.

If you’re selling products and services via ecommerce, ask yourself these questions as you constantly revise your marketing/branding/deliverables via the latest technology:

1. Does our product or service marketing tools point to strong trust and consistency in the vocabulary/ecabulary of ecommerce?
2. Do we allow/encourage/direct the customer to utilize as many human senses as possible to experience our product/service to make a decision faster and confidently?
3. What can you do to add one more emotional trigger for the customer’s sense of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell that will keep their attention longer?
4. Is there a way to allow the customer to become more interactive and experiential in the purchase or review as they shop?

These four questions allow you to consider not only all the tactile potentiality of a customer’s needs, but encourages you to look for other add-ons of experience and tie-ins/alliances to secure all the senses. For example, offering free music downloads, humor utilizing with video or clever ads, coupons, videos that instruct, etc. seek out alliances and successful outlets that generate that certain buzz that you desire. Ride their wave, rent their waves if you have to.

Lastly, watch for themes, traditional events/celebrations and current events to tie the customers present sensory states that are being bombarded in our 24/7 world of news updates and tie your story and products/services into their real need right now.

Follow these ideas and you secure more revenue, er, evenue for your business from Megan…and her dad.