On Friday there was a very unexpected announcement; same sex marriages were to be made legal across America. Previously, the law had only allowed same sex marriages in a few states, so people were quite surprised to find that such big change had happened so quickly. How does this relate to your business and the world of eCommerce? Well, you may have noticed that a large number of businesses have been showing their support for these new laws on social media; posting photographs of rainbows and so on. You may be thinking of doing something similar yourself, but there are some important things to consider before you do anything like that.
In the business world, it is not always appropriate to take a political stance and some people would even go so far as to insist that businesses must never share opinions of this kind. In reality, I don't think things are quite so clear cut; for some businesses it will be appropriate to take a stance on these things, while for others it is best to always remain impartial. Many things, such as who your customers are, the size of your consumer base and the product/service that you provide, need to be taken into account before taking a stance with your business.
If, for example, you ran an eCommerce website on which you sold Gay Pride memorabilia, then your customers would expect you to post something supportive after the news. The very nature of the business would give you a political stance, and therefore it would be fine to post about it. Similarly, to give a different example, if you're business used being very environmentally friendly as its unique selling point, then your customers would expect you to be very supportive if there was a change in laws which would do more to protect the environment. Also, if there was a change in laws that would lead to the destruction of certain parts of the environment, your customers may also expect you to take a stance against it. Essentially, you need to understand how your customers feel and show that you feel the same way. People like to see that a business is human.
But not every business is attached to an inherent set of beliefs. If you sold office stationary, there is no political stance associated with that. You might post a rainbow photograph on your Facebook, to show support for the same sex marriage laws, only to find that your customers are against the new laws, which then may also turn them against you. In these cases, therefore, it is best to say nothing, because you don't want to lose your customers and there are more appropriate platforms to express your beliefs. Nonetheless, if via forums, comments or whatever else, you were aware that your office supplies company had a huge number of customers in the gay community, it might again be appropriate to say something, but situations like this will be very rare.
So, it can be a bit of a fine line to tread. On the one hand, you might show support for a movement that you are passionate about, only to find that you have alienated a portion of your customers who now no longer wish to do business with you. On the other hand, if you posted something to support a movement you believe it, it could attract customers who also believe in that movement and who find it hard to find businesses whose ideologies line up with their own. You need to consider everything before you make the call.
If you know who your customers are, it may help you to understand what to do with things like this. With a strong understanding of the demographic you're selling to, you might also have an idea of what things they'll care about. Some of you may think "If a customer doesn't believe in X I don't want them as a customer" and that's your decision, but you must be sure that you aren't going to lose a significant number of customers with that approach, because it would be a shame for your business to suffer simply because of a clash of beliefs.
A good general rule is to always remain unbiased and objective. If something big happens in the world, an eCommerce website is not really the platform to use to comment on it. Nonetheless, there are exceptions; if your business is taking a stance by its very nature, then you should stick with it and it may even prove to be a driving force for sales. But for the general business, it may not be so wise. Being impartial will help as many customers as possible feel welcome, and that's exactly what you should be aiming for.
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