April 10, 2020
10 Ecommerce Tips to help your Business Thrive

10 Ecommerce Tips to help your Business Thrive

Operating an ecommerce platform
creates plenty of opportunities but it also comes with legal responsibilities.
Businesses are familiar that operating a bricks-and-mortar site comes with legal
obligations but often forget that similar obligations apply in the online
environment. Whether you’re trying to maintain your reputation, introduce a
friction free returns process, manage your cash flow or reduce your
liabilities, this video provides some top tips on avoiding some of the common
ecommerce pitfalls we see. The law requires you to have certain
provisions included within your terms and conditions of sale. If you don’t do
this customers can return – with very few
exceptions – the goods that they purchase for up to 54 weeks from the date of
purchase. This can have a huge negative impact on your cost flow. Whilst it’s a
huge risk it can be easily avoided by making sure that your terms and
conditions properly address the issue. Be careful also with stock control, how you
dispatch goods and when you take payment. Taking payments for goods that you’re
not yet ready to dispatch can create major headaches for the business
particularly if the customer later tries to cancel their order. Remember that when a customer buys from you in the online environment, handing over their cash, they’re taking a leap of faith. The law
requires you as a business to put certain mechanisms in place to reinforce
that faith, much of this needs to be dealt with in your terms and
conditions. Your terms and conditions need to be clear, as concise as possible
and free of jargon – remember though that there are certain provisions which you
are legally required to deal with. Your terms should be a tool helping to make
the customers journey as smooth as possible, don’t bury them at the bottom of the site – be proud of them, put them in your own voice so that they mirror the rest of the site. Don’t be afraid to use summary sheets either. Be transparent on returns. Customers like
to see your returns policy set out in a separate document, so if you can provide
this. The law also requires you to use cancellation forms and to clearly
communicate how the returns process works, this should be communicated both
in your terms but also in the emails you send your customers as part of the order
process. Remember that if you want the customer to pay for the return costs of
non faulty items you should set this out at the beginning, and don’t forget
that in the online environment consumers can return goods even when they’re not
faulty, with very few exceptions, just because they’ve changed their mind. You must have good processes in place to
communicate with your consumers through every step of the journey. Much of this
can be automated in the use of emails or designated account areas are a common way
to do this. You should tell them when you’re taking payments, when you’re
shipping goods, you should communicate a cancellation form and your returns
policy – make sure that they can, at a glance and very easily, find all the
information they need to identify who they’re dealing with, their rights if
things go wrong, how much they’re going to pay and when they’re going to receive
the goods. GDPR and data protection have a huge
impacts on ecommerce businesses. Their impact is far-reaching covering things
such as cookies, your choice of courier, your choice of payment gateway and so on.
Getting it right can have a huge benefit for the business enabling you to use
exciting analytic tools, getting it wrong can be disastrous especially as the
consumers become more and more aware of their rights. Compliance can be quite
time-consuming you’ll need to do a mapping exercise, understand where your
data flows to and all the third parties that have access to it. Doing this once
and getting it right can help in the long run make sure that you can use GDPR
as a tool rather than seeing it as just a regulatory hurdle to jump over. It is easy to use your ecommerce
platform to target consumers over seas but before you do so make sure you
do your research and have your eyes open to the risks and responsibilities, as
well as the opportunities – for example by making small amendments to your website,
changing for example the currencies that you accept you may find yourself opening
yourselves up to liability to laws in other territories. Be aware also that you
could find yourself falling foul of intellectual property laws, for example
you may be shipping a product which has a brand which is fine in the UK but if
that brand is registered overseas and you ship to those territories you could
be committing an intellectual property infringement. Make sure you do your
research, understand the laws in the territories that you want to ship to and
take advantage of the opportunities while staying on the right side of the
law. When running a bricks-and-mortar site
you’d have various obligations to your customers, think for example of your
obligations to look after their physical safety whilst they’re on your premises.
You’d also expect the customers to follow certain rules whilst on your
premises and it’s no different on an ecommerce site, on an ecommerce site
the easiest way to set out the ground rules on which a consumer can visit the
site is to set them out in what’s called website terms conditions of use.
Such a document applies regardless of whether the customer buys anything from
the site and simply says what they can and cannot do whilst at the site.
Well drafted website terms of use will also help you to comply with a number of
your legal obligations, for example making it clear to the customer who
they’re dealing with. Website terms and conditions of use can
be really helpful in stopping people from committing copyright infringements,
linking to your site when you don’t want to or using your site for other
nefarious purposes. Software code, content and images on
your website will most likely be protected by copyright. Copyright is a
right which does what it says on the tin it enables the owner to stop copying. The
owner is likely to be the person that put pen to paper, the software developer,
the marketing company, the photographer, the person that created the work. If you
want to own the copyright, and you should to make sure that you have
control over it and the flexibility to use it commercially as you wish, you need
to put in place an IP assignment with the person that created it. Make sure
also that you don’t inadvertently infringe third party intellectual
property, doing so can land you in hot water. Just because images or text are
readily available online to right-click, copy, paste, doesn’t mean that
you should do it, doing so is still a copyright infringement where you don’t
have the copyright owner’s consent. This even applies to product images. Make sure
to have differentiated the site, and to reduce the risk of copyright
infringement, you take your own images of products that you’re going to sell. Many businesses fail to protect their
reputation by registering their trade mark. Many
businesses believe mistakenly that they don’t need to do this thinking instead
that they’re covered by domain name registrations, company name registrations
or trading history. Only a trade mark registration gives a government
endorsed monopoly which enables you to stop other people from using an
identical or similar marking respective identical or similar goods and services.
Consider getting your trade mark registered as soon as possible to help
you manage your reputation both online and offline. Your web content and social media posts
are all forms of marketing and as such need to comply with the rules on
marketing, for example if you’re making statements about your business or
products or services you need to make sure that those are open, honest and
transparent. If you’re making comparisons between your business and another you
need to make sure these are fair, in compliance with the rules and don’t fall
foul of any trade mark legislation. If you’re making objective statements which
can be assessed you need to make sure you have the evidence to back them up,
for example if you’re saying that product X is your most popular line you
need to have the evidence to statistically prove this. With your
social media posts be careful to make it clear that if there’s a commercial
connection between the person making the post and the post this is made clear, for
example a business owner posting about how great their business is could soon
come into hot water if they don’t make it clear that they are the business
owner. Hopefully this video has helped you to understand how online compliance
can help you stay on the right side of the law, add a competitive edge and
reduce your risk. Our expert team understand both the law and the web so
if you’d like more help please get in touch. If you’d like more information on
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