DMA sets Guidelines for the E-greedy Staff

Updated · Aug 15, 2001

There's nothing wrong with trying to make a little money – which means you've got to ask people for the stuff, i.e. market to them. But, as is most of our personal experience, improper marketing can infuriate, particularly in the e-world, where marketers can reach us anywhere through email and, soon, SMS. To help ensure a pleasant experience for the e-consumer (and profits for the e-tailer), the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has drafted a set of guidelines they hope e-tailers will follow.

The guidelines were introduced by speakers from Amorphous New Media, Y&R Gitam and,. Their motives were far from altruistic – they're businessmen wanting to do business, holding up the guidelines as a code of good business.

Three sections of the guidelines received the most stress: disclosure, information practice and customer satisfaction.

How you do business is your business: set whatever terms you like, collect all the information you want to. But make sure that users can easily find your terms and policies and understand them. The point is not to obscure, but to ably demonstrate that your policies of disclosure are such that they create implicit agreement on the part of your users.

Disclose as much as possible: your identity and how to reach you, how long it takes to deliver, what things cost, the time period allowed for returns, anything else you can think of and reasonably implement.

Key here is reasonably implement – if you can't afford a phone number on the site because of the number of calls you receive and it's not essential to your business, it's unnecessary.

But make sure that everything that a client must know before doing business is clearly written where the public eye falls. Including your privacy policy.

If you don't have a privacy policy, you shouldn't be on the web. But having a privacy policy isn't enough: a well-crafted, easily understandable policy is becoming de facto requirement to doing business on the web.

The DMA believes your policy should contain what information you collect, why you collect it and what you don't collect. If you're going to use it to market to people, tell them.

And always, always identify yourself, identify marketing messages as such and allow people to opt out at any time.

Customer satisfaction
Customers with queries should have a clear channel for complaints, should be able to track any purchases they've made and know when to expect anything they've ordered. And doubtlessly they need to know your returns policy.

The concept ties back into disclosure: customers must know almost as much as you do about the status of their order.

As you'd expect from marketers, all the proposals are practically motivated.

Every business has a “desired consumer experience” that will maximize the business' profits. The DMAs guidelines are their proposals on how to help create a pleasant experience and profitable consumer response. Brand affinity, they say, is at stake.

And every business fears regulation imposed from above. By suggesting guidelines and offering advice, the DMA hopes to avoid state-regulation – which they believe would make the business of marketing extremely difficult.

Visit the DMA webpage to comment or for more information.

Reprinted from

  • Retail
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