Now, I used to be responsible for teams writing some of the marketing messages for PPI for retail clients when I worked at GE Capital some years ago and I can tell you that we were closely regulated about what we could say and had to hand out copious pieces of approved in-store literature (and online text) to potential customers before they took the product. Many people bought PPI willingly for peace of mind and, of course, you only used it if you fell upon hard times. In any case, today, almost everyone who was sold PPI gets a refund of total premiums paid in compensation for mis-selling. Incredible!
So what message does this sorry tale send to the eCommerce community worldwide? Simple - you have to plan for Stupid. Particularly if you operate in the US (think Elizabeth Warren!) and the EU.
As a community of implementers we have already been doing this is some areas. How we allow Users to create passwords comes to mind. Here, eCommerce practitioners have been trying in vain to help Users to create more secure passwords with limited success. Studies continue to show that the same simple, insecure, passwords are created time and time again by Users, despite warnings to the contrary. Here’s a list of the most commonly used passwords, as revealed by Trustwave’s survey of business enterprises:
What is interesting about this list is that even those sites which seek to regulate password creation, by for example demanding that a CAPITAL letter and/or a number be included in a password to enhance security, are undermined by User Stupidity. Changing "password" to "Password1" still gives us two of the top three most commonly used passwords!
I often wonder whether it is the ease of use and accessibility of digital channels that make sensible people more stupid. The recent Lord McAlpine Twitter Libel circus is a case in point (if only those who libelled the Peer had followed the Theory of Balls Rule 6). Apparently, those being chased for damages include a Barrister who would not have dreamed of getting on a soapbox in the street and shouting a libel in the offline world.
On the other hand, the recent government eCommerce campaign for the election process of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England shows that in some cases the public simply use 'Stupid' as an excuse. Of the reasons for a low turnout (15-20%) in these elections the one which states that no infomation was available to voters as to who was standing or what the process was all about seems to be the most lame. In fact, online channels excelled in explaining candidates policies and profiles in the geographic regions where candidates stood. Basic web searches brought up simple to use sites that provided information that beat anything that would have been delivered through peoples' doors via snail mail.
So, evidence suggests that eCommerce implementors are left with three types of Stupid. First, when Users have been clearly told about product features and sign up to them, yet they still claim not to get it (PPI). Second, no matter how much it is self- evidently in Users' best interests to either do something (passwords) or not do something (twitter libel) a substantial minority will act against themselves. Third, if Users don't really care about something they will act stupid as an excuse as to why they did not participate.
The bottom line is, Stupid is as Stupid does, and eCommerce implementers can't plan for, or prevent, Stupid. They can however, make sure they have a large contingency budget!
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