This week on Freaky Friday: Are you frightened?*

Picture by ePSos.deSome of you may think that I’m nuts – asking such a question on an ecommerce blog. What on earth has fear to do with online shopping??? More than you think …

Fear is an interesting mechanism. For ages now it saved us from being eaten by the sabre-toothed tigers. OK, the tigers are gone, but the mechanism still works fantastic. But in old times fear worked in other ways. Adrenaline was produced and the focus of your brain was to run – fast. Nowadays if we are confronted with fear we start to run. In a civilized world fear is an often suppressed feeling, sometimes not even recognized. And this suppressed fear adds to the wonderful phenomenon of negative stress. And resistance. If a person has fear of something, he or she will resist to accept/do this thing. Sounds trivial, eh?
And now start thinking about two things: the online shops you know and the ecommerce projects you know. More sense now? No? Let me enlighten you…

Shop-wise fear comes in when customers see or make changes. So if they visit a new online shop, or the shop they know made substantial changes. What happens is that the user has to evaluate the new situation (similar to walking into a dark cave in the old ages). Does this look, sound and feel trustworthy? What info do I get about the company running this shop? Do I have a recommendation for the shop? Do I know the payment provider? Usually all these questions are running like a program in our unconsciousness (Is there a sabre-toothed tiger?). And in the end we buy if everything feels good or it’s the only source for what we want. Or we go somewhere else … So take a look at your shop and think about potential fear-drivers. Trust is what you need to built (no tigers…) to stop customers to run away! Think about stuff like ratings, recommendations, social media, certifications…

If you think about ecommerce projects, you may have seen some of them failing, running to slow or simply busting every budget. As I mentioned in older posts: ecommerce projects are fundamentally change projects. Depending on the type of project (launch, redesign, etc.) some people may do not understand the full scope behind it or simply do not agree. But what is camouflaged as fact based argument often has modern fear in the background. Since people are not informed well enough, they may fear the change, because they think that they are replaceable, they lose advantages, political power or importance. This fear leads to resistance against the project. If this resistance is openly displayed you are lucky, because you can see it easily and work with it. But usually the fear is concealed behind arguments. So watch out if you have lots of (senseless) arguments around your project! But how to handle fear right from the start?

Open information policy is your magic formula. You won’t be able to avoid all fear, but if you inform all  people involved (don’t forget logistics, finance, etc.!) right from the start in an open manner, you have good chances. Don’t try to filter the info… don’t try to give away just parts. I only saw this working once in my life. Usually everybody in the company gets the info long before the official announcement…
So get in the communication offensive in your next project and see what happens. Or for all you project guerrillas out there: play with the fear, get rumors running, don’t give info… and simply wait for the havoc.

* Legal disclaimer: This feature is an excerpt from the book project “How to wreck your projects” (still to be finished). What you read here may cause havoc to your project, when applied. Neither nor the author will take any responsibility for the effects. So read carefully. You are responsible for any action you take (or not take) after reading!

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