I recently came across an ad for a web design company that talked about how owning a website adds brand legitimacy because it makes the brand more reliable.
But nowadays it is becoming quite common for people to shop at Instagram stores or even retailers at Shopee or Lazada, many of whom don’t even have their own websites.
Now companies can decide not to have a website for a lot of reasons, like the way it comes to being professionally designed it costs too much, or simply because they feel it is unnecessary, and it is often argued that this unwillingness to invest in a website will cost them their legitimacy.
But here are 6 reasons why we would claim otherwise.
1. Websites could have biased ratings
On a brand’s website, you’re unlikely to come across just under 4 stars on their products by their customers.
There is no way to determine if these ratings are true or not and if they have even set them to look not perfect (5 stars) but more than good enough (above 4 stars).
On top of that, most of these ratings are given by people you can’t confirm are real customers (Amy S., who?), While compared to e-commerce websites these ratings are mostly left by people with real accounts, and you can easily click on . On sites like Instagram and Facebook, you’d see angry comments or reactions that a brand has unhappy customers, and fake reviews are easy to spot (usually too shallow and excessive).
While a retailer may have complete control over what and how they want their website to be presented, potential buyers will be more interested in how earlier legal customers have rated these products, and realistically, not everyone will be in a safe range of 4.5 to 4.8 stars.
2. Customers like to compare products according to the best offer
Consumers love choice. The more options, the better. But comparisons don’t stop at prices, brands, product quality perceptions, and so on. And we like to compare reviews.
As mentioned earlier, consumers, especially if they are buying for the first time, find it helpful to know more about what past customers have said about their purchase.
If I’m new to buying matcha powder, it would be hard for me to decide which brand of matcha powder to buy if I read reviews on their own websites, which are usually positive.
While on Shopee or Lazada I would see unbiased reviews of different brands and products which will say a lot more about legitimacy. On top of that, I can compare them based on the number of bad reviews each of them gets and if they are repeated often.
3. Brand engagement on social media is transparent
For stores with only social media like Instagram and Facebook, their online presence, comments, likes and any forms of engagement are another way to measure the legitimacy and reliability of a brand.
While it’s easy to buy likes, it’s harder to buy comments because it’s not too hard to distinguish between a fake and a real account on social media. In addition, a brand would have to be very desperate to create a bunch of fake accounts to engage on their site or bribe people to do so.
Therefore, seeing comments (which are not necessarily extensive reviews of a product or service) and sharing real people on social media can raise my confidence in the brand more, because people who love the brand show enough to get involved in it, giving it more legitimacy.
Nor does engagement always have to be positive. When people are dissatisfied, they’re not afraid to let them know, especially online, and even if the brand’s page disables comments, you’re sure to see shares paired with dissatisfied captions.
To add, if a site has enthusiastic reviews about its products, you can probably assess what their customers really think by taking a quick peek at their social media. If the brand isn’t actually liked, you’d probably see unfortunate comments or little or no engagement (which would be weird if you had a lot of reviews on your site).
4. Product images on the brand website show them only at best
On brand websites, you would only see their products in their brightest, best versions. Let’s go back to the example of buying matcha powder. The website can show me how vibrant their matcha powder is vivid green, but will I get exactly what I see? Controversial.
However, on e-commerce sites where merchants have a review section, you can see pictures of how these products actually look in their mostly messy forms. Who the hell would take the time to nicely edit their pictures in a 5-minute preview, especially if you weren’t paid to promote a product?
And even if someone were to post a review with edited images, chances are it will be one of the few, and most will be unedited images, giving you a truer impression of the product.
This is one of the advantages of e-commerce sites as well, as most brand sites do not allow reviews with attached images, which makes it difficult to trust that reviewers actually made a purchase.
It is interesting to note that some of my colleagues do not think that these images are sufficient to assess product quality. Things like furniture and clothing are some products that you would still prefer to physically feel before buying, which is fair, especially for sales where the products cannot be returned.
5. The amount of sales can also affect the perceived legitimacy
One thing sites often don’t show is the volume of their sales. For those who do, they can claim to have sold the X number of their products or had the Y number of customers, but since they have complete control over what they show, they can easily customize them.
On the other hand, e-commerce websites like Shopee and Lazada actually show you how many units of product have been sold, and a retailer cannot easily adjust these statistics. If the product list has high ratings i large sales volume, customers are more likely to make a purchase.
6. Brand verification plus is for legitimacy
Another thing that makes me safer in the store (especially on e-commerce sites) is the check badge. This means that the e-commerce site is confident enough in its quality of products and services to recognize the brand.
For example, on Shopee, the equivalent of this is the “Preferred Seller” badge, which you can find below the product. This badge it is given only to merchants with a certain amount of net orders in the past 30 days, a high frequency of responses in the chat, they have a clear penalty and much more.
This is a legitimacy that your own website cannot provide without impartiality, and the brand will also not be considered as equally liable to a third party as Shopee.
My boss persuaded me to this common opinion about my non-refundable experience for which I qualified, despite the brand’s website promising a full refund to those who meet the criteria, and the product has already been returned to the seller.
I also encountered a fair share of problems with buying from brand websites, for example when I got two garments from fast fashion that came in materials that were different from what was claimed on the website.
I once bought a satin skirt that came in a ribbed material from the brand’s website and I couldn’t return it because the team itself didn’t react.
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With these arguments, I’m not saying that brands shouldn’t have a website at all because that doesn’t add anything to their legitimacy. Simply, having one is not the the most important thing for a brand nowadays.
Ideally, the brand would have a website that would tell users more about the people behind them and their story, along with social networking sites to interact with their customers.
Does a brand need a specially designed website just to look legitimate? We’d say no, and there are a lot more affordable options today that can work on growing brands through website makers like Wix and Squarespace.
Of course, brands can begin to see the limitations of these options once they reach a certain scope of business, and maybe that’s the moment when they can consider making a website customized for design, because by then they would have capital in it as well.
- You can read more articles we have written here.
Credits for featured images: Vulcan Post