There has been a great deal of attention as of late surrounding cultural sensitivity. This has, of course, been a long time coming. Unfortunately, our society has a history of responding to differences with suspicion, prejudice, and violence. The good news is that people are taking time to recognize the value of diverse cultures and understand how even small actions can positively or negatively impact.
This cultural sensitivity isn’t just focused on private interactions, though. Businesses have begun to note there is imperative to include aspects of inclusivity and awareness into their operations. This is often part of a marketing strategy to attract consumers who are more frequently making purchasing decisions based on ethics. But the efforts for incorporating cultural sensitivity into your eCommerce website have to be more meaningful and sustainable than these simple approaches.
As we are currently in a time of significant social changes, it’s important to look closer at why cultural sensitivity is essential for your eCommerce website. What are the imperatives, and how can you best implement sensitivity in a meaningful way?
Why It Matters
So, why does cultural sensitivity matter for your eCommerce website? Well, primarily, there’s an ethical imperative. If you’re not making concerted efforts to create an online environment welcoming and supportive of all cultures, then your company is passively discriminatory. This is no more ethical than being actively prejudiced. You can build a stronger, more positive business by adjusting your approach to reflect inclusive values.
There’s also the practical effect cultural sensitivity has upon your growth. Cultural sensitivity is at its core the act of making sure your business represents a safe, supportive, positive space for anyone who wants to engage. In addition, actions demonstrating cultural awareness make your eCommerce website more accessible and inclusive. This, therefore, translates to opening your potential customer base to a greater range of consumers who will have a more positive user experience that doesn’t include any cultural hurdles.
It’s important to note, too, cultural sensitivity has an impact beyond that directly experienced by consumers of marginalized backgrounds. Consumers today are more educated about the importance of cultural inclusivity. Indeed, a recent report published by Business Wire found 46% of consumers pay close attention to a company’s efforts to be socially responsible and make purchase decisions accordingly. For eCommerce site owners, this is especially important; you exist in a highly competitive space, and if visitors note examples of cultural insensitivity, it’s easy for them to take their money elsewhere. Not to mention any failures here can be communicated on social media, damaging your reputation. As such, you need to make sure you show authentic, meaningful efforts to be inclusive and respectful.
When you’re improving cultural sensitivity on your eCommerce website, it’s important to accept you don’t already know everything. One of the key mistakes entrepreneurs can make here is making assumptions about what elements of the website visitors from marginalized or differing backgrounds might find problematic. Instead, you need to commit time, effort, and resources to educate yourself and your staff.
This begins with gaining a deeper awareness of your innate personal biases. Remember, you are operating your business from a cultural perspective colored by your background and experiences. As such, it’s essential to research how this presents barriers to cultural sensitivity and what educational tools can bring your business closer to positive intercultural communications. Even simple issues, like assuming cultural similarities of your customers and prioritizing your native language on your website, can threaten healthy communication and present an unwelcome environment. When you’re open to eliminating elements of ethnocentricity in your company, you can start to make meaningful change.
This is where you need to start seeking assistance from various community sources. Your research and self-understanding is a good start, but the highest quality information will come from minority cultures themselves. You can certainly reach out to your consumers on your social media channels and gain insights — this kind of open dialogue is always positive. However, remember that private citizens and communities shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of educating you. Where possible, you should partner with consultants from these cultures and invest in their time and expertise.
Effective cultural sensitivity relies upon an acceptance that your attempts will not always be perfect. But it would be best if you always were open to making change. Thus, one of the essential tools is putting protocols that help you recognize and respond to any issues.
This should revolve around a regular review of every aspect of your website. Don’t forget to include elements such as your website name and URL. This can be a tricky area, and for many businesses, the considerations for a name come down to practical elements such as finding the balance between originality and apt activity descriptions. There is also the issue of avoiding trademark disputes or compliance with state naming requirements. But it would be best if you remembered that a name might seem perfectly innocuous or appropriate to you but may have connotations to other cultures. Use the information you’ve gained in the educational activities previously mentioned and create a roadmap for auditing. If there are aspects that you’re unsure of or an apparent grey area, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and ask.
It would be best if you also placed real-time reviews of each of your posts — whether this is new product descriptions on your website or your social media posts. But, again, don’t allocate this task to a single person where possible. Again, this helps minimize the potential for mistakes and maintains consistency with your brand values.
Ecommerce spaces today are just as subject to the scrutiny of our more positive and progressive society as any other industry. By committing to a process of education and adopting vigilant protocols, you can avoid the most costly errors. More importantly, you get to make sure your business is a safe and inclusive space for everyone.