Dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s – The costs of getting it wrong

Millions of dollars, pounds, Euros and working hours are expended every day by companies to get to top of the Google listings, to make sure their business booms. Buzzwords and acronyms fly here and there and new words related to internet technology join the lexicon. Top amongst them is SEO or search engine optimisation, which in layperson’s terms means that all content on the site is skewed to be picked up by the ‘spiders’ – which trawl the web looking for key words and phrases related to the product or service a company is selling. This is all well and good, but all too often while management’s heads are distracted by this new alchemy of technology, simple mistakes are slipping by which are possibly costing companies millions in lost sales each year.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it? What could it be…? Global warming, cyber attacks? Terrorism? No, it’s nothing so dramatic, just plain old spelling and grammar. Yes, not dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s is costing business everywhere big books! Gotcha! Big bucks. It might be a joke, but losing sales via poor grammar and spelling is no laughing matter. According to British businessman, Charles Duncombe writing in a BBC News article, a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. His research suggested that potential customers spend only six seconds surfing websites before they reach a decision on whether they will use it or not. So if there’s a blooper in the first paragraph then any chance of a positive impression goes straight out of the window, however much money has been lavished on the website’s appearance.

Anyone who doubted the power of social media, and all the naysayers who passed off Facebook and Twitter as fleeting fads, have had to eat their words after the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ last year. Business, however, is still mainly watching from a distance as how to effectively harness social media. At the moment it is still seen as somewhat of a ‘dangerous animal’ which can ruin a business’s reputation in a few hours if a negative story goes ‘viral’.

Surely people don’t care about the odd typo, do they? Well apparently, they do. It’s not just a matter of presentation; it’s a matter of trust. As anyone who has an email account knows, every day some spurious email arrives asking us for our banks account details so a Nigerian prince can deposit fifty million dollars, but of course with us getting a cut. Alas, it’s not true. So how do we know this? Well, common sense tells us ‘it’s too good to be true’ which it is. But also they are usually badly spelt and are riddled with grammatical errors. This then, is the second issue which Dunscombe raises: “In these instances, when a consumer might be wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue,” he said.

Death by social media

With the spread of ‘text language’ and people increasingly using informal language then, you would think that companies would be ‘let off the hook’ when they make mistakes and given some leeway when it comes to typos.

Far from it, it would seem. People might be happy to say Thx on their phone but they’re not LOL when it comes to big companies making errors. Paradoxically it seems the very technology that people traditionally accuse of causing us to ‘dumb down’ and talk in text speak, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, that have become the media through which mistakes, instead of only being noticed by a small amount of people, are now going viral. Look no further than the Australian department store Myers.

On a seven-storey banner, the department store urged shoppers to take part in its sales, using the line: ‘Early bird get’s the right size’. The error was repeated in stores around the country for the Boxing Day sales, and pictures of the blunder spread world-wide on the social networking site Twitter.

Twitter users also picked up another typo, where the company, on signs in stores, offered shopping credits to those who signed up for a Myer card by ‘Saturday 28 January’.

So, the lesson is get your spelling and grammar 100% correct or potentially say goodbye to 50% of your sales.