Retailers and businesses from other sectors must adhere to new online marketing rules set by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week.
Marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other third party space under their control, such as social media portals Facebook and Twitter, will have to meet standards set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice code.
ASA ran an ad campaign across TV, radio, online and outside over the last month to raise awareness of the organisation’s extended remit, calling on firms to ensure marketing messages on their websites are “legal, decent, honest and truthful”.
But how might the changes affect retailers?
With social commerce quickly growing in importance as a sphere in which business is conducted and user-generated comment being more closely monitored, companies could inadvertently breach the new regulations.
The new rules only apply if user-generated content is used for marketing purposes, but businesses that are active in the social commerce arena are uncertain how this will be assessed and there could be mistakes made as firms adapt to this new environment.
Richard Anson, CEO and co-founder of social commerce and online review website Reevoo, said the guidelines should strengthen consumer confidence in social commerce, but companies require more explanation.
“Where the guidelines are not insufficiently explicit is in what constitutes marketing,” he remarked.
“For example it’s arguable that reviews generated by customers to help others make a buying decision ‘marketing’.
“It’s here that we feel further clarification on the implications for brands using user generated content for social commerce purposes is needed.”
Reevoo’s retail partners such as Tesco.com and electricals specialist Dixons are compliant with the ASA rules, but Anson warns that there are some websites that currently do not adhere to the new regulations.
He explained: “There are still e-commerce sites with a manual, DIY approach to reviews, and there are also platforms that are non-compliant, which could catch some retailers out.”
A statement released by ASA yesterday said: “The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, which includes rules to make sure advertisements do not mislead, harm or offend, will be applied to all UK-based company websites, regardless of the sector or size of business or organisation.”