Online entrepreneur, Charles Duncombe, says that internet companies within the UK are haemorrhaging millions of pounds in revenue because their employees cannot spell. He believes that an analysis of website figures proves that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.
Mr Duncombe says that he has been “shocked at the poor quality of written English” when recruiting staff and says the biggest problem for online firms isn’t technology but finding staff who can spell.
“Often these cutting-edge companies depend upon old-fashioned skills” said Duncombe, owner of travel, mobile phone and clothing websites.
He says that with more and more companies heading into cyberspace, remedial spelling skill became more and more crucial. “This is because when you sell or communicate on the internet 99% of the time it is done by the written word” he explained.
And the businessman firmly believes that the effect of poor spelling can be quantified, as proven by one of his own businesses. He says he measured the revenue per visitor to the tightsplease.co.uk website and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.
"If you project this across the whole of internet retail then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes."
When you consider that the Office for National Statistics published figures last month showing internet sales in the UK running at £527m per week, Mr Duncombe’s analysis suggests that this figure could yet be considerably higher.
There are a number of reasons why incorrect spelling could prove costly to your business. First of all, there is the issue of credibility. Consumers weary of fraud are unlikely to part with their money if they’re unsure of the site’s legitimacy.
William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, conforms to this opinion. He says that spelling errors were likely to “raise concerns over trust and credibility.”
"In these instances, when a consumer might be wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue."
Another drawback that an online company must consider is that if a keyword is misspelt on your site, a customer search is unlikely to find you in the first place, and your site will be beaten to the punch by able spelling competitors. This makes accurate spelling an incredibly important element for an internet business.
But James Fothergill, the CBI's head of education and skills, says that poor spelling is a real, and widespread, problem.
“"Our recent research shows that 42% of employers are not satisfied with the basic reading and writing skills of school and college leavers and almost half have had to invest in remedial training to get their staff's skills up-to-scratch.”
Entrepreneurs like Mr Duncombe might see the potential in SEO and internet business, but until basic literacy skills are improved upon, such potential is unlikely to be realised.