Customer acquisition strategies can be costly, and it will always be cheaper and easier to convert an existing customer than to convert a brand-new customer. With this in mind, it is becoming clear that brands should prioritize customer retention as they grapple with ever-changing consumer trends. A good customer retention strategy should include a strong emphasis on the post-purchase journey.
This article will walk through some key considerations as you look to improve your brand's post-purchase experience.
Build a Strong Foundation
Before looking at adding a lot of bells and whistles to your post-purchase journey, take the time to evaluate your existing journey. The foundation of a good post-purchase experience should reduce the level of effort on behalf of the consumer as much as possible. If your customer feels confused, has difficulty understanding when their order is arriving, or is unsure of how to return or what the window for returns is, this is going to leave a bad impression. Start building your foundation by setting expectations with transparent communications and providing plenty of options to customize the post-purchase experience.
- If products are backordered or being shipped in multiple shipments, is this clearly explained in all your messaging?
- If your products require extra time before being shipped, are you staying in touch with the consumer and reassuring them in between order confirmation, shipping confirmation, and delivery messaging?
- Do customers understand the return policy and process? If there are fees related to returns or re-stocking, does this leave a negative impression?
- Do your customers understand the wait period between initiating a return and receiving their refund?
- Are you communicating with customers in the ways they prefer? Do you also offer SMS and an order-lookup page in addition to email messaging?
- Are you offering adequate return options? What is your solution for customers who do not have easy access to a printer? Can customers return in store, or bring the package to a shipping drop-off location?
- Are there adequate shipping options? Can customers upgrade to faster shipping? Can they buy online and pick up in store?
- Can customers communicate with the customer care team in a way they prefer? This means short call-waiting times, 24-hour email response times, onsite chat, and SMS.
If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions effectively, the best way to evaluate this is to identify and measure KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) related to post-purchase. Look at customer care contact volume related to returns or order tracking. Set up a post-purchase survey and trigger it after order delivery and return processing, not just after the purchase. The best way to evaluate your customer journey is to ask the customer for their feedback—you would be surprised at how willing customers are to share their experiences.
Go Above and Beyond
Once you feel confident that your post-purchase journey has a solid foundation, then you can start exploring some ways to go beyond best practices and really build an impactful and memorable experience that will ensure your existing consumers stay loyal to your brand.
- Double down on brand values: More than ever, consumers are showing their willingness to spend more and stay loyal to brands that share their values. For example, if your brand values sustainability, think about offering carbon-neutral shipping. Or if items cannot be re-sold (makeup, underwear, etc.), do not require them to ship it back. You can encourage them to donate or gift the item instead.
- VIP Experiences: If you already offer a loyalty program, think about building in an enhanced post-purchase experience for these members. For example, VIPs can return items for free or do not have to stick to a 30-day return window.
- Personal Touch: Handwritten thank-you notes are an excellent way to set your brand apart, especially if you are a smaller company or make custom items.
- Gifts with Purchase: Any additional, branded items that come with a purchase (think tote bags, pens, hats, koozies) can make your customers feel good about your brand and be a wonderful way to keep your brand top of mind for the months to come.
- Product guides: Build excitement during the post-purchase journey by providing enhanced content for consumers on how to care for, use, or style their purchases.
Again, when looking at going above and beyond for your customers, the most effective way to build your strategies is by first understanding your post-purchase KPIs. Do not underestimate the power of harnessing the qualitative and quantitative data available to set objectives and measure the results of your post-purchase strategies.
Convert Them Again
Ultimately, the end goal for building enhanced post-purchase journeys is to convert your customers again. Focus on building positive momentum with your customers by designing your post-purchase journey to provide clear and easy paths for customers to purchase again.
- Account Creation: Typically, users with accounts will have a much higher conversion rate than guest shoppers. To increase account creation, provide and effectively communicate a reason to create an account (and save payment info). For example, if you allow free returns or an extended return window only for consumers who have accounts.
- Shorten Refund Window: Some customers are going to be unwilling to purchase again until after receiving their refund. Think about offering immediate online store credit to continue shopping after a return is initiated so the customer does not have to wait for the credit to appear on their card before purchasing again. You could also consider initiating the refund when the carrier picks up the package, rather than waiting for it to arrive at the distribution center and be scanned in.
- Marketing: Post-purchase email communications, like order confirmation and shipping confirmation, have high re-open rates. Make sure you include marketing content and product recommendations here. Also, use the data you collected about this customer along their purchase journey (location, gender, product type preferences, etc.) to continue marketing to them in ways that are relevant to them.
While all businesses have unique challenges when it comes to fulfillment, customer care, payment service providers, and omnichannel capabilities, it’s most important to first set a solid foundation and then look to create impactful experiences that engage your consumers in ways that matter to them.
Take the steps to understand your existing journey’s pain points by analyzing available data, acknowledge what should be improved, and build a roadmap for what you want the experience to be. Once your foundation is built, you can explore opportunities to surprise and delight consumers and ensure they keep coming back to your brand.