Give Holiday Shoppers The Gift of A Great Post-purchase Experience

Today’s consumer expectations can be summed up accurately with a single lyric from the rock band, Queen:

I want it all,
I want it all,
I want it all,
And I want it now.

Savvy brands know there’s no turning back from the (almost) instant gratification consumers now expect and demand when they are shopping online. This demand is never stronger than during the pressure-cooker holiday retail season. After all, the single biggest year-over-year increase for ecommerce sales in 2015 was on December 23rd. With an ever-growing number of retailers offering one-day delivery service (10%, according to a 2015 eMarketer study), holiday shoppers feel more comfortable extending their shopping season ever closer to “G-Day” – or “Gift Day.”

In the United States alone, retail ecommerce sales are projected to exceed $600 billion by 2019, up from $342.96 billion in 2015. But here’s the challenge: By promising free, hyper-speed delivery even during the highest-volume shopping periods, retailers up their risk of disappointing, frustrating and, inevitably, losing valuable customers. That’s why it’s more urgent than ever that brands stand out in the vast online marketplace, especially during sales-critical November and December.

How? By proving they understand the consumer experience kicks off the moment someone hits “buy” and it doesn’t end until the new sweater has been shipped, received and successfully worn – or returned. The final step in the process: The consumer shares, both online and in person, glowing reviews about his or her experience.(Let’s call this the “purchase to praise” timeline.) Since “fast and free” is now the low bar on service and delivery, ecommerce leaders must build long-term relationships and deepen customer loyalty by providing streamlined, personalized, relevant and visually appealing communications and support, every step of the way.

Ecommerce leaders must build long-term relationships and deepen customer loyalty by providing streamlined, personalized, relevant and visually appealing communications and support, every step of the way.

Here are three tips for getting the post-purchase experience right for all your customers, especially during the stressful holiday shopping season.

Keep it real – and real-time

Whether a purchase has been made weeks or mere hours before a product is needed, consumers deserve immediate, real-time updates and information about the status of their delivery. If something goes wrong along the way – and during the holiday crunch time, it happens – an informed customer will always be happier than one who gets a last-minute unpleasant surprise.

Keep it short – and simple

The adage, “Get in, get out and get on with it” needs an update for today’s ecommerce consumers: “Get online, get offline, get on with it.” This sentiment is especially true during the busy holidays. That’s why retailers must respect consumers’ limited time for poring over repeated or redundant emails. Case in point: Two-thirds of U.S. Internet users who receive a total of five or more emails from retailers each week feel they are being inundated. When consumers get a total of five or fewer weekly emails, only 21% say their inbox is too cluttered. In comparison, at least when it comes to loyalty programs, research shows consumers prefer SMS notifications because they are short and sweet, and they don’t disappear in an endless email morass.

If something goes wrong along the way, an informed customer will always be happier than one who gets a last-minute unpleasant surprise.

Keep it pretty – and personal

Generic grey emails are easy to overlook or ignore. It pays to make every communication with your customer both useful and aesthetically pleasing. When consumers look forward to their next communication from, or interaction with, a business – be it about a service offering, product tip, delivery update or return – retailers are one step closer to securing a long-term, loyal relationship. Know what information customers need and then brand it in a way they’ll remember and enjoy.

A final thought: Why not think of every step of the post-purchase experience as a chance to give your customers a beautiful, branded, engaging gift that’s useful and personalized to boot? That’s a gift well worth giving.

We’d love to hear how you approach improving the post-purchase experience and customer communications, or if you’ve been inspired by great examples out in the wild – hit us on Twitter @narvarinc.

Willow Older is a professional writer and editor based in the Bay Area. She is a semi-professional consumer who firmly believes a "lifetime warranty" really should last a lifetime.