Post-purchase is where brand loyalty lives or dies. For retailers to win the hearts of online shoppers, they have to nail communication, logistics, and—where applicable—returns.
Customers’ standards for excellence for each of those categories are constantly evolving. Five years ago, it may have been sufficient to offer free shipping and returns. Today, customers want more actionable data about where their orders are in the fulfillment process, more eco-friendly packaging, and a stable of return options and perks. In this article, we’ll review what loyalty-building communication, logistics, and returns look like in modern ecommerce.
The post-purchase period is when customers’ engagement with a retailer is at its peak. They’ve spent the money, they’re experiencing the dopamine release, and they’re looking forward to receiving their items. The customer is willing to engage with the retailer more during this time than during any other phase of the journey. Package tracking emails, for example, carry an open rate of approximately 70%.
At the very moment in which customer sentiment and favorability toward the retailer has peaked, sellers need to respond with meaningful post-purchase experiences. These surprise and delight moments—whether born from communication or attractive shipping materials—are the last guaranteed opportunity to shape the customer’s opinion.
The most important piece of information a retailer can share with a customer during the post purchase period is when the package will arrive: 60% of customers say they will buy from a retailer that can provide an exact delivery date, and 83% expect regular communication about their orders.
“Exact” dates are subject to external forces. Mistakes happen. Storms cause delays. Packages get destroyed in transit. When delays—or even early arrivals—become apparent, the retailer must share that information with the customer. Those updates should come through the customer’s preferred channel of communication, (e.g. email, text message, or push notification), and connect the customer to updates on a branded tracking page.
Instead of outsourcing the tracking to third-party couriers who know nothing about the retailer’s brand or their customers, tracking pages are a clearinghouse of information that align with the retailer’s overall aesthetic and messaging. And they’re popular with customers: Branded tracking pages see 3.2x the engagement of a typical marketing email, and convert at 1.5x the rate of regular site traffic..
Tracking and delivery variance notifications remain top priorities, but post-purchase communication can also be viewed as a way to set customers up for success, regardless of what their next step will be. It can:
Instead of viewing post-purchase communication as the final steps in a completed transaction, retailers should think of it as the initial marketing for a subsequent purchase. If customers like what they hear, they’ll stick around.
According to a NielsenIQ study, 78% of US consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them—and it’s more than lip service. A McKinsey report found that products making environmental, social, and governance (ESG) claims averaged 28% cumulative growth over the past five-year period, versus 20% for products that didn’t make ESG claims. Consumers are shifting their attention—and their wallets—toward products and companies with ESG-related values.
Two of the most impactful ways that retailers can tout their ESG bona fides is through logistics and packaging.
Most major retailers today utilize a diversified network of warehouses to handle fulfillment more efficiently and sustainably. By implementing strategies like distribution hubs, return partner networks, boxless returns, BOPIS and BORIS, and consolidated returns, retailers can reduce packaging waste and the number of trucks on the road.
Another smart way to reduce carbon emissions in retail is to simply ask how quickly the customer needs the item, and incentivize customers to accept the slower shipping option. Amazon famously does this by giving its Prime customers a choice between fastest shipping, the customer’s Amazon Day, or deferred shipping with a digital content credit for the customer.
With each eco-friendly option, it’s important to address the reason the retailer is asking the customer to consider the slower class of service and highlight the positive impact that action can have on the planet.
It may be what’s inside that counts, but packaging is an extension of the brand experience. In ecommerce, packaging should be beautiful, delightful to touch, and as eco-friendly as possible. Fortunately, there are options beyond massive amounts of plastic waste to convey parcels from Point A to Point B.
Lumi, a Narvar platform, helps direct-to-consumer (D2C) retailers showcase their brand, reduce waste and improve operational efficiency with branded boxes and mailers. Given that 70% of D2C expenses — fulfillment, shipping, and returns — are influenced by packaging, the savings and environmental impact from sourcing through alternative packaging channels can be significant.
For retailers opting for packaging that has a lower environmental impact, it’s important to communicate those details. Statements on packaging that explain that the box or mailer is made from recycled materials, recyclable, or reused can make environmentally-conscious shoppers feel more comfortable about future orders with that retailer.
The best returns policy is one that allows the customer to decide when, where, and how they complete their returns. Customers want ease and choice: 96% say they would make a repeat purchase with a retailer that offers easy returns, and 50% want to utilize a return drop-off network. They also want clarity: More than 60% of online shoppers make buying decisions based on a retailer’s return policies, so retailers should be publishing a one-line version of their return policy in their top navigation, (i.e. “Free returns for 30 days”).
But retailers don’t have to adopt a one-size-fits-all return policy.
While easily-completed returns are table stakes at this point, retailers can reserve their more generous return perks for their most valuable customers. VIP perks can include practices like:
By adding features such as home pickup, partner networks, lockers, VIP perks, and BORIS to their returns policies, retailers can cultivate a customer who’s more likely to keep spending. Moreover, it allows them to restock and resell products faster, delivering an additional boost to the bottom line.
As retailers fight to win and keep customers, they have tools beyond price and product at their disposal. Post-purchase communication, sustainability, and seamless returns go a long way in boosting customers’ opinions. Want to learn how to leverage all three and keep customers coming back? Schedule a free demo today.
Amit is the mastermind behind Narvar and its CEO, drawing from 18 years of experience shaping business operations at companies like Apple and Walmart.