5 Ways to Thrive in the Post-Purchase Landscape

Marketing drives sales. Post-purchase experience drives retention—and it begins the moment that a customer clicks the “buy” button. From the first order confirmation, to tracking emails, to the return experience, the post-purchase period is an opportunity to cement the customer relationship: A retailer that keeps a customer happy in the first 100 days is likely to keep that customer for five years, and research shows that even a single-point increase in a company’s net promoter score (NPS) can increase acquisition by more than 3%. On the flip side, 32% of customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.

In this article, we’ll focus on five ways retailers can capitalize on the post-purchase period to increase customer loyalty. 

1. Nail post-purchase communication

The biggest factor in the post-purchase success equation is communication. Customers want meaningful updates about their purchases as they become available: 83% expect regular communication about their orders, and 34% want that communication to come in a format other than email, (e.g., text, messenger apps, or even voice-activated devices). 

Customers are particularly tuned in to retailer’s communications while waiting for their orders: Package-tracking emails, alone, have an open-rate hovering around 70%.

Today’s standard categories of post-purchase communications include:

  • Branded tracking pages
  • Order confirmation
  • Order cancellation
  • Ready notification
  • Shipping notification
  • Delivery variances
  • Delivery notification
  • Experience feedback requests

To create a fluid, cohesive experience, the best practice in post-purchase communication is to link each communication—whether email, SMS, or push notification—back to a branded tracking portal

That portal operates as the information hub for the order, so the customer always has the most current disposition—even if they access the portal from an older message. (For example, if the customer clicks on the tracking update from the order confirmation notification instead of the shipping notification, they would still be directed to the latest shipping update via the branded tracking page.)

Much like tracking emails, these branded tracking pages have an unusually-high engagement rate. Customers visit Narvar Track pages an average of 3.2 times per order.

While most retailers are hyper-focused on sending information to the customer about their order, receiving feedback is also important. Retailers should be soliciting product ratings and reviews and incentivizing shoppers to leave reviews. 

Studies show that customer reviews can “reduce the risk of mismatch” between a customer’s expectation for the product and reality, and that retailers who include a “star rating” of 3 or higher on product detail pages see more purchases than retailers who don’t include a star rating. 

2. Simplify returns

Smooth returns are a reliable indicator of customer loyalty: 77% of shoppers who have a positive return experience will shop with that retailer again. So what makes for a strong return policy? Time and choice.

Most customers expect at least a 30-day return window. Narvar research shows that 40% of retailers offer a return window of 30 days, and 56% offering a return window that’s 30 to 45 days. There is, however, flexibility in how retailers structure a return window. 

For example, a retailer could offer free return shipping if a return is initiated within 14 days of delivery, or charge return shipping for orders returned up to 30 days after the delivery.

While free returns are nice, customers don’t necessarily expect them and they’re willing to pay for convenience. About 1 out of every 4 shoppers say they are happy to pay for some kind of return convenience, with the most-requested service being scheduled home pickup. 

Shoppers also love third-party drop-off locations—37% say they returned their most recent ecommerce purchase by dropping it off at a third-party (e.g. UPS Store, Kohl’s, etc.). 

Despite the growing popularity of alternative return channels, return-by-mail remains a priority for many shoppers: 55% say that a “no return by mail option” would deter them from shopping with a retailer.

3.  Lean into personalization

Brands that successfully engage their customers are combining real-time customer behaviors, interests, and preferences with customer data to provide a personal shopping experience. 

Personalization can include small touches like referring to the shopper by name in the top navigation of a retailer’s website or app, recommending products, or setting the default currency and promotions to reflect the consumer’s location. More enhanced personalization could include features like surfacing items the customer has previously clicked and lingered upon to the top of the assortment, suppressing items the customer has bought and returned, or prioritizing items that are available in the customer’s predicted size. 

Shoppers want these personalized elements and they expect them to be well-executed: 56% of online shoppers are more likely to return to a website that recommends products and 63% will stop buying from brands that use poor personalization tactics.

4. Anticipate the customer journey 

If retailers want shoppers to return to their sites repeatedly, they need to create circular experiences that can solve problems and celebrate wins. That starts with mapping customer journeys across all channels.

When identifying where customers are most likely to experience negative outcomes — e.g., late shipments, damaged items, returns or exchanges—retailers can design content or processes to proactively address each problem. 

Many manufacturers of items that require assembly, for example, include a customer service phone number with the assembly instructions, should the customer find that a piece is missing or damaged. Instead of saddling the customer with the hassle of returning or exchanging the item, the manufacturer can expedite shipping of a replacement part. 

By preemptively disseminating that information in confirmation messages and on branded tracking pages, a retailer makes it easier for the customer to find a solution before growing irritated.

For the highlight touchpoints—like an item being delivered or the customer leaving a 5-star review—the retailer can create ways to celebrate. A customer who reviews a product might be rewarded with a discount on a future purchase. 

The retailer could even encourage the customer to make a subsequent purchase sooner by pairing personalized recommendations with a time-sensitive discount. If the customer reviews a recently-purchased luggage set, that could mean sharing personalized suggestions like luggage tags or packing cubes, and offering a discount on a purchase made within the next ten days.

On either count, it’s important to be purposeful, turn negative experiences into opportunities for sincere dialog, and highlight positive outcomes to strengthen the customer relationship.

5. Seize the opportunity for continued engagement

Instead of assuming that customers are aware of the resources they offer, retailers should be targeting customers with that information. That can take on different forms for different types of products:

  • An electronics company could use post-purchase tracking communications as an onboarding engine for new owners—providing content and education on features so customers can easily set up their new purchases—a practice popularized by Sonos
  • An apparel company with a second-hand selling platform, like M.M. LaFleur, can promote seasonal closet refreshes that extend the lifecycle of their products and encourage customers to make additional purchases
  • A furniture retailer with long lead times could circle back with a white-glove delivery offer closer to the delivery date in case the customer wants to upgrade to a higher class of service
  • An apparel retailer could follow up after delivery with a reminder about free standard alterations in case a pair of pants is a touch too long
  • A beauty retailer could send a reminder about makeup packaging recycling timed to coincide with the expected exhaustion date of a product.

 The happiest customers, a.k.a. “promoters” will spend 140% more on a brand than other shoppers. Regardless of the topic or the type of product, it’s critical that retailers invest in better communication about their full range of services and support to keep customers happy. 

The winning customer loyalty formula 

Retailers succeed when customers both like them and choose to spend money with them. Building a base of lifetime customers begins with deepening customer relationships in a way that drives genuine curiosity, interest and engagement. 

Are you ready to level up your customer engagement and revenue? Schedule a demo today and learn how Narvar’s tech-enabled solutions can help you thrive beyond the “buy” button.

Amit Sharma

Amit is the mastermind behind Narvar and its CEO, drawing from 18 years of experience shaping business operations at companies like Apple and Walmart.

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