In The Next E-Comm Evolution, Brands Go Beyond the Buy

Retailers invest billions in getting customers to click buy, yet they don't always engage customers at the critical moment after they make a purchase and before the package is delivered. This creates a customer experience gap, as well as an opportunity for savvy retailers to differentiate themselves by continuously engaging customers from browsing to buying and beyond.As customers have an increasing number of retailers to choose from, their expectations are growing. They want more than simply receiving a package fast and free. They want — and expect — a personalized, memorable experience. And it's the experience that they'll remember, not the product.

By 2020, customer experience will dominate as the key brand differentiator, more than either price or product.

To stand out in the competitive climate, retailers need to focus on the post-purchase experience with the same dedication that they give to customer acquisition. When retailers make the shopping experience easy and personalized, customers associate satisfaction with the retailers and keep coming back.

Visibility is the name of the game

Customers want — and expect — to have visibility and control over how, when or where they receive their deliveries every time they purchase a product or service. And today's retailers can tap into these expectations. They need to empower customers with personalized information and point-by-point status updates about their order.For example, when a customer orders a new pair of jeans online, she should be able to get help with the tap of a button and customize the delivery destination without calling customer service. She should receive proactive updates on when those jeans will arrive, and potentially have the option to view accessories that pair well with her purchase. When retailers give customers this level of visibility and attention, they show the customers they care.

Personalized delivery moves the needle

The "fast and free" shipping model pioneered by Amazon a decade ago is no longer enough in creating a great post-purchase experience. But if the entire experience of ordering the product, choosing the shipping method, receiving the product and providing post-purchase feedback isn't enjoyable, then customers won't even care about the speedy one-hour delivery. For retailers, it's time to consider how to add to a customer's experience throughout the delivery process by sending personalized notifications and delightful moments that go beyond customers' expectations.

Deliveries available anywhere and anytime

If customers don't want to deal with long lines in the grocery store Sunday night, they can arrange for Instacart to deliver food straight from the store of their choice. If they don't have time to walk up and down the aisles of Target, they can arrange for curbside pickup. Customers are attuned to customizing how they receive their purchases.

Nearly half of online shoppers said being able to provide special delivery instructions, for example to drop the package behind the gate or leave it with a neighbor, is an important part of the shipping experience.

Retailers can surpass customers' expectations by continuously innovating. For instance, retailers may go beyond special instructions and curbside delivery in the future by expanding the delivery network to include popular destinations on customers' daily routes. Instead of coordinating his delivery for when he'll be home from work, a customer can tell the retailer he'd like to have his new watch delivered to the same place he's grabbing a coffee. Retailers will form partnerships with local businesses where the delivery address is anywhere the customer wants.

Last-mile delivery services are retailers' new best friends

As retailers experiment with new delivery models, they're evaluating diverse carrier networks, such as Postmates and traditional carriers such as UPS and FedEx. The state of inventory is expanding, and retailers need to evaluate if strategic partnerships with final-mile delivery services could be the key to taking the customer experience to the next level.Closing the customer experience gap is the next competitive battleground for retailers. Speedy delivery with a broken customer experience will no longer cut it. Retailers need to prove to customers that they deserve their loyalty by showing they care about every step of their shopping journey all the way through delivery and beyond.We’d love to hear how you approach improving the post-purchase experience to meet evolving customer expectations, or if you’ve been inspired by great examples out in the wild - hit us on Twitter @narvarinc.This article originally appeared in Apparel Magazine

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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