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How Do You Evaluate Post-Purchase Software?

In the world of ecommerce, post-purchase platforms are one component of the technology stack that merchants don’t always know how to evaluate. But understanding how to evaluate different post-purchase solutions is vital given the right order tracking or returns experience can make or break how loyal shoppers (especially first-time shoppers) will be to your brand in the future. Therefore, learning how you evaluate post-purchase solutions is imperative to selecting the best option available.

In this article, you’ll discover what you need to consider when shopping for post-purchase platforms, and how you can leverage the right solution to increase lifetime value, maximize sales, and grow revenue. 

What is post-purchase?

In ecommerce, post-purchase refers to what happens after a shopper clicks the buy button and completes their checkout. It is a catch-all term that covers a variety of experiences:

  • Order packing
  • Order tracking
  • Shipping
  • Drop-off
  • Returns
  • Exchanges
  • And more

Done properly, post-purchase cultivates a bond with customers, making them want to come back and shop at your brand instead of your competitors. 

What does post-purchase customer experience software do?

First and foremost, post-purchase customer experience software is what enables a brand or retailer to provide shoppers with everything they need after checkout:

  • Real-time order updates
  • Delivery tracking details
  • Personalized notifications
  • Online returns access
  • Easy returns and exchanges

That being said, post-purchase customer experience software can also include pre-purchase features and functionality that improve the checkout flow and increase sales, such as the incorporation of precise estimated delivery dates on a product detail page. 

What is the main goal with any post-purchase software?

The main goal with any post-purchase software is to keep shoppers engaged and informed throughout the entire order fulfillment journey. Shoppers should always know where their order is, if any delays are expected, and how they can make the most out of their purchase.

How do you evaluate post-purchase customer experience software?

When evaluating a post-purchase customer experience solution, you need to focus on measurable cost savings before anything else. To that end, you need to ask how much can this solution automate for my brand? At a minimum, any post-purchase solution worthy of your time and money should:

  • Eliminate “Where is my order?” questions

Providing customers with automatic, accurate updates regarding the delivery status of their order is a core feature of any post-purchase platform. These updates should be generated using a variety of inputs, from average pick time at your distribution center, to delivery distance, to real-time weather and traffic conditions.

The more accurate and consistent these order updates are, the less likely your customer service team is to waste its time, energy, and resources answering the unnecessary question: Where is my order? 

  • Provide real-time visibility

The right platform will allow you to unlock real-time visibility into your logistics network so you can capitalize on predictive delay intelligence to improve fulfillment performance and drive repeat purchases.

In plainspeak, you should be able to obtain a drilled-down view into every order’s journey from cart to door, so you can provide predictive delay alerts on shipments at risk of missing their estimated delivery date.

  • Allow for effortless returns

The best post-purchase customer experience software makes it easy for shoppers to initiate and manage their returns via an online portal.

From dynamic return label generation; to scheduling a return drop-off (or home pickup); to receiving confirmation of return acceptance and refund issuance; to offering gift cards and store credit. When your solution can do all of these things, it cuts down on inquiries to your service center and improves customer satisfaction, leading to greater loyalty and long-term revenue. 

  • Encourage return policy compliance

Any post-purchase customer experience software worthy of your consideration should stop shoppers from returning ineligible items (e.g., final sale purchases,  products outside of the return window, etc.). If you carry products where returns are rarely resold and generally

thrown away (e.g., meal kits, cosmetics, etc.), your solution should notify the customer to keep the item automatically, allowing you to avoid return shipping, processing, and disposal fees. 

  • Offer smart return processing

Smart return processing is all about offering your customers a more personalized and efficient returns experience by tapping into the combined power of machine learning and automation. Doing so increases loyalty while both reducing operational costs and the risk of any negative reviews or complaints from shoppers. 

Look for software that makes the issuance of gift cards and store credit (in lieu of true refunds) seamless. Something that allows you to offer dynamic label generation for eligible items, reducing your operating expenses and helping the environment by saving paper and ink. 

What questions should you ask before buying a post-purchase customer experience platform?

As you can tell at this point, post-purchase software is critical for brands and retailers looking to cement loyalty and grow revenue by giving their online shoppers the best customer experience imaginable.

Having said that, choosing which platform is right for your brand isn’t black and white—there are several considerations to weigh and a multitude of questions to ask, especially when you step back and examine the evaluation process through the lens of your different internal stakeholders.

For example…

Your Director of Ecommerce wants to know:

  • How are customers going to interact with order notification emails? 
  • What’s possible in the way of personalization within the returns experience? 
  • Can promotional creative be layered into order tracking pages to let customers know about exciting new products? 

Your Head of Logistics is curious to see:

  • How this post-purchase customer experience software reshapes fulfillment?
  • Whether or not integrations with carriers and 3PLs will work?
  • If return timelines and inventory levels will change?

And don’t forget your CFO who needs to understand:

  • What kind of ROI will be generated from this investment?
  • Where will this software help us retain or recapture revenue?
  • How can an investment in post-purchase customer experience software lower operating expenses?

Ultimately, the post-purchase experience platform you decide to invest in must accommodate the needs of these and other stakeholders without requiring a long list of costly customizations.

Given that most post-purchase software is point-solution focused (e.g., Loop Returns, Happy Returns, Wonderment, etc.) this will not be easy to do. There are only a handful of solutions capable of providing true, end-to-end post-purchase coverage. 

Aside from stakeholder-specific questions, there are some broad questions you should float during your post-purchase customer experience software evaluation process.

How adaptable is the software?

Split shipments. International boundaries. Different languages. Carrier updates. Inclimate weather. These are just a small few of the variables that can disrupt the online shopping and fulfillment experience. 

So, before choosing a solution, you need to think about how complex your ecommerce business is. When you do, ask yourself how that complexity can be accommodated by the different post-purchase solutions you’re considering—is the software going to be as robust and adaptable as you need it to be?

It is worth mentioning that adaptability extends beyond integrations. It also relates to how well a piece of software can evolve and scale with your business as well as the entire ecommerce landscape.

As things change (and they most certainly will) how is the provider of your preferred post-purchase solution going to adjust to shifting trends, expectations, and requirements?

What do the integrations look like?

No vibrant ecommerce business can exist in today’s market without a sophisticated tech stack—there’s just no other way to meet the needs of the modern online shopper. That being said, when you’re shopping for post-purchase experience software, you’re not shopping for another wrench to toss into your digital toolbox. What you’re shopping for is more like a handyman—someone who can take advantage of all the tools you’ve already invested in.

With that in mind, ask yourself how well a given post-purchase solution will enhance your existing tech stack? Moreover, how will that solution help you take your ecommerce environment and experience to the next level? 

How does this software benefit the customer?

What makes the post-purchase experience unique from all other elements of the customer experience is that the shopper is taking a leap of faith on your brand. Not only are they trusting that your product will perform as advertised, but they’re trusting you to deliver that product across tens, or hundreds, or thousands of miles to their home.

It’s not like traditional retail where the customer and merchant conduct a transaction (money for merchandise) in real-time—in ecommerce, the customer forks over the money long before they receive whatever it is they’re paying for. 

Given the stakes, you need to do more than follow up on your promise as a retailer—you need to give your shoppers an experience worthy of the faith they’re placing in your brand. That means…

  • Sending real-time notifications regarding any and all order updates. 
  • Putting your products in packaging that reflects the quality and scope of your brand
  • Following up with the customer after delivery to ensure the product is meeting their expectations. 
  • Making it easy for the customer to not only return a purchase, but conduct an exchange or receive their refund in an alternate format (e.g., a gift card or store credit).

Fail to do any of these things and you’ll leave your customer feeling somewhere between disappointed, frustrated, and angry. 

This is why it’s important to think about how each post-purchase customer experience software you’re evaluating will benefit the customer—it’s not enough to think about how the solutions will help you cut costs or grow revenue. You need to be able to give people the personalized, contextual experiences they want, and not many post-purchase platforms can do that. 

What is the support and service like?

Features and functions are nice.

But features and functions paired with exceptional service and support?—That’s what really moves the needle long-term. 

While features can be commoditized, the breadth and depth of the support structure behind the features cannot.

Most if not all of the post-purchase customer experience software solutions you look at will offer a lot of the same functionality—but only the best will come with the customer support you should expect when you spend thousands and thousands of dollars to improve your business. 

Put another way, when you pick a post-purchase software platform, what you’re really picking is a partner. Someone who will stand by your side for the long-haul and do whatever it takes to ensure your success. 

What about building a custom post-purchase platform?

Maybe—but only if you’re in a unique situation. Before going too far down the rabbit hole, ask yourself:

  • Which member of your engineering team is going to take time out of their already-busy schedule to build this platform?
  • What’s the opportunity and material cost to build the platform?
  • After it's built, who's going to take the time to maintain it?

From a technical standpoint, there are major roadblocks to consider. For example, how are you going to surface clear estimated delivery dates for your product detail, checkout, and tracking pages?

How are you going to handle all the carrier and third-party logistics integrations? Are you set up to keep pace with constantly changing carrier APIs? 

When you start answering these and other questions, you’ll realize that building a custom post-purchase platform is a serious endeavor. One that requires a lot of manpower, money, and time to do properly.

In closing…

Remember that not all post-purchase software providers are the same.

Some are building point solutions while others are building true, end-to-end post-purchase platforms.

Some are obsessed with commoditizing mediocre features and functions so they can cut their pricing in a never-ending race to the bottom, while others are more vested in exceptional service and impact-generating innovation. 

Some are the embodiment of “what you see is what you get” while others are willing to go above and beyond to ensure the post-purchase solution provided is as custom and adaptable as you need it to be. 

In an environment as competitive as ecommerce, strive for a post-purchase customer experience software provider who does more of the latter and less of the former. Doing so will help your brand deliver the kind of elite post-purchase experience that wins the respect, loyalty, and wallet of your ideal shopper.

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