How to make the most of the post-purchase window

By Julia Henry

"The customer journey doesn’t end when a shopper checks out of your online shop after purchasing. The post-purchase phase holds a treasure trove of opportunities to engage with customers that many retailers fail to take advantage of."

Although long regarded as the least exciting part of the online retail process, the delivery phase is actually a vital element of the customer journey. In fact, some might say it’s the most important. After all, if it fails, the customer doesn’t get their new, shiny purchase, and the retailer has to refund their money.

Meanwhile, if the item arrives late, or is delivered to the wrong place, then the customer is left frustrated and inconvenienced. Either way they are not happy. This dissatisfaction will not be directed at the logistics company, but towards the brand or retailer they purchased from.

This means the post-purchase phase could be make-or-break in terms of whether a customer comes back for more. Especially when you consider that 86% of online shoppers say a bad experience affects their view of a retailer – and not getting something you paid for when you’ve been promised it certainly fits into that category.

Finding the right logistics partner

When ensuring the best possible post-purchase experience for your customers, the first stage is to choose your logistics partner carefully. Finding the right one is the cornerstone of the whole process. Carry out thorough research, narrowing the selection down to two or three who you think offer the right blend of value and experience. Then ask if you can contact their ecommerce clients to ensure they are happy with the service they are getting.

It’s also important to find a logistics partner that is able to offer you ideally real time information of the status of each delivery. To do this, they will need to provide you with your own track and trace data for each order, so that your customers can be kept informed of the progress of the goods they’ve purchased.

Finding a logistics partner who can capably, and independently, represent your brand allows you to concentrate on the revenue stream: that is, the post-purchase marketing.

Shaking hands

Taking control

Most online retailers these days understand the importance of keeping their customers up to date on the progress of their orders. This means that many share parcel tracking details that inform customers by email once their order has been dispatched, and when it’s due to arrive, including a link to monitor its progress. This is all vital information, as it reassures customers that their order is on its way. It can also reduce the frustration if there is a delay, because at least the customer can check progress and will still get an ETA, even if it’s later than originally promised.

The problem with a lot of track and trace, however, is that the customer has to go online to check progress themselves. Furthermore, those retailers that provide email updates usually have them managed by their logistics company rather than overseeing this themselves. Now you may think that’s a smart move, as they are logistics experts. That’s correct, but they are not necessarily communications experts – particularly when it comes to your brand.

This means it’s better to let your delivery partner do what they do best: deliveries, and take ownership of post-purchase communications yourself. This gives you flexibility over what you say, how you say it and how frequently to want to communicate. It’s one of the few opportunities you get to directly communicate with all your customers, so it pays to be in full control.

Ready for collection message

Getting personal

Post-purchase is not simply a communications channel, but also a FREE marketing channel. Not only is it free, it’s also highly effective. When you consider that track and trace emails achieve 70-80% opening rates, it becomes clear just how engaged customers are at this part of the purchase journey. And, therefore, why it makes sense to use it for more than just track and trace. Unfortunately, that’s currently where post-purchase communication stops for most retailers.

It’s no secret that customer experience is a big buzzword in retail right now. However, when research shows that 87% of customers believe brands need to put more effort into getting it right, improving it becomes an economic imperative. The post-purchase phase is a crucial part of the customer experience. In fact, so engaged are customers during this period that it’s an opportunity for you to show that you can go the extra mile and really build trust and loyalty.

Taking control of post-purchase communication immediately enables you to properly brand each message you send to your customers, and make sure they are written in the right tone. This raises awareness of your brand and its values, with every message you send reinforcing this.

This also enables you to show each customer personally how much you care and value their custom by guiding each one by the hand through the shipping process, being there for them when they need you. Plus, you can monitor each delivery more closely, so that you can pre-empt any problems and ideally inform customers before they contact you. This proactive approach not only saves your customer service team time and effort, but also impresses and calms your customers. And you can do all this in the voice and style of your brand.

Laptop emailing

Beyond track and trace

The great thing is that this is just the start when it comes to adding value to the customer post purchase. As well as sending key delivery updates, you can also share useful advice and information related to the item that has been purchased. This is where you can really get creative. For example, you could send a link to a video tutorial on how to build the product or a guide on how to use it and get the most from it.

This really helps to build loyalty, but don’t stop there. You can also use post-purchase communication to increase sales by sending out recommendations for related products. For example, if the customer has bought a dress, you can share details of complementary accessories, shoes and more. With respect to furniture, you could suggest chairs that match a purchased table, inspiring further sales.

You can also share relevant offers and even make them exclusive to post-purchase customers to reward response. There’s also a good chance that you will already have prepared a lot of this content, from video ‘how to’ guides to recommendations, for your online store or marketing emails, so it’s likely to require little or no extra effort on your behalf.

It’s also possible to build trust among your customers and reassure first-time purchasers using post-purchase emails to ask customers to review your products and service. Post purchase is the best time to do this because you can catch customers in the best frame of mind, when they’ve just opened a recently delivered parcel. Carefully monitor the shipping process, and a few minutes after the delivery has been made, get in contact in the customer’s preferred way – say text or email – to inquire whether everything is in order and ask for a review of the service and product.

You can refine it further by sending a message only when the customer themselves have signed for the parcel, as you then know they are likely to be opening it soon after. You could also include a ‘Rate Shop’ button in all your post purchase emails as a subtle, but continuous, prompt.

How to video message

Driving retention and sales

It’s important not to over-exploit this channel by bombarding customers with marketing messages and ensuring everything you send is relevant and, therefore, adds value. Segmenting your customer data can help as it allows you to tailor your communications to suit the preferences of individual shoppers.

For example, someone who has opted in to receive marketing communications from you would receive different messages to a customer who had said they don’t want you to send them emails. This can include which channel customers prefer to receive the different messages through – email, Twitter, etc.

By going beyond track and trace, and carefully handling communications through what is a new and exciting channel for many retailers, research shows that 70% of customers return to your website. More importantly, 0.5 to 1% will make another purchase immediately – that’s one in 100-200 returning customers. So post-purchase can be highly effective at not only driving trust and loyalty, but also in retaining customers and driving new sales.

Julia Henry, Post-Purchase Manager, parcelLab

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