Your purchase journey is critical to your eCommerce success; it dictates how consumers perceive your brand and products while they’re deciding to make a purchase. However, the post-purchase experience can last much longer than a full purchase journey.
With buyer expectations quickly rising, it’s no longer enough to just focus on customer acquisition. Beyond SEO, social media, and advertising, merchants must start optimizing their post-purchase experience to stand out.
What’s included in the post-purchase experience?
The post-purchase experience refers to everything that happens after a consumer hits “buy.” It includes confirmation emails, shipping speed, delivery, packaging, the quality of your items, ease of returns, post-purchase support, and more.
Here’s a quick list to cover.
- Order confirmation — Emails, SMS, in-app notifications confirming the order has been placed.
- Delivery experience — Providing tracking numbers, shipping speed, what condition the items arrive in.
- Unboxing — Opening the package, reading through inserts, and the first look at the items.
- Using the product — Item quality and ease of use.
- Contacting customer service — Multiple contact channels, professional responses, quick resolutions.
- Returns and complaints — Straightforward returns and complaints resolved.
- Leaving a review — How easy is it to leave reviews?
Many sellers put the bulk of their focus on getting the sale, but what happens after the sale is what gets reviews and builds your brand.
The importance of the post-purchase experience
What happens when you ace your post-purchase experience? Quite a lot, actually.
- You can delight your buyers with fast shipping. Delivering on time or more quickly than expected leaves a good impression.
- With good customer education, you can reduce the amount of support tickets. For example, you can add an insert explaining how to use their new items.
- Customers decide whether to keep or return their purchase. If you deliver on your item promises, happy customers mean fewer returns.
- Customers decide whether to purchase again, which they will likely do if they are pleased with their experience. People tend to remember their last impression of a brand, which is what your post-purchase experience is.
Let’s take a closer look at each of those items.
Your post-purchase experience can differentiate your brand from your competitors, resulting in more conversions in the future. It creates a flywheel effect of more happy customers, who spread your brand through word-of-mouth and leave 5-star reviews. Those reviews and referrals result in more customers, and help to push shoppers on-the-edge to purchase.
Reduce questions and complaints
The larger your customer base, the more comments, complaints, and compliments you can expect. A seamless post-purchase experience will help you scale without putting too large of a strain on your support team.
For example, if you send out tracking numbers immediately after a purchase, you’ll get fewer queries asking where their orders are. By anticipating and addressing questions in advance, you can delight your customers and keep them informed at all times.
Almost 40% of shoppers won’t return to a brand after a bad delivery experience. The delivery experience directly affects your retention rates and customer lifetime value.
On the plus side, a good post-purchase and delivery experience can help you boost your retention by delighting them with fast shipping.
Returns cost everyone time, money, and often reputation. Some of the most common reasons for returns are shipping the wrong item, damaged or defective goods, or shipping took too long and the item is no longer needed.
A good post-purchase experience resolves those issues. It involves delivering items in good shape, picking the right item in the first place, and shipping quickly — all of which means a lower chance of returns.
Your post-purchase experience contributes to your customer retention, boosts loyalty and CLV, and can land you 5-star reviews to boost your brand. Here’s how to optimize it.
How to use your post-purchase experience to generate 5-star reviews
Fortunately for you, achieving an excellent post-purchase experience isn’t difficult when you approach it strategically. Here’s a few things you should prioritize.
1) Ensure quality products
The first step to happy customers starts at the very beginning of your product’s lifecycle. Ensure you’re starting with a high-quality item in the first place. This may seem like a basic step, but it serves as the foundation of your post-purchase experience — whether you can deliver what you promised in the first place.
2) Use the appropriate dunnage
In addition to your item, you should use the appropriate dunnage for your item. If you have glass materials, you’ll want to invest in bubble wrap or more sustainable paper packaging. The goal here is to ensure your products don’t get damaged in transit.
Damaged goods create a poor buyer experience, takes up the bandwidth of your support team, often necessitates a replacement being sent, and leaves a poor impression on the buyer. All of this costs time, money, and goodwill.
The right dunnage should be protective, branded, and keep your items anonymous (for example, you don’t want to broadcast a PS5 being sent, or it’s likely to be taken from a doorstep).
3) Offer multiple shipping options
A great precursor to a good post-purchase experience is allowing your customers to select what that looks like. Are they willing to pay more for faster delivery, or do they value affordability first and foremost?
By providing different shipping options, you help to set expectations around the timing of delivery, helping to enhance the customer experience.
Tip: You may want to offer higher shipping tiers as a loyalty reward or special gift for your returning customers. Bonuses like free 2-day delivery for all orders above $X can boost cart order values, or free delivery for all club members can boost rewards program participation and customer loyalty.
4) Ensure fast and on-time delivery
Delivering items quickly and on time is critical for your customer experience. Metapack found that 67% of shoppers care about convenience, and 37% won’t return to a retailer following a poor delivery experience.
A good delivery experience means:
- Last minute shoppers get their items in time
- Impatient shoppers get their products as quickly as possible
Late deliveries are disappointing, which can result in negative reviews. For example, if an item is ordered as a gift but arrives late, you may miss a special event.
5) Share tracking information
Next, you’ll want to provide tracking information so customers know when to expect their items. Accurate delivery estimates help customers plan around when they need to receive their goods, and keeps them informed about where their package is.
This also prevents customer support queries asking “where is my package?” and “how soon can I expect it?”
6) Keep your buyers informed
When things go wrong, your first defense is communication. If an item will be late, inform your customer right away and offer a special reward for compensation.
Here are just a few post-purchase communications you should schedule out:
- Immediately after purchase: Thank your customers for their purchase and show your appreciation. Send tracking numbers and additional information about what to expect.
- Upon delivery: Send a notification to let them know their item has been marked as delivered. Provide more guidelines around how to use your product and common questions (user manuals, PDF guides, YouTube videos).
- A few days after delivery: Follow-up asking how they find the product. Provide an avenue to contact customer support if there are any problems. Upon a positive response, automate a request to leave a review.
- Weeks after delivery: Boost customer retention by sending similar product offers, a discount code on their next purchase, or an invitation to join your loyalty program.
- Replenishment reminder: If you sell items that run out (such as food or skincare), offer your subscription service or send an email reminder when it’s time to replenish.
Tip: If you donate a portion of your profits, let your buyers know how their purchase made a difference.
7) Offer seamless returns
Unfortunately, returns are unavoidable in eCommerce, even more so than with retail purchases because customers cannot see, touch, and try on the items before purchase. However, those returns are a pain for your customers, too.
Making returns easy and hassle-free can go a long way in providing a good post-purchase experience, and can even alleviate any worries about ordering from you again. Maybe it wasn’t the right fit, but if you provide an easy returns process you lower the difficulty associated with buying items from you that may not turn out just so.
Your return policy should be prominently displayed on your website and provide a generous window to give customers time to test out their items. You should also provide free postage for returns and offer either a refund or store credit.
A clear and straightforward returns policy helps encourage conversions and optimize your post-purchase experience.
8) Make it easy to leave reviews
Reviews provide social proof for your potential customers, but they also help to boost your post-purchase experience. Why? Asking for feedback shows that you take your customers’ opinions into consideration, and that you’re always looking to improve your service for them.
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by offering different platforms. For example, a feedback form on your website, a specialized review platform, or asking customers to tag you on social media with their feedback. You can even incentivize social shares with prizes and raffles.
Tip: Negative reviews can be just as useful to your business as positive ones. They provide insight into what you should improve on, while giving you a chance to respond and alleviate any concerns publicly.
9) Invest in customer support
Omni-channel customer support contributes to closing deals, but it also contributes to a spectacular post-purchase experience. You should provide multiple avenues for customers to contact your team, including email, SMS, instant messaging like Whatsapp or Viber, social media, and more.
In addition, you should ensure that your customer support responses are quick, professional, and helpful. Even if there was a problem, a stellar support team can salvage the relationship and even save a sale (for example, if a customer didn’t know how to use the product, or was confused about a charge).
10) Stay in touch
Your post-purchase experience shouldn’t wrap up your customer journey, but extend it to welcome new lifetime customers.
Consider using various communication channels to stay in touch and engage with your buyers even after the sale. This is great for creating user-generated content, finding reviews you can add to your marketing materials, and growing your brand.
Social media, loyalty programs, and email newsletters are all avenues to show your appreciation and keep your customers updated about your new products and specials.
Wrapping up — The importance of your post-purchase experience
A great post-purchase buyer experience makes for happy customers, fewer complaints and returns, more referrals, and better reviews.
Instead of focusing all of your efforts on acquisition, think about how you can retain customers after they enter their credit card details. This will help set your brand apart, keep you top of mind when your customers want to re-order, and stay competitive in the increasingly crowded eCommerce space.