If you want to increase brand loyalty, you have to remember — the customer experience doesn’t end at checkout. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Every year thousands of retail brands thrive or die based on their ability to retain customers. But the importance of customer retention isn’t always reflected in the time, money, and effort put into keeping customers vs. acquiring them.
Brands need to put just as much effort into ensuring a positive post-purchase experience, which can help keep customers coming back for more and, in the best cases, becoming brand loyal.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70%, while for new customers it’s only between 5-20%.
Ecommerce businesses and other types of sellers must find ways to add value through the post-purchase process long after the initial sale is complete. Go beyond simple customer satisfaction with a stellar shopping experience from start to finish.
This blog post details nine ways companies can own and improve their post-purchase process to create a more memorable experience, nurture brand loyalty, and increase customer retention.
But first, let’s define “post-purchase.”
The post-purchase customer journey encompasses all the touchpoints between your brand and your customer after they click “Purchase.” That can include all of the following and more:
While too many retailers neglect the customer’s post-purchase experience, delivering a positive experience over time even after the customer clicks buy can pay off in dividends.
When your past customers go to make their next purchase decisions, they will remember the experience they had with your business — from brand discovery to product enjoyment and everything in between. Just look at this post-purchase experience that drove word-of-mouth on social:
Let’s face it: Amazon’s constant shopping innovations have caused customer expectations to skyrocket.
Surpassing those expectations in the post-purchase journey will require a coordinated cross-functional effort, encompassing everything from your marketing strategy to logistics and beyond.
“I think the post-purchase experience is the most neglected space in ecommerce.”
— Ryan Garrow, Director of Partnerships and Client Solutions, Logical Position
Initially, optimization of your customer journey for post-purchase may be a heavy lift. But once you’ve got a solid foundation in place, you can automate much of the work and build loyalty in a more hands-off way.
From the time a customer places an order from your online store until they receive and unbox their delivery is fraught with risk you can’t control. That’s why it’s so important to keep customers updated on the progress of their order. A few ways to make the shipping and delivery experience great:
Clear, timely transactional emails. That includes order confirmation emails and order status updates, all clearly marked with an up-to-the-minute delivery date.
Ability to check their order status. Customers want real-time updates and shipping notifications. This can be as simple as providing a shipping carrier’s tracking number once you ship a customer’s product.
Proactive updates every step of the way. If something happens in transit and a customer’s order will be delayed, it’s better for them to hear it from you. Get ahead of any issues so your customers feel informed, not surprised.
Shipping Protection covers shipping and delivery mishaps, like when products arrive already broken — or never arrive at all.
If a customer’s package is lost, stolen, or damaged in transit, a Shipping Protection plan means they can easily submit a claim and get a new product shipped to them with very little, if any, retailer intervention.
This turns a customer pain point into a positive brand interaction to help merchants safeguard their brand and bottom line.
“Extend Shipping Protection is a crucial part of our efforts to deliver a best-in-class digital experience that drives customer lifetime value and increases brand loyalty.”
— Ali Oner, CEO, Boutique Rugs.
When customers need support, they want the past to getting it to be as frictionless as possible. That’s why delivering omnichannel customer care, across a variety of synchronous and asynchronous communications channels, is more important than ever.
Deliver support on the channels your customers use the most. Some of the most popular channels for customer support today include:
It’s also ideal for reps to be able to easily and seamlessly switch between the communications channels that work best for their customer interactions.
Give reps appropriate context. Your service representatives should be able to reference full customer transaction and communication history so they can personalize their conversations and customers don’t have to repeat their issues or details multiple times.
Empower reps to make things right. One of the most annoying things to customers is when service operators don’t have the power to solve their problems right away. Businesses should do their best to ensure customer service issues are resolved in as few touches as possible.
In a recent newsletter issue, Eli Weiss of Jones Road Beauty asked Ellie Benner of Away Travel about her customer experience philosophy:
“We know that every customer and every situation is unique — some customers are the type who find it easiest to hop on live chat, and others want to get on a call, and everything in between.
“We want to resolve our customer’s questions in the way that works best for them, not just in the way that prioritizes efficiency for us.”
— Ellie Benner, Senior Director of Ecommerce and CX, Away Travel
Subscribe to Eli’s newsletter on CX and retention for more great experience and support content.
Many companies use discounts or freebies to generate sales, but these incentives are even more impactful when used as part of the post-purchase experience.
90% of customers reported they were more likely to repurchase from the same company after receiving a free gift.
Post-purchase gifts are also an excellent way to showcase your other products and services to someone who's already bought into your brand. A few examples:
Package physical gifts, such as a product sample or branded item, in your customer's original order, and experiment with delivering non-tangible offers like discount codes or free trials either in-order or through email.
Online communities help connect customers with your brand long after their initial purchase.
Customers can geek out over their favorite product, share photos, connect with people who have that same interest, and get recommendations for other items they may love. That initial excitement is compounded, and the connection to your brand begins to strengthen.
That's the power an online community provides — a place where customers can engage on a more personal level with your brand and other customers.
Replica Surfaces does a great job of this. They're a smaller company that sells hyper-realistic background surfaces for product photography. While their product is excellent, the real value comes through their online community. Anyone who places an order is immediately invited to join Replica Surfaces' VIP Facebook group, a closed group that's exclusive to customers.
Members can share photos of their surfaces in action, get feedback on ways to improve their photography, and give recommendations on how to pair different surfaces or use them creatively to achieve stunning photographs.
Replica Surfaces leverages its online community to:
It's a symbiotic relationship that demonstrates that online communities — when done right — provide a powerful platform for engaging customers post-purchase, promoting new products, and generating sales through word-of-mouth marketing.
Loyalty or reward programs have long been a tried-and-true method for increasing customer retention. But in a world where everyone is offering some form of loyalty rewards, ecommerce brands face a difficult challenge: standing out from the crowd.
Data from Colloquy's Loyalty Census shows that the average number of loyalty program memberships per U.S. household is a staggering 29. That’s a lot of rewards programs to keep track of, and if you want yours to stand out from the other 28 then you need to create something that’s valuable, memorable, and worth customers’ time.
“When a customer buys something, offer credit to a loyalty account and a bonus $5 off your next purchase if they sign up today.”
— Ryan Garrow, Logical Position
So how can you find ways to cut through the noise and create a rewards program customers want to be part of?
Inject personality into the program. Whether your brand's tone is casual and fun, sleek and refined, or full of swagger, your rewards program should reflect that. Embrace that personality through your email communications and promotional materials to differentiate yourselves and engage customers.
Have a simple system for earning points. Don't make the mistake of over-complicating your points system. Use a simple system for earning points, such as one point earned for every dollar spent.
Offer bonus rewards for engagement-related activities. Getting points for purchases is great, but offering bonus rewards for actions that aren't purely transactional is even better. These could be things like getting a friend to join the rewards program or following your social media pages.
Run members-only sales/discounts. Remind customers of the ongoing benefits of being part of your rewards program by regularly offering special sales or discounts that are exclusive to members. Providing continued value will encourage repeat customers and help you stay top-of-mind.
Include birthday gifts. Adding this simple benefit to your rewards program makes it feel more personal and shows members just how much they're appreciated.
With a stellar rewards program that demonstrates your brand's value and keeps customers engaged, you'll be primed to own the post-purchase experience and nurture loyal customers for years to come.
When customers have to return a product they ordered, that can already point to a potentially disappointing situation. That disappointment turns to frustration if your returns process isn’t hassle-free.
It’s important to make the returns process as easy as possible for your customers. Offering a hassle-free returns policy can increase your customers’ loyalty and make them feel confident in purchasing more products from your store.
76% of consumers shopping at a store for the first time say they’ll shop with a merchant again after a simple returns experience.
Display your returns policy prominently. Lack of a clear returns policy leaves customers confused and less likely to purchase. Policies will commonly be linked in the website’s footer, among other places. Conduct competitive audits to see where other retailers in your industry or targeting a similar demographic are placing returns information on their websites.
Determine fair terms for your policy. The most hassle-free returns processes give the customer ample time to determine if it’s the right product for them, and facilitate the returns and/or exchange process in a way that makes sense for your industry.
Use returns data as feedback. This isn’t necessarily related to your returns policy, but if you’re going to accept returns, you should make them work for you, too. Looking at returns data in aggregate can help you identify areas where consumers may not be getting enough clarity about the products on your site.
And, speaking of feedback...
Even if you think you've perfected your customer experience, there's always room for improvement.
Customer feedback is essential in helping ecommerce companies identify roadblocks to success — whether it's an issue with your website, a breakdown in your shipping process, or a problem with your product. Regularly soliciting feedback from your customers and taking steps to act on that feedback is one of the best ways you can show customers that your brand cares.
The best time to gather this information? During your post-purchase process. Consider the following when soliciting customer feedback:
Request feedback on the shopping experience and your products. Most companies are great about asking for product reviews, but product satisfaction doesn't equate to a positive purchase experience. To truly gauge your customer's satisfaction with your brand, solicit feedback on the entire shopping experience. Ask about things like your website's ease of use or shipping speeds, and find out how likely customers are to purchase from you again or recommend you to others.
Make leaving reviews easy. Your customers shouldn't have to work hard to provide feedback. Make the process simple by sharing direct links to wherever you want them to leave their review — whether it's the product's review page, a section on your site, or even your social media pages.
Act on what you hear. When you don't act on the feedback you collect, you risk damaging the customer relationship. Develop an internal system for reviewing customer feedback on a monthly or quarterly basis, and take steps to implement changes that address common issues and positively impact the customer experience.
Once you know what's not working, you can improve your internal processes for a better customer experience.
Email marketing is a great way to stay top-of-mind with customers and prospects, and it acts as a relationship-building touchpoint post-purchase.
Stats from Klaviyo show that lifecycle communications like post-purchase email campaigns see 90% higher revenue per recipient than emails sent before a purchase.
Here are a few tips for your customer follow up strategy to increase lifetime value:
Treat confirmation emails as branding opportunities. Take the chance to show your customers that you’ll take care of them and stand behind them if anything goes wrong with their purchase.
Include product recommendations in post-purchase emails. Ryan Garrow, quoted earlier in the piece, advises: “Try suggesting additional items that complement the original purchase and offer a discount to add them to the shipment. Post-purchase merchandising is very easy to do — it’s the easiest way to increase AOV, and it’s not intrusive.”
This sentiment was echoed on Twitter recently:
Cross-sell value-added services in addition to products. Value-added services can drive post-purchase revenue while customers on-board. They can also increase confidence in and enjoyment of new products.
Product protection is one value-added service that drives customer loyalty by offering peace of mind and encouraging return visits in the event of a covered claim. (More on that below!)
Don’t stop at email. Depending on your particular brand and industry, a more personal form of communication could increase revenue and lifetime value, as this tweet from DTC growth expert Drew Sanocki:
Product protection plans help eliminate anxiety pre-purchase and post-purchase by ensuring functionality long term.
With a protection plan in place, your customers can rest assured knowing that the $5,000 sectional they just purchased is protected from accidental stains and damage for years down the line — not just for the week after it was purchased.
Here are some things to evaluate when selecting a product protection plan vendor:
Your protection plans should be tailored to the specific needs of your customers. That means picking a protection plan partner with more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Extend offers a variety of customizable options, from traditional protection plans to extended warranties and plans that cover accidental damage.
Protection plans are a huge value-add for ecommerce merchants, but many companies offer limited item coverage. Modern protection plan companies like Extend are breaking the mold, providing protection for millions of products across almost any industry.
"[Legacy protection providers] didn't have any solutions for BlendJet. Extend is more flexible than traditional providers, who are much more rigid with what they can offer."
— Ryan Pamplin, Co-founder and CEO, BlendJet
A lengthy claims processing experience is likely to leave a bad taste in your customers’ mouths and, even worse, could damage their opinion of your brand. Extend's support team works to provide resolutions for your customers faster than legacy vendors. Because we administer our protection plans, we’re able to make decisions around claims processing without third-party delays, turning what could have been a negative experience into a positive one.
"The thing we hear the most is just how easy it is to file a claim with the automated attributes of Kaley. No back and forth emails, no need to call. Today, everyone's looking for self-service and ease of use, so our customers love the experience of filing a claim and knowing it's not this complicated situation where you need to fill out a form and wait to hear back."
— Bobby Shomrony, Vice President of Sales Operations & Strategy, Felix Gray
Whether your site was custom built by a team of developers or set up on a SaaS ecommerce platform like BigCommerce or Shopify, Extend offers robust API options and simple ecommerce platform integrations that make implementation a breeze. Selling product protection plans to your customers has never been easier.
"Once we settled agreements and all the warranty terms and conditions for the technical go-live, we were live within a week. We were pretty impressed."
— Eric He, Marketing Coordinator, Hauslane
By providing peace of mind through modern product protection plans, companies can establish trust with customers after they've made a purchase — building loyalty and increasing the likelihood of retention.
An exceptional post-purchase experience is a gift that keeps on giving, by keeping customers in your ecosystem and building affinity and loyalty. Creating a post-purchase process that adds value and establishes trust goes beyond satisfying customers — it builds relationships that will lead to future ROI.
Don't make the mistake of damaging those valuable relationships by not offering product coverage for your customers.