Customer Loyalty

How to Boost Customer Retention With Post-Purchase Emails

Aaron Sullivan
March 11, 2022
According to Statista, approximately 306 billion emails were sent and received globally in 2020 — per day. They also estimate that only 18% of marketing emails were opened that year.

Figures like these can make a marketer’s heart sink, but there’s a silver lining: email still generated $7.5 billion in global revenue in 2020. And lifecycle communications like post-purchase email campaigns, according to Klaviyo, see 90% higher revenue per recipient than emails sent before a purchase.

Yet many businesses are content to include only automated order information in that first post-purchase email. The reality is they’re missing out on the perfect opportunity to plant the seed for a repeat purchase.

With a highly personalized post-purchase email marketing strategy, you can capitalize on the excitement a customer feels after making a purchase and tailor an experience that fosters loyalty and retention.

1. Map out a customer’s post-purchase experience

By mapping out the post-purchase experience, you can better personalize key touchpoints to boost customer retention. McKinsey reports that 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from companies — and 76% get frustrated when that doesn’t happen.

Email is one of those touchpoints, but relying on the same post-purchase messaging across all communication channels won’t inspire a second or subsequent order from customers. 

Email service providers (ESPs) like Klaviyo let you visually map out post-purchase email flows for a variety of customer segments. Using a drag-and-drop tool, you control which emails a customer receives and at what cadence. For example, the thank-you email sequence below sends different emails to first-time and repeat buyers.

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Image source: Klaviyo’s customer journey flow builder.

After-purchase email flows shouldn’t stop there. New customers will likely need time to use your product before they’ll consider buying again, while existing customers might be more responsive to “harder sells” in the short term. Here are two possible scenarios.

New customers need a stronger affirmation of your brand. Your first post-purchase email could include a link to a welcome video from the founder and a gentle reminder of your shipping and return policies.

Repeat customers are often great candidates for email invitations to join referral or rewards programs.

Pro tip: Personalize your after-purchase email workflow by sending emails as customers complete specific actions, like sending a follow-up email with similar product suggestions if they open the onboarding email you send after the purchase. 

2. Treat your order confirmation email as a branding opportunity

Marketing automation platform Omnisend finds that order confirmation emails have an open rate of around 60%, much higher than the rate of an average marketing email.

With such a perfect opportunity to make a powerful next impression, you must be strategic in your messaging.

Consider your industry, a customer’s lifetime value, and, yes, their emotional needs. Customers want assurance they made the right purchase and that you won’t abandon them if something goes wrong.

Take this transactional email from sustainable footwear retailer Allbirds.

Image Source: Strong brand affirmation in Allbirds’ order confirmation email.

First off, the whimsical branding of the sheep sets the email apart right away. And new customers especially will appreciate the reminder at the end of the email that their purchase was good for the environment. Allbirds also uses three clear icons to show customers how they can get in touch.

Existing customers are probably well aware of Allbirds’ commitment to sustainability, so this section of the email could be better personalized to them. Customers with a lifetime value of $1,000, for example, could receive an invitation to a loyalty program. Those with a lifetime value of $5,000 might appreciate a link to a free one-time appreciation gift.

Pro tip: It’s important to spread your post-purchase communications across several emails (but not too many). Campaign Monitor suggests that the ideal email copy length is between 50 to 125 words.

3. Over-communicate when it comes to shipping

Customer retention is based on trust. If an order is delayed and you don’t tell the customer about it in a timely manner (or at all), you’ve violated that trust. According to Oracle’s Global Customer Experience Trends report, late deliveries compel 13% of customers to switch retailers.

Customers are likely to unsubscribe if you send too many emails, but you have some wiggle room when it comes to shipping confirmation emails. These messages must set clear expectations on arrival times, and they’re also opportunities to empathize with busy or impatient customers.

Late shipments aren’t always the fault of the merchant. For example, a customer might be away when their delivery arrives. Business card retailer MOO anticipates this issue by giving customers the option to reschedule the delivery with the click of a button from a post-purchase email.

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MOO gives buyers the option to rearrange their delivery date.

Companies can allow this level of personalization by syncing their order management software like Shopify with their logistics provider and ESP (e.g., ShipBob and Klaviyo, respectively).

If the supply chain is to blame, you have an opportunity to own the issue and make it right. Pet food retailer Chewy understands this and doesn’t just apologize for a shipping delay. They give the customer a revised delivery time frame.

Pro tip: Customers appreciate “I’m sorry,” but your best customers might need more of an incentive to remain loyal. For that segment, this email could include an “I’m sorry” discount on their next purchase.

Image Source: Chewy clearly communicates shipping delays to customers.

4. Make your purchaser survey a delight to complete

There’s a lot of power in having customer data to help with business decisions and product feedback.

But that said, after-purchase surveys can be tricky because you don’t want to make them too long or send them too often. For the best results, keep them a reasonable length, add an incentive for completion, and be ready to alter future emails based on responses.

Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) surveys are good options because they ask only one question: “How likely are you to recommend [brand name] to a friend?” For the customer, they’re quick and easy to fill out.

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Image Source: Bellroy makes excellent use of a Net Promoter Score® survey.

This example from Bellroy is engaging yet simple, but the accessories brand could have taken it a step farther by adding an open-ended question asking for additional feedback. Zendesk reports that 53% of NPS survey respondents are willing to explain why they gave the NPS rating they did.

To encourage survey responses — and lift the spirits of potentially unhappy customers — you might want to include a giveaway or some other branded incentive. For example, the software company Flywheel incentivizes customers to offer feedback in exchange for free swag.

Image Source: Flywheel encourages survey completions with an incentive.

Pro tip: Take a thoughtful approach with the questions you ask in a purchaser survey, as what you ask and the order of questions can have an impact on a consumer’s feelings toward your brand. 

Here’s an example: Extend sent one set of customers a purchaser survey asking them about the benefits related to their Extend product protection before asking them to submit an NPS score. This resulted in a significantly higher NPS score than in a similar email survey where customers were asked about any issues they were experiencing before asking for the NPS score. 

5. Cross-sell value-added services in addition to products.

Value-added services can drive post-purchase revenue while customers get on board with the product. They increase confidence in and enjoyment of newly purchased products.

According to Barilliance, product recommendations drive up to 31% of ecommerce revenues. However, cross-sell and upsell emails require a bit of trial and error to get right because they require deep levels of customer insight. For example, you don’t want to accidentally upsell a customer on a $100 dress if they only buy $30 sandals. Some buyers might need more time with a product before deciding to reorder.

Rather than pushing products in your post-purchase emails, ease the transition by offering value-added services. Cycling clothing retailer Rapha adds value by inviting customers to events where their products can be worn.

Image source: Rapha includes an invitation to a value-added event in their post-purchase email flow.

Another value-added service that drives customer loyalty and motivates email engagement is product protection. Protection plans remind customers to safeguard the product(s) they recently bought and offer them peace of mind that your brand will be with them for the long haul. Plus they encourage customers to return to your store in the event of a covered replacement.

You could include a plan link in the product order confirmation email or send it alongside a complementary product recommendation in a later recommendation email.

Increase the effectiveness of post-purchase email for your brand

Email is far from dead; it’s just become more difficult to stand out from the crowd. The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the human being behind the email address and plan your campaigns accordingly. People sometimes overlook important emails, which is why you might need to rely on other marketing channels (e.g., SMS and push notifications, social media, etc.) to drive brand loyalty.

To learn how product protection can add value to your post-purchase customer experience, contact us here for a demo.

Aaron Sullivan
Aaron Sullivan is senior content marketing manager at Extend. He specializes in writing about e-commerce, finance, entertainment, and beer.

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