Improving the post-purchase experience

September 06, 2013 Written by NetSphere Category: eCommerce
Improving the post-purchase experience
Take a screen grab of any random inbox and it’s sure to contain a smattering of promotional e-mails offering potential customers everything from good deals on hotels to discounts on clothing. Regardless of the product du jour, consumers are constantly being wooed to try and buy new goods and services. And that’s a good thing. It means that marketers are taking advantage of the tools and data that have been made available to them.
But marketers often live in a world of anticipation. They send out their e-mails and newsletters and wait anxiously for engagement. Will the message’s recipient take the cues? Will they be enticed and intrigued to click through to learn more? Will they, today, tomorrow or next week even, make a purchase? Well, of course they will – as long as those marketers are following best practices. But what happens after that?
Retailers have a choice for what the next steps will be. They can either move on to the next promotion, knowing that the last one had some level or success, or they can focus on the post-purchase experience. The marketers and companies that do it best do both.
And that’s because, according to a U.S. consumer surveythat the IBM Institute of Business Value conducted in the fall of 2012, the post-purchase phase was the most influential element of the retail brand relationship. A few stats from that survey include:
  • 74% of the respondents said that the retailer’s ability to deliver a positive post-purchase experience was important to very important for inclining them to promote that retailer to others. 86% of teens (ages 13-19) consider it important.
  • Nearly a third (28%) more consumers thought the post-purchase phase was more important than the pre-purchase phase for strengthening their relationship with a retailer.
  • 46% (compared to only 16% for pre-purchase) said the post-purchase phase had the greatest potential to damage the relationship with a retailer if it involved a poor experience.
  • The post-purchase phase even showed that it had the ability to recover from a poor pre-purchase experience with 52% of respondents indicating that a positive post-purchase experience was likely to very likely to overcome a poor pre-purchase experience.
  • Not surprisingly, then, when asked which of the pre- or post-purchase experiences was most important in forming the customer’s lasting impression of the retailer, respondents placed the post-purchase experience head and shoulders above the pre-purchase experience by a factor of nearly two (65% to 35%).

So clearly, a positive post-purchase experience will be essential when competing with the ever-growing pool of eCommerce companies. By doing so, an online store owner will be able to recover from a bad pre-purchase experience and can even transform the "return policy" into a "return experience."

But how can you turn a bad situation into a positive experience? How can you nurture an existing customer just as you would a lead?

It can start by injecting a little personality into everything that you do. Be it a promotional newsletter or a purchase confirmation e-mail, consumers want to do business with other human beings – as opposed to huge corporations. They want to be delighted at every stage of the buying cycle. Similarly, they also want to do business with a retailer in the most convenient and simple way possible.

According to the results of the IBM survey, there are other important post-purchase activities to adopt, such as:

  • Offering the ability to buy online and pick up in the store
  • Notifying customers that an order is ready for in-store pickup
  • Allowing customers to track online or mobile orders via any combination of channels
  • Consistently providing accurate, on-time delivery for web and mobile purchases
  • Ensuring that customers are notified of delivery delays
  • Letting customers know when an order has been delivered
  • Creating the option to buy online and return in the store

In addition to the tips above, there are various other methods that eCommerce businesses can employ to improve the post-purchase experience. And the team here at NetSphere Strategies would be happy to hear how you deliver beyond the customer’s expectations after the sale has been made. So leave your comments in the field below, and let’s enhance the relationships we’re building with clients and customers, new and return alike.

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Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.