CX 101: What is post-purchase experience?

In ecommerce, customer experience is everything. Brands can compete on price and product quality, but experience is where many customers’ loyalty is decided on. In fact, 75% of customers are at least somewhat likely to shop with a brand based on experience alone. Therefore understanding what makes a great experience is essential to growing your online store. 

Typically, when we talk about customer experience there’s a lot of emphasis on the journey leading up to the checkout process. However today in CX 101, we’re looking at the stage of the customer journey that is most likely to affect retention - the post-purchase experience.

What is the post-purchase experience?

The customer journey isn’t quite as simple as “customer buys product, customer receives product”. It’s made up of a few different phases, with each impacting how likely a customer is to not only buy a product, but how likely they are to then return to your brand in the future. Their journey and experience starts from the moment they discover your brand, to months past the day the product arrives on their doorstep.

As the name suggests, post-purchase is everything that happens after a customer completes your checkout process. That could include:

  • What kind of communication they receive after they place their order
  • What tools and resources they have access to related to their order 
  • The delivery and unboxing experience 
  • Their actual experience with the products they ordered 
  • Your returns and exchanges process 

There is a lot to consider in the post-purchase experience, and at this stage a customer has put a lot of time and effort into your brand. They had to first discover it, compare it to other brands, consider your content, decide to spend their money on your products, then go through your purchasing experience. 

Why is post-purchase important?

Put simply, the post-purchase experience has the potential to influence how likely your customers will be to return to make a purchase. Retention is important for any online brand; not only is it five times less expensive to retain customers, but returning customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new customers. 

Both acquisition and retention are essential to your business, but they need to be balanced. If you focus too much on new customers, you become reliant on having a constant stream of new business which can take a lot of time and resources. If you focus only on retaining existing customers, your business equally becomes reliant on these customers placing repeat orders and will hinder growth. You want to bring in new customers, and keep them on a regular basis. 

It therefore helps to think of a customer journey not as a linear path, but a circle. A path suggests an end point, and you want your customers to keep coming back time and again. You want them to reach that post-purchase phase of the journey, and have such a great experience that they want to come back again. 

Here are some statistics to highlight just how big an impact these post-purchase factors can have on retention:

  • In one survey, 85% of consumers said they wouldn’t shop with a brand after a poor delivery experience.
  • 82% of customers say it’s important for brands to keep them informed during the delivery process.
  • 62% of customers are less likely to purchase again if their delivery is 2 days later than the promised delivery date when they order.
  • 92% of customers say they’re more likely to purchase again if the returns process is easy.

The better your post-purchase experience is, it will start to positively influence acquisition as well as retention. If your existing customers leave positive reviews, this will influence how new customers see your brand and decide to buy from your store.

3 ways to improve your store’s post-purchase experience

So, it’s clear to see there are many different ways that post-purchase can influence your customers. Let’s look at some of the ways you can easily improve their experience, and boost your brand’s retention rate.

#1 - Use email & SMS to enhance order communication and engage customers 

Any good relationship is built on communication, and the same is true for your customers! It all starts with what happens immediately after they place an order. 

Customers want to hear from your brand when they place an order, and not just your standard order confirmation email. They want to know what’s going on with their order at every stage - when it’s being packed, when it has been dispatched, and when their order is out for delivery. Use automated emails that give customers updates as their order progresses through the dispatch process. If the customer has signed up for SMS, add automated messages that let them know when their order has been dispatched and when it’s out for delivery. This will give them the clarity they need, and calm any nerves around when they can expect their order.

After they’ve received their order, use email and SMS to continue engaging them. You can set up a series of automated emails that give them additional information, incentives, rewards, and more to encourage them to return in the future. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Send use or care guides for the products the customer ordered. This will give them personalized information they can actually use. It will also reduce the number of enquiries to your support team about product care, or from customers accidentally ruining products from lack of information.

  • Send personalized product recommendations based on their previous orders. The more orders a customer has placed, the more tailored the recommendations can be. These can be complementary to those they ordered, products similar customers have purchased, or new products as an exclusive sneak-peek.

  • Tailor incentives based on the customer’s history with your brand. That may be based on products ordered where a customer gets a freebie related to the products they already own. Or it could be a gift card that increases in value depending on their Lifetime Value (LTV) or the number of orders they’ve placed. You can test different incentives to see what works best for different customer segments, for example if new customers prefer free shipping over discounts. 

Once again, you can use SMS to enhance your post-purchase engagement. Be sure to set up a separate automated flow for customers who want to receive both email and SMS. This will allow you to better pace the number of messages and emails you send, so as not to overwhelm customers. 

#2 - Offer a more robust approach to order tracking 

Order tracking can be a headache for customers, and it’s one of the easiest things to fix about your post-purchase experience. They may have ordered something as a gift, and they want to know where it is so they can ensure it will arrive on time. Or perhaps they’ve ordered an item of clothing to wear on vacation and need it to arrive before they leave. More than half of customers want brands to offer real-time visibility in order tracking, and 93% say they want to stay informed throughout the process.  

If you’re a Shopify merchant, using tools like Order Lookup make it easy to offer better tracking tools for your customers. It provides them with a real-time look at exactly where their order is, and where it has previously been. 

Plus, the merchant controls the look, feel, and information provided in the customer facing portal. Rather than the customer having to constantly switch between different courier tracking tools and not get the information they need, they can see everything your team wants them to know. This includes any notes added to their order, which can give valuable additional insight to the customer. 

#3 - Make it easy for customers to initiate returns and contact support

Orders won’t always be straightforward, and sometimes your customers will need some additional help from your team. That may be to ask a question via customer support, or processing a return or exchange.

Returns are a necessary part of ecommerce, and making this easy for customers can have a very positive impact on their loyalty and retention. There are a variety of reasons why a customer may want to return a product. Maybe it didn’t arrive on time, it didn’t suit their needs, or they simply changed their mind. Whatever the case, 92% of customers said they’d consider shopping with a brand again if their returns process was easy.

To improve your returns process, here are some easy steps you can take:

  • Include links and information about returns and exchanges in order related emails during the post-purchase process.
  • Offer a self-service option to initiate returns. 
  • Provide multiple resolutions to returns, e.g. store credit, exchanges, refunds. 
  • Offer free and flexible returns options, e.g. drop-off points, at-home collection. 

As for customer support, this can also be a source of easy wins for your post-purchase experience. 89% of customers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer support experience, and 94% would recommend the brand to others. 

What typically affects customer support comes down to time. If your team takes too long to respond to an enquiry, this can impact how the customer feels about their experience. This often can’t be helped if your team has lots of enquiries to deal with, especially during busy periods such as the holidays. Therefore you want to reduce the time it takes for customers to get the information they need. 

The answer for this lies in self-service support options:

  • Implement a chatbot that can field your most common queries, for example “where is my order” and product information.
  • Enhance your FAQ section by creating a searchable support portal where customers can find more resources and information than they would on a standard FAQ page.

  • Include links and resources to your most frequent enquiries in the automatic response that’s sent when a customer reaches out to your team. 

Surveys have shown that 81% of customers will often try to solve an issue on their own before getting in touch with customer support. However, when an enquiry can’t be solved using self-service options, ensure it’s straightforward for a customer to get in touch with someone on your team. 

The post-purchase phase is a crucial piece of the customer experience puzzle. By understanding its importance and where you can find easy wins to improve it, you’ll be able to better retain customers in the long-term. Those customers may well become brand advocates and be your best acquisition strategy, sharing their experience with others and bringing in new customers to delight with your products.