Countless reports have extolled the exponential growth of worldwide e-commerce. A report from Internet Retailer predicts consumers worldwide will spend nearly $3.46 trillion online in 2019, up from $2.93 trillion in 2018. In addition, global web sales are expected to grow 17.9% year-on-year.
Now is an excellent time to get into e-commerce. The last decade saw businesses transitioning into the online space; rushing to improve their website interface, introduce easy online payment options and offer fast and convenient delivery options.
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E-commerce is booming, what about customer expectations?
As businesses battle it out for a slice of the e-commerce pie, consumer expectations have also risen accordingly. Customer journeys now involve multiple platforms and devices as they shop.
On top of that, they now seek out the retailer who can deliver the best customer experience in their shopping journey. Retailers are now hard-pressed to acquire new customers and more importantly, build brand loyalty and retain their customers.
In our experience working with retailers around the world, we’ve found there’s a part of the customer journey that’s often neglected by retailers – the post-purchase experience.
What is the post-purchase experience?
The post-purchase experience includes everything that happens after your customer checks out and pays for their order. Think about how the delivery of your customer’s orders is processed, fulfilled and then communicated to your customers. These are all valuable opportunities to engage your customers even after you’ve made the sale.
“(The post-purchase experience) represents a significant opportunity to drive incremental revenue for retailers and manufacturers alike.”
Why are post-purchase notifications crucial to customer experience?
Try to recall the last time someone told you about the last great online store they found and loved shopping at. If your mind drew a blank, you’re not alone.
Yet, perhaps you can recall the last fantastic carnival or brick-and-mortar store that you went to.
It’s much more difficult to make your customers feel the sensations they’ll feel with shopping in a physical store in your online store. You don’t get to hear the music in the background, feel the texture of the product, smell the different scents or interact in-person with retail staff.
How can you translate that immersive in-store experience online?
The bar for customer experience while shopping online has risen over the years. Customers now expect a lot out of the retailers they choose to shop at. Here’s five compelling reasons why you need to get the post-purchase experience right:
- Customers expect proactive communication from retailers
Studies found that 82% of consumers said it was important that retailers proactively communicate every fulfilment and delivery stage, with 45% saying they track order status by SMS/phone and 85% using email to stay updated.
- Consumers with higher spending expect more updates
Luxury or retailers of high-value items should take note: the more the customer spends in their order, the more communication and delivery notifications they expect during the post-purchase journey.
- Fantastic potential impact on customer relationship with the brand
85% more consumers aged 40 and above say the post-purchase experience has the greater potential to strengthen the brand relationship compared to the pre-purchase experience. (IBM)
- Your customers today are busy, mobile people
A majority (83%) of customers expect a guaranteed due date and 80% want to know when exactly to expect their delivery to arrive. They want to receive their order with as little hassle as possible and expect flexibility from the retailer.
- Stories of negative customer experiences spread far and wide
Frustrated online shoppers spread their dissatisfaction through word-of-mouth to friends and family. Some also take to social media to air their discontent.
There’s a communication disconnect between retailers and logistics carriers.
Despite these rising expectations from customers today, the current state of post-purchase experience offered by retailers and logistics carriers leave much to be desired.
The CMO’s Council report found that 60% of consumers reported that their post-purchase experience was underwhelming, and 56% were disappointed with service from retailers and e-commerce sites.
What do customers want to hear in their post-purchase communications?
A study by IBM revealed the post-purchase notification opportunities that most influenced where consumers chose to shop:
- Tracking online or mobile orders via any combination of channels – 88%
- Consistently accurate, on-time delivery of Web/Mobile purchases – 88%
- Notification of delays with an order or its delivery – 90%
- Notification when an order has been delivered – 88%
- In-store return of online/mobile purchases – 87%
Focusing on these touch-points is a good first step when designing your post-purchase notification strategy. However, retailers must also recognize that’s not enough to just have these communications created. They must also be able to execute these consistently to promote customer trust, loyalty, and advocacy.
Indeed, customers expect a transparent customer journey from both local and international retailers. It’s key that retailers understand these needs and meet them consistently, or risk customers to competitors.
What does a well-designed, comprehensive post-purchase notifications strategy have?
All these concrete benefits sound amazing, but you might be wondering: “where do I start” with building a strong post-purchase notification strategy?
A winning post-purchase journey reflects your brand consistently, instills confidence in your customers that you care about them and creates a unified customer experience throughout their buying journey.
Start with these essential components
- A branded tracking page in the retailer’s branding, colours and feel: This becomes a place where your customers can track their orders. It should deliver the latest tracking updates to your customers, visually pleasing and easy to comprehend.
- The order confirmation email notification. This is the foundation of your post-purchase notifications. Customers look out for this email and are highly engaged; make full use of this opportunity! Go beyond communicating order information to encouraging future engagement from your customers with this notification.
- The Issue notification: Delays happen during the delivery process and they may be out of your control. But your customers will appreciate it if you keep them updated of any issues or updates to the delivery schedule.
- Delivery updates: Customers want to hear from you after the parcels have been shipped out! Don’t miss these prime engagement opportunities to establish trust with them during this crucial period by providing estimates on delivery date,
Once you’ve got the essentials in place, take a look at other enhancement opportunities, for example:
Did you know personalized emails provided six times the revenue of generic emails and is a heavy influence in purchasing decisions? In delivery updates, customers are more likely to make repeat purchases with retailers who personalize their communications (Infosys).
Areas you can apply personalization to:
- Subject lines
- Customer first name/last name
- References to order number/tracking IDs
- Localization of notification content or languages
- A/B testing effectiveness of notifications
As with every communication initiative, when you’ve got a decent baseline of notification content set up, it’s time to look at whether your notifications can be improved. Reference past engagement data like open & click rates and document your changes to make intentional improvements to your post-purchase notifications strategy.
Set a hypothesis, run the test, document results and take action.Some testing suggestions to get you started: – Vary the tone of your messaging – Direct versus indirect call-to-actions – Placement of visuals or type of visuals used
- Including promotional content to tap on exceptional engagement rate
Did you know delivery notifications and order confirmation communications command open rates of up to 80%? Imagine the feeling of urgency, excitement, and nervousness you got when you bought something online and waited for the first communication from the retailer? That’s how your customers feel. It’s a fantastic opportunity to tap on that heightened emotional state.
Promotional content you can include:
- Marketing banners
- References to items related to the customer’s order for up-selling or cross-selling
- Link to loyalty programmes or unique referral codes
Not sure where you stand with your post-purchase notifications strategy or capabilities? Take our assessment today and receive your personalized recommendations.
Can branded post-purchase notifications contribute to my business growth?
Indeed they can!
A strong post-purchase communications strategy enables retailers to provide a positive experience during a time of heightened emotions and anticipation.
As we’ve established before, customers want personalized shopping experiences throughout the entire journey and are more likely to return to retailers who provide positive experiences for them.
It costs at least five times more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one (Harvard Business Review).
Effective post-purchase communication does the following:
- Reinforces positive feelings your customer has throughout the purchasing process
- Transform negative experiences into positive ones
- Enhance efficiency and quality of customer service by proactively anticipating customer service needs.
The reality of today’s e-commerce landscape:
We’ve covered a lot of breadth in this article about the importance of post-purchase notifications to drive customer retention and enhance customer lifetime value.
Consumers today have a luxury of options to get their products from. Retailers therefore need to deliver an excellent customer experience in their stores to keep their customers coming back.
3 actionable steps for retailers to take in the next 24 hours:
- Determine where you are at now
How is the delivery of your customer’s orders processed and fulfilled? Which milestones do you send notifications at? How do they look like – are they coming from your own brand or are they sent by your logistics partners?
- Understand where you want to go
We’ve covered quite a few best practices in this article – understand what channels you have right now. How are they performing now? How much do you want them to improve by? Are there new channels or touch-points you can introduce?
- Collect the right data to monitor your performance
Let’s face it, transforming your post-purchase experience is an extended affair. But start small and work incrementally. Document how your notifications are performing e.g open & click rates, delivery speeds and whether they have any impact on your customer lifetime value, average order values and Net Promoter Scores in the long run. By tracking how you’re performing, you’ll have a better understanding of how to optimize further.
Engage your customers by paying attention to their needs and focus on fulfilling them. Sweep them off their feet with world-class customer service. Deliver a customer experience they can’t forget.
Your customers will thank you.
Parcel Monitor is the global knowledge-sharing community dedicated to e-commerce logistics for retailers, logistics carriers and end-consumers.