Guest post by Jake Rheude from Red Stag Fulfillment

Early ecommerce focused on the “buy” button above all else, but it’s 2020 and time those efforts evolve. Your customers look and shop differently, your tech stack is drastically changed, and the demands that everyone in your supply chain has have grown substantially.

Bring your post-purchase strategy up to 2020 speed by adapting it to the new reality that puts customer service and experience above all else. Build out that loyalty and create meaningful connections that go deeper than just delivering a product so that people want to come back to you again.

To help you get there and maximize your customer lifetime value, here are the five things to start spending time on right away.

1. Get Omnichannel, Now

Much of the post-purchase strategy is about keeping people happy until they’re ready to buy again. Few of us can push someone into an immediate purchase, no matter how much we flood their inbox with 5% coupons. So, your first mission is to get ready to facilitate everything else that can support your next sale, and the word of the day for this process is going to be: omnichannel.

Being with trying to get as much of your shipping and fulfillment under control as possible.  Look for ways to offer omnichannel fulfillment, so that every order goes through the same locations and process. You can do this directly, through a program like FBA, or through a third-party logistics provider (3PL) who operates the warehouse for you.

Control here allows you to select packaging, returns, and many more elements that you want to be able to adapt to meet customer demands. You might even be able to reduce your shipping costs.

Omnichannel fulfillment enables you to use the same inventory for orders whether they come from Facebook and Instagram sales, your own website, or marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Get it right and you can even fulfill Amazon Prime orders yourself or through a 3PL.

Happy customers buy more. So, work to keep them happy with the way you get orders to them.

Then, after the order is delivered (or while in transit), keep them happy with reliable, omnichannel support. Send email updates as soon as you have them on shipping, tracking, and delivery. Give people a chance to ask your service team about returns and other issues 24/7. Add phones, text, chat, and other tools to enable the customer to reach you in the way that they prefer.

When you remove barriers for customers to ask questions or get help, they’ll have a more positive experience. That’s what you want to bank on to grow your post-purchase sales.

2. Highlight Returns Policies

No store wants customers to return products, but it’s going to happen. How you respond and provide support post-purchase, especially here, could be the difference between a customer returning or telling people not to buy from you.

You want to make it easy for customers to understand returns and replacements as soon as they purchase because it’s part of getting them to come back for a second shopping trip, even if they never return the first item.

Why? It’s all about creating a positive experience. When you get it right, with service and returns, 97% of people say they’re more likely to buy from you again. It’s one of the most effective things you can do to boost your post-purchase relationship and customer experience. Smart returns policies are also protection against future losses because that same report notes that 89% of people are less likely to shop with you again if they have an unpleasant experience.

If you have a returns page for customers to use or they can get support via chat, think about adding in sales and product options to these pages. Keep them small, such as recommended items below forms, but have them be present. The majority of shoppers in physical stores who return things have bought something new during a return trip. Here’s your digital equivalent chance.

Your work here is especially important around the holidays. Year-end shopping comes with greater sales and bigger returns. Making it easy for people to return items, replace things, get refunds, or even store credit all help you drive value and satisfy customers.

3. Personalize the Package

According to Shorr, about 30% of your audience is more likely to buy from you if the purchase arrives in custom packaging. If you’re selling premium goods or have high average orders — $201 or above — this climbs all the way up to 44%.

For years, this trend has been visible with unboxing videos, where millions of people watch others open products on YouTube. Fortunes have been made by people simply opening up something cool and sharing it with the world.

For ecommerce companies, we believe the joy of custom packaging is going to grow for another reason — and it’s not just Shorr noting that 55% hate it when packaging is hard to open. The differentiator here now comes from the way we buy online.

Amazon holds nearly 50% of the entire U.S. ecommerce market. That’s a lot of khaki envelopes and brown boxes hitting our doorsteps.

Trying to stand out to the customer and having them remember you is going to start as soon as they open the dull brown box. By using vibrant colors, showcasing your logo and design, highlighting product features, and making the inside packaging feel like your brand, you create stark contrast to the boring exterior.

Plus, if your packaging is stylized and secure, customers immediately know there’s little reason to worry that something got damaged. If your product is something they’ll buy repeatedly, that’s a significant, immediate win. And the more your branding showcases you, the greater the connection you build with the customer as soon as your product arrives.

4. Keep Review Asks Simple

People love giving feedback and a solid post-purchase tactic to keep customers engaged is to ask them for feedback. Use this tool in your arsenal regularly. You’re encouraging people to think about a positive experience and to tell you what they liked.

At the same time, you can get someone back to your website and encourage their browsing behavior.

Even if someone has only made a single purchase from you, a CTA on submission pages to “browse and review other products in our catalog” can encourage someone to window-shop even when they had no intention to just yet.

The hallmark of successful product feedback and satisfaction campaigns is to keep things simple. Stick with what people understand — like a review out of five stars — and form fields minimal. It can be something as simple as their name, product review title and text, and the option to add photos.

Timing is important here. Allow your customer enough time to receive your product — especially important in ecommerce — and use it enough to know what they like. Waiting a little while allows you to only make the ask once.

If you’re concerned about a product line or have something that’s been getting mixed reviews, add a link to have the customer ask a question or get help instead. This allows you to mitigate some negative reviews while still capturing the information about why an experience is poor. You can innovate and address issues quietly. If the customer says they’re happy with the service at the end of this experience, then re-invite them to leave a review.

Again, the request is simple. Start by asking if they want to leave a review or get help. Then make either possible. If you can solve it, wait until they say they’re satisfied, and make the second ask.

One side note: Always work within the system you operate. That often means following strict requirements if you’re selling on Amazon, but it’s still possible to get more reviews here legally.

5. Be There Without Relying on Others

Most ecommerce businesses are selling on marketplaces that handle some of the customer service interactions for you, especially Amazon. That can make it easy to rely on Amazon to keep the customer happy and satisfied with any single purchase. However, these interactions mean that the customer is associating Amazon or the marketplace with their overall purchase, not you. So, there’s a chance they’ll go back to the marketplace to buy the second time, while not necessarily getting it from your store.

In your post-purchase efforts, make sure you provide customers with ways to contact you directly. You don’t have to supplant other marketplace channels — and check agreements to make sure you reach out appropriately. What you want to do instead is offer the customer a way to reach out to do what they want. This may be learning about new products and announcements, getting help, or better understanding what they’ve bought and how it works.

Reach out and create a connection. Then, you have the opportunity to provide the service that a customer desires. Never let the first purchase be where you say goodbye to a customer.

What About the Deals?

Surprisingly, we haven’t mentioned BOGO or taking 25% off for referrals or even letting someone send one friend a free first month of a subscription service. These can all be great offers, but they depend on getting the above right first if they’re going to work.

After you make a sale, your mission is to ensure the customer is happy with that sale. Only after you get this right should you try for another.

The post-purchase journey is the last leg of your initial purchase customer service efforts. Work to build the relationship and remove problems before you start going after more revenue. When the connection is there, people will come back to you, and that’s an uncomplicated way to win the next sale.

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