The new era of ecommerce: mastering the post purchase customer experience

As the cost of living crisis grips the nation, consumers are spending less. Find out how your business can retain its customers here.

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Without a solid post purchase customer journey in place, your business is going to struggle to retain customers.

That is the last thing SMEs need, considering retail sales decreased 5.8% year-on-year in June 2022 according to the latest Trading Economics statistics.

This is the third consecutive month that retail sales have declined in the UK. A stark reminder of the huge impact the current economic climate is having on consumer spending, as the UK battles with a record 40-year inflation rate of 9.4%.

With the reduction of consumer spending coinciding with higher product costs, there’s no doubt small retail businesses are going to find the next few months extremely challenging.

Retaining customers is a sure-fire way to take the pressure off and add value to your business through repeat and frequent sales, rather than depending on customers making one-off purchases. But in order to do this, businesses must create a positive post purchase customer experience.

What is the post purchase customer experience, and why is it so important?

The post purchase customer experience can be defined as:

The way you interact with and treat a customer after they have made a purchase with you

For example, when you buy something from Amazon, the relationship between you and the company following that purchase.

It is vital you get this right. One bad buying experience can put a consumer off from shopping with you forever. As Andrew Norman, general manager of ecommerce delivery management platform ShipStation, notes:

“Almost 40% of shoppers have stated they would simply stop shopping with a retailer after a bad experience. It’s important now more than ever to deliver simple, yet powerful, experiences for consumers to keep them coming back.”

Moreover, delivery software company Metapack’s post purchase 2022 report revealed that a staggering 93% of consumers have had a bad post purchase shopping experience in the last 12 months. With late delivery being the most common occurrence.

So it’s evident that a major issue for online retailers is keeping customers happy post purchase. Poor or even non-existent attempts to do so are losing vital sales.

But how do businesses master this new era of ecommerce? We’ve asked ecommerce experts and successful retailers for their key insights.

How to create the perfect post-purchase customer experience

Understand the customer’s pain points

For Graham Farrugia, Chief Product Officer at food retailer Pasta Evangelists, it is tremendously important to consider the common issues that arise for customers after making a purchase online.

Once you understand what problems the customer is dealing with, you’ll be in a better place to solve those problems.

One such example Farrugia gives is regarding uncertainty and poor communication. He explains, “If a customer has uncertainty around the order that they have just placed, then this is the #1 driver of dissatisfaction. Leading to frustration, unnecessary customer contact, and worst case: cancellation.

“You must provide an instant, clear confirmation of what was purchased, how much it cost (and savings), when it’s going to arrive, and how to track it. You should also specify how you will help if anything goes wrong.”

Other pain points Farrugia highlights include broken promises around delivery times.

Efficient integrations with logistics systems and delivery carriers can help combat this, allowing you to set realistic expectations that are achievable for a specific customer.

Hire a chief post-purchase officer to handle your returns

Spencer Kieboom, CEO of ecommerce pick up service Pollen Returns, believes the key to successful post-purchasing experiences is through an efficient and seamless returns system.

Kieboom argues that all businesses need Chief Post Purchase Officer (CPPO) to tackle the responsibility of a reverse supply chain management operation.

“Returns make up on average 33% of a retailer’s existing inventory. Yet nobody takes full ownership of what is a major part of the customer’s buying journey. If your business hired a CPPO, they could take accountability for all aspects of the return.

“This could bring about a staggering amount of additional benefits and extended lifetime value of existing customers”

Ensure customers feel confident about their purchase

We’ve all been there when we make a purchase online, and immediately begin considering whether it was the right decision afterward.

“Is that suit going to suit me or am I going to look like Colonel Sanders?”

colonel sanders

For Emma Campbell, marketing project manager at virtual fashion imagery brand Looklet, guaranteeing your customers are happy post purchase starts on the product detail pages before they buy.

“Providing high-quality images, ensuring colour accuracy, and showing enough product images, allows customers to make the best purchasing decisions. Customers that are confident in their purchases are less likely to complain, or return items.”

Looklet has even developed a virtual ‘dressing room’ platform, that ecommerce fashion brands can install.

“Looklet’s Dressing Room technology helps consumers make confident buying decisions. They are able to try on products virtually to see how they will look, which results in a huge reduction in returns and an increase in conversions for retailers.”

looklet dressing room

Be sure to double-check your online store product pages are fully customisable, as ecommerce platforms differ in levels of personalisation.

To find out more about ecommerce platforms and features, be sure to check out our review of the best ecommerce platforms for small businesses.

Look after your customers when things go wrong

Nobody’s perfect, not even at Startups (I know it’s hard to believe). We all make mistakes and in business, especially, things can go wrong.

However, as Pasta Evangelist’s CPO Farrugia states, the difference between a lost customer and a retained customer is how you deal with mistakes.

“Make it as easy as possible to get help. One simple click to the right source of help really matters. Need to return an item? Make that process as easy as possible.

“Consumers will proactively choose a merchant whom they know prioritises customer service – and especially a store that makes returns as stress-free as possible compared to a business that doesn’t. John Lewis and Amazon are perfect examples of this.”

Consumers will proactively choose a merchant whom they know prioritises customer service

Surprise your customers with treats

Brands must remember that consumers are spending less and being more cautious about when and what they treat themselves with. When a customer buys from you, whether that be a new dress or a pair of trainers, they have chosen your business as the place they want to shop.

By surprising customers with a little extra , you are making them feel special and valued. Whether it’s just a small gift, a discount code on their next purchase, or a handwritten thank you note.

Either way, you make the purchasing experience more rewarding and fulfilling for them, which in turn makes them more likely to return to shop with you.

This post purchasing tactic is already being regularly deployed by quick commerce apps like Gorillas and Getir, which offer their customers additional products for free as a ‘thank you’ for choosing them.

Want to know how your business can compete with quick commerce giants? Read this feature for some top tips.

getir promo

Enhancing the post purchase customer experience with Shopify

If any ecommerce platform understands the importance of nurturing customer/business relationships, it’s Shopify.

The online store creator has vastly expanded its integrations and partnerships in recent years, to allow merchants to access consumers in multiple ways as Deann Evans, Director of Expansion and Partnerships, tells us.

“The key to a merchant’s success is the ability to meet, and build, communities with consumers, across any surface in any environment. This is incredibly important as we move into this new era of commerce.”

This new era of commerce, as Evans coins it, is centred round building long-lasting communities and enabling selling on social platforms. It is known as social commerce, and Evans believes it is essential to maintaining a positive post purchase customer experience.

Shopify is one of the key players in this development, enabling multi-channel selling across a number of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and most recently, YouTube.

This Shopify partnership will enable YouTube’s 2 billion monthly users to shop while they watch videos from their favourite brands and influencers.

So far, this ‘social commerce’ approach by Shopify has reaped huge benefits for its merchants. The platform has seen orders through partner channels (like Facebook) more than quadruple in the first part of 2022 compared to last year.

And other brands are jumping on the social commerce bandwagon, with 49% of merchants planning to increase investment in social commerce this year, according to Shopify’s recent Future of Commerce report.

Evans highlights Shopify merchant Gymshark’s use of its online community to enhance customer relationships. The sportswear brand recently launched ‘Deload’, a popup barbershop in which its barbers are also trained mental health nurses.

For Shopify’s Director of Expansion, this kind of innovative community-building exercise is a perfect example of how businesses should be operating.

“The Gymshark Deload barbershop was an excellent idea. It helps them build a connection with their customers, by providing a safe space for them to talk to a trained mental health professional.

“Things like this are going to be really important for retaining customers as we move forward, especially with what is happening in today’s macroeconomic climate.”

Conclusion: getting support for your ecommerce strategy

Getting the post-purchase customer experience right is vital to your businesses success, but it isn’t always easy.

You need to strategise, and ensure you understand the pain points of your customers in your particular industry before you try and manage the relationship.

Some ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, will help make it easier to manage the post purchase experience, through integrations with CRM systems like Hubspot.

As Simone Thomas, founder of wellness brand Simone Thomas Wellness, points out.

“Being able to integrate our Shopify store with HubSpot gives us the capabilities to set up workflows and send emails tailored specifically to the customer’s post-purchase needs.”

But other ecommerce platforms simply don’t offer these types of integrations yet.

The key is to use an ecommerce platform that will help your business not only make sales, but nurture the relationship afterwards. This will keep your customers coming back, and over time develop brand loyalty.

To find out more about how Shopify can help your business improve its post purchase operations, be sure to check out our dedicated review of the platform.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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