Many merchants consider their job done once a customer clicks “buy” and the package is delivered into the hands of the carrier. Today, 80% of e-commerce budgets are dedicated to customer acquisition.
Once the item leaves your warehouse, however, a lot can still go wrong: package theft, a lost item, or delivery delays. These accidents can damage your brand loyalty — undoing all the time and effort you put into customer acquisition. This is why paying attention to the post-purchase experience is so important.
The post-purchase experience is the customer’s experience with a brand after they have completed a purchase. It includes all customer interactions with the brand, from order confirmation to delivery to customer support. A positive post-purchase customer experience can lead to repeat business, increased customer loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Unfortunately, one report found that 56% of respondents were disappointed with the post-purchase experience (PPX) they received from retailers and e-commerce stores. This data point presents a significant opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by paying attention to this often-ignored part of the customer journey.
There are dozens of ways to improve a customer’s post-purchase experience. In this guide, we’ll break down the elements of the post-purchase journey and outline some post-purchase strategies your brand can use to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
The Elements of Post-Purchase Experience
Just as your brand dials down into every element of the customer acquisition journey, so should you pay attention to each individual element of the post-purchase experience.
The post-purchase experience encompasses everything from the delivery and packaging of the product to the usage of the item and customer support. It includes all interactions the customer has with the brand, from order confirmation to delivery to customer support. Here’s what this looks like in practice.
Delivery and Shipping
There are dozens of memes about people waiting by the mailbox for their package to arrive. Here’s one example.
Behind every meme is a source of truth: customers want to know when exactly their package is arriving.
What does this mean for your e-commerce brand? Customers should receive shipping updates throughout the delivery process. Customers should receive their orders in a timely manner and good condition.
Provide an easy, accessible way to report damage to the package or the product immediately.
Packaging and Unboxing
The packaging should be high-quality, and the product should be well-protected to ensure the highly anticipated item isn’t damaged.
Likewise, customers should enjoy the unboxing experience. Unboxing presents an opportunity to create a branded experience with personalized notes, themed packaging, and other novel elements.
Product Usage and Performance
Customers should be satisfied with the product and its performance. If they have any problems, they should be able to get help from your online store’s customer service team — or find answers to their problems on your website.
Make it easy for customers to make the most of your product with an extensive education section on your e-commerce platform.
Customer Support and Returns
When a customer reports a problem after making a purchase, it is crucial to provide them with skilled support, efficient remediation procedures, and user-friendly online resources, such as live chat options and a dedicated portal for initiating returns.
Make the support and returns process as seamless as possible, apologizing when necessary. E-commerce brands that are responsive to customer complaints can still salvage the relationship.
Why Post-Purchase Experience Matters for Brand Growth
The post-purchase experience can make or break your customer relationships. Customers notice when the post-purchase experience fails to deliver. Nearly 80% of customers say it’s important for a company’s post-purchase experience to be positive. However, only 1% of consumers felt that vendors met expectations.
The post-purchase experience is the last impression your brand can make, and while first impressions matter, it’s the last experience someone has that they’ll remember most.
As a result, the post-purchase experience is your chance to build customer loyalty, customer retention, customer satisfaction — and, ultimately, profit.
Positive Impact on Customer Retention
Customer retention indicates the rate or number of loyal customers who stay with your business in a given period of time. This stat is the key indicator of success for any company. Increasing customer retention rates by 5% has been shown to increase profits by 25% to 95%
When a customer has a bad post-purchase experience, they’re unlikely to give your brand a second chance. One estimate found that more than 70% of customers say they are unlikely to return after a bad delivery experience. Even worse, customers are three times more likely to tell their friends about a negative experience with a brand than a positive one.
Bottom line: getting the post-purchase experience right is fundamental if you’re interested in improving customer loyalty.
Boosting Word-of-Mouth Marketing and Referrals
Often, it’s your existing customers who are your best brand ambassadors. Satisfied customers who have a delightful post-purchase experience are more likely to share their positive experiences with their network of friends, family, and colleagues.
Word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals act as powerful endorsements for the brand, attracting new customers and driving brand growth. Customer feedback can also prove to be valuable as your company develops new projects and expands to new markets. Plus, it doesn’t cost you one dollar of your marketing budget.
Increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer lifetime value (CLV) measures the total worth to a business of a customer over the whole period of their relationship.
A strong post-purchase experience increases the likelihood of repeat purchases, increasing CLV. When customers have a positive experience after their initial purchase, they are more inclined to choose the same brand for future needs, resulting in higher customer retention rates (and a longer relationship) and increased sales.
Competitive Advantage and Brand Differentiation
Finally, paying attention to this aspect of the customer journey can set your company apart from others. Exceptional customer support, hassle-free returns, personalized interactions, and memorable experiences all combine to create a competitive customer journey that puts your brand at a distinct market advantage.
Across the board, improving customer satisfaction will lead to sustained brand growth. This loyalty pays off. Acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times more than keeping an existing one. However, repeat customers spend 33% more than first-time customers. Investing in a great post-purchase experience is simply a no-brainer.
How to Improve Post-Purchase Experience
A post-purchase customer journey has many moving parts, but getting each step right has big implications for building customer loyalty and advocacy, increasing customer lifetime value, and driving brand growth.
As you think through the different stages of the post-purchase experience, consider how to improve each touchpoint to reach your growth goals. Here are just a few elements to consider.
Personalization and Customization
Customers appreciate feeling like they are valued and appreciated. Personalize the experience as much as possible by addressing customers by name, providing customized recommendations or new product offers based on their purchase history, and showing genuine interest in their needs.
Starting with the confirmation email, make sure the customer has complete information about the delivery process. Recap the customer’s order with a link to your returns policy and tracking information. Tailored follow-up emails, surveys, or exclusive loyalty benefits also make customers feel valued and contribute to a positive experience.
Proactive Communication and Support
Effective communication throughout the post-purchase journey is crucial. Provide clear and timely information about order confirmation, delivery date, shipping updates, and delivery notification status.
Transparent communication regarding any delays, changes, or issues can help manage customer expectations and reduce frustration.
Additionally, provide educational content about product usage, care instructions, and post-purchase tips to enhance the customer’s experience and satisfaction. An FAQ page can help customers find the necessary information without reaching out.
Follow-up emails checking on a customer’s satisfaction or providing additional resources demonstrate your company’s commitment to customer success.
This kind of communication can benefit your product development, too. Ask for feedback, send out surveys, and offer live assistance to pinpoint customer challenges that can inform new products, marketing campaigns, and partnerships.
Streamlined Returns and Exchanges
A hassle-free, straightforward return policy and process contribute to customer satisfaction. Brands that offer easy returns, pre-paid shipping labels, clear instructions, and flexible policies reduce the customer’s effort and increase their likelihood of making future purchases.
Returns and exchanges are a core part of your business operation. The returns process alone can be complicated. Companies need a robust returns management function to keep everything streamlined and efficient.
Returns management is the process of handling product returns, including everything from processing returns to generating a return label for each return to providing a free returns experience for customers.
Provide Excellent Customer Service
Customers want to be able to get help quickly and easily if they have any problems with their order. Prompt and helpful customer support should be able to address queries, concerns, and issues effectively.
Support should be accessible and convenient; no matter how a customer reaches out (e.g., via phone, email, or chat), the customer support team should be responsive, knowledgeable, and willing to resolve customer problems.
Loyalty Programs and Rewards
If a customer has a negative experience with a brand, it takes 12 positive experiences to compensate for that one bad interaction.
Getting someone to go from a new customer to a repeat customer — and eventually, a brand advocate — starts the first time they click the buy button. Recognizing and rewarding customer loyalty strengthens the post-purchase experience.
A loyalty program is a good way to encourage repeat purchases immediately. Loyalty programs, exclusive discounts, upsell or cross-sell special offers, or early access to new products make customers feel valued and appreciated.
By providing incentives and benefits for repeat purchases, brands can foster customer loyalty and enhance the overall post-purchase experience.
Measuring and Optimizing Post-Purchase Experience
It’s incredibly hard to get it right every single time a customer orders from your online store. But, by continually improving the post-purchase experience, brands can create a loyal customer base and drive long-term growth.
How can you see if your efforts are working? Track key metrics, analyze feedback and reviews, and continuously test to see if your customer metrics are improving.
Key performance metrics can give you a sense of your overall customer post-purchase experience. Track data points including:
- Customer satisfaction: Learn how satisfied customers are with their overall experience with your brand through surveys, polls, and reviews. Alternately, use tools like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) to pinpoint the overall satisfaction of customers with their post-purchase experience. You can also look to social media to find feedback in real time about the post-purchase experience.
- Repeat business or customer retention rate: See how likely customers are to do business with your brand again in the future by tracking customer purchase history. The customer retention rate measures the percentage of customers who continue to make purchases or remain engaged with the brand over a specific period.
- Customer churn: This metric measures the percentage of customers who stop doing business with your brand each year. You can calculate customer churn by dividing the number of customers who stop doing business with you by the total number of customers you have.
- Customer Lifetime Value: As previously outlined, this metric estimates the amount of money a customer is worth to your business over their lifetime. You can calculate customer lifetime value by multiplying the average customer purchase amount by the average customer lifespan.
- Return/Refund rate: The rate at which customers request returns or refunds can provide insights into the post-purchase experience. A low return/refund rate generally indicates that customers are satisfied with their purchases, while a high rate may suggest dissatisfaction or issues with the product or service.
Note that one or two of these metrics alone won’t tell you whether the customer had a negative or positive experience.
For instance, a high return rate might signify the product was defective or there was a shipping error at the warehouse — not that customers are committing returns fraud.
These data points should be taken as a group to understand whether your marketing strategy, omnichannel approach, and other touchpoints are having the desired effect.
Real-Life Examples of Successful Post-Purchase Experiences
There are dozens of brands that have already focused on optimizing the post-purchase experience. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, check out a few of these case studies.
These retailers, which all have online stores, have created a positive post-purchase experience by focusing on elements such as e-commerce customer support, personalization, packaging, and shipping.
This list wouldn’t be valid without mentioning Amazon, a pioneer in the post-purchase experience. Amazon makes it incredibly easy for customers to return items, get refunds, and provide reviews.
With free returns, multiple delivery options, green packaging choices, and even a scheduled purchase option, Amazon is the gold standard in customer support following a transaction.
Beauty brand Sephora isn’t a pure e-commerce platform, but the post-purchase experience their e-commerce site offers is one to note. As Harvard Business Review notes, Sephone offers true omnichannel customer support.
Whether someone shops at Sephora in-store or online, there are personalized touchpoints that make the customer feel uniquely cared for.
“Even after they click ‘buy,’ Sephora’s customers receive a branded delivery tracking page that displays the status of their shipment. At the same time, customers receive recommendations, deals and educational content to keep them excited about their purchase,” wrote HBR.
Shoe e-commerce company Zappos is exceptional in many regards to their customer support, but they excel at the post-purchase experience. Zappos offers free shipping and returns, a generous 365-day return policy, and 24/7 customer service.
Zappos’ customer-centric approach and commitment to customer satisfaction have earned them a loyal customer base.
Apple focuses on omnichannel customer service, from extensive online support options (including live chat, email, a dedicated support app, and phone) to appointments at the Genius Bar.
Comprehensive customer service, including AppleCare, provides extended warranties and technical support for their products.
Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear brand, is recognized for its commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. They offer a lifetime warranty on their products and provide repair services to extend the lifespan of their items.
Patagonia’s dedication to quality, sustainability, and customer satisfaction contributes to its strong post-purchase experience.
Clearly, the post-purchase experience is part of creating a long-term connection with your target customers. Brands that can optimize this element of the customer journey enjoy high brand loyalty, lower costs, and long-term sustainable growth.
The post-purchase journey covers every message, interaction, and customer experience after checkout. This includes shipping emails, SMS messages, the unboxing of their product, and customer service interactions.
There are many moving parts — which is why having a partner like Rich Commerce in your corner can help. Rich Returns, an all-in-one returns management solution, integrates with your Shopify store to make managing the post-purchase experience easy, intuitive, and hassle-free.
Learn more about how Rich Commerce’s configurable exchange options can automate elements of the returns process, help customers get what they need quickly, and boost your customer lifetime value. Get started with a 14-day free trial.