Retailers are gearing up for what is expected to be a busy peak season. Despite worries about inflation, UK retail sales are predicted to grow by 1.7% this year, representing over £10 billion in additional spending.
At the same time, customers expect more order visibility from their retailers as they navigate end or year holdiays, child schedules, and growing school shopping lists. Recent data found that 71% of UK consumers have had a negative delivery experience within the past three months, ranging from delays (41%), deliveries at different time slots (21%), parcels left in unsecured locations (19%), or not turning up at all (10%).
And with 32% of all customers prepared to stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience, no wonder that many retailers are on edge about how they will communicate order statuses and shipping delays to their customer base. That post-purchase journey is critical in securing ongoing business.
The three ways to deliver an exceptional post-purchase experience
How? Fundamentally, three key pillars comprise a high-quality post-purchase experience: personalisation, maximising communications, and optimising returns.
Your messaging to customers should be personalised and branded from pre- to post-purchase. As retailers know too well, it is easier (and cheaper) to convert customers who have already shopped with you before than new customers. This especially rings true if your post-purchase experience leaves a lasting impression.
Yet many brands are missing an opportunity: just 2% of retailers offer branded and personalised emails post-purchase, with 28% directing customers to branded tracking pages.
It’s not just about a consistent experience in tracking or logistics, either; just eight percent of retailers included product recommendations in their post-purchase communication, and of those, barely half were related to the order. This is a huge missed opportunity to secure those repeat purchases.
One way to increase your brand’s chances of repeat purchases is by tailoring your post-purchase messages based on segmented customer data. Additionally, if your brand has a loyalty program, your post-purchase and returns messaging should also be personalised to customer status. Increase your conversion rates by adding special “first look” or invite-only deals that make customers feel special and ensure customers keep coming back.
- Maximise communication opportunities
Just because someone has clicked ‘confirm purchase’ doesn’t mean they’re not open to talking to you anymore. There are several opportunities to build on the relationship you’ve established.
First, there’s communication around delivery. As mentioned above, this presents a significant opportunity to personalise, to get customers thinking about complementary purchases, and to provide support and value through tailored, relevant and timely messages about delivery.
Send proactive post-purchase communications every step of the way from order received to out for delivery. Also, it is equally important to prepare delay notifications when a package may be held up due to weather, staffing, or other issues.
Aligned with that is the order status page. As highlighted before, most retailers are leaving this to their delivery partners, and in doing so, ceding control of a critical part of the post-purchase experience. Embedding a page on your website not only allows you to control the branding but also means you can push people back to your site for repeat purchases. At the same time, customer service teams can use it for any inbound inquiries they receive.
Then there are returns. While no retailers want to get a return, it does present an opportunity to maintain a dialogue. Being open and clear about the status of the return and any replacements or refunds can help build trust.
- Optimise returns
The point about returns is worth exploring in greater depth. Returns are a fact of life, so there needs to be a strategy to deal with them. And it should leave the customer feeling positive.
Some ways to do that include:
- Having clear returns policies: Make sure your policy is easy to find and understandable. Particularly for bigger ticket items, return policies that are complex or unclear can give shoppers pause for thought. Think of an easy returns policy as a way of removing risk from your customer’s decisions.
- Provide omnichannel returns: If you can, let customers choose where to return their products. For example, they can bring it to your store, a carrier drop-off point, or have it picked up from their house.
- Enable self-service returns: Route customers to a return portal (preferably hosted on your website) when they need to complete a return. This empowers them to register the return themselves easily and prevents calls to customer service.
- Give your customers options: Prevent refunds by incorporating returns reasoning within a self-service portal. For example, if a customer is returning a shirt because it was too big, provide a sizing chart and show product availability in other sizes to promote exchanges. Also, encourage customers to select store credit instead of a refund, perhaps by integrating discount codes to boost repeat business.
Managing the Year-End Hustle
The frantic preparations for the new school term can add stress during what should ideally be a relaxing time at the conclusion of the holiday season. Low availability, poor delivery experiences, and challenging returns can all contribute to a less-than-ideal buying journey. While some issues can’t be avoided, their impact on customer sentiment can be mitigated if retailers are prepared to invest in their post-purchase journey. If they do, they will deepen existing customer relationships and improve the chances of repeat business.
Bio: Anton Eder is the Founder and COO of parcelLab, the only truly global enterprise post-purchase software provider, enabling brands to increase top-line revenue, decrease operational cost and complexity, and optimize customer experience. Trusted by over 800 brands, parcelLab actively manages the post-purchase experience across 175 countries and tracks shipping data from more than 350 carriers worldwide.