How do you best engage online shoppers, post-purchase?

Jun 10, 2016
Tom Ryan

Seen as the driver of online customer retention and loyalty, the post-purchase is often referred to as a critical and often neglected part of the e-commerce experience. But many see missed opportunities for engagement.

At a minimum, retailers should remediate delivery mishaps. With one bad experience often prompting a consumer to abandon a brand, retailers should have the ability to react to late deliveries and missing items, as well as return complications.

At the next level, customers want delivery assurances. Conditioned by Amazon Prime, this includes being able to track when their package shipped, where it is on its journey, and when it will arrive. Retailers can further allow shoppers to opt for text notifications on delivery status.

Beyond delivery, online buyers are said by some to be more open to receiving recommendations, deals and educational content while tracking and waiting for their packages.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, which offers solutions for the post-purchase online experience, said buyers are especially open to engage if the information is customized. For instance, Birchbox, the online beauty subscription service, provides customers a video preview of what’s in their box. Levi’s promotes new products based on the buyer’s previous purchases.

Mr. Sharma told Women’s Wear Daily, “Successful retailers are those that focus on the supply chain as a place to engage customers rather than as a backend cost center.”

Talking to Forbes, Tim Ash, CEO of online conversion consulting firm SiteTuners, said that beyond cross-sell and up-sell offers, retailers could offer post-purchase buyers incentives for connecting on social media, offers to review products, or ask for e-mail sign-ups or testimonials.

However, retailers are challenged in managing the post-purchase experience due to their over-reliance on third-party delivery companies, too heavy a focus on new-customer acquisition, and a lack of coordination between supply chain, e-commerce and marketing teams.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a greater opportunity to engage and up-sell online post-purchase customers? Where are the biggest missed opportunities, post-click?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"This biggest missed opportunity is the 'e-nurturing' of all customers post-sale. Questions like, 'Was the customer satisfied?', 'If not, why not?'"
"A common mistake is a satisfaction survey that arrives within minutes or hours of the order — long before the item is received."
"I believe consumers will welcome more post-purchase follow up, as long as the communications sent meet one of 3 requirements..."

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "How do you best engage online shoppers, post-purchase?"

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Kim Garretson
2 years 7 months ago

There are more than 1 million post-purchase #Haul hashtags on Instagram, plus many other #Hauls on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Developing a post-purchase customer engagement strategy with these social-sharing “haulers” is a great opportunity for retailers and brands.

Ralph Jacobson

This biggest missed opportunity here is the “e-nurturing” of all customers post-sale. Questions like, “Was the customer satisfied?”, “If not, why not?”, “If so, what can we upsell/add-on, etc.?” Capturing and keeping your existing customers is the easiest way to grow your business. And beyond the products your organization’s service after the sale is the best differentiator. This service must be surgical in nature. You can’t spam people with irrelevant messages. You need to leverage new tools available today to create compelling offers that develop a brand following over time, so they think of your brand first, regardless of when the last email contact from your brand was.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Today we live in a social world so many people are now talking about a marketing hourglass rather than a marketing funnel. Once the sale occurs, brands and retailers have the opportunity to answer questions supporting their consumers, to learn about what else the consumers might need and to then encourage those consumers to share the experiences with the brand or retailer. The goal is no longer just to make a sale, but to encourage satisfied consumers to share their experience with friends. Getting consumers to be advocates after sales is the goal.

Bill Hanifin

I believe consumers will welcome more post-purchase follow up, as long as the communications sent meet one of 3 requirements:

1. They are informative and useful to inform the customer of shipping status and contributing to problem resolution as needed.

2. They are relevant to the context of the item purchased and how the item will likely be used by the customer. For example, if a blender is purchased, a follow up about “how did that first smoothie taste?” could be well-received and lead to increased satisfaction and possible re-purchase.

3. General follow up regarding overall shopping experience and satisfaction with the item or service purchased.

Rick Moss

Bill – I agree, in theory, that asking, “How are you enjoying your XXX so far?” could build loyalty and inspired follow-up purchases. The problem is that such an inquiry can be automatically sent to the thousands of consumers of a product and yet most companies do not have the skilled customer service people to handle whatever comes back from the user, whether it be, “Since you asked, I can’t find the button that does XXX” or “I love it! Can you recommend a model that my husband would like? He’s into fishing.”

Maybe A.I. will be the ultimate answer for this.

Shep Hyken
Automation can help a customer feel comfortable and connected with the online experience. For example, an update when an item ships, it is received, who signed for it, etc. And, a follow up to ensure the customer is happy. While automated, it gives the customer a chance to jump in if there is a problem or issue within this process. The opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell can be covered through analytics. What other items do customers buy when they make this purchase? Will they need batteries with that new toy the customer is buying for their child? Amazon does an amazing job of making suggestions — very appropriate suggestions. Amazon not only looks at what others are buying, but also what the customer is buying. Finally, a friendly post-purchase campaign can be effective. Follow-up emails to ask how they are enjoying the product, suggestions on how to best use the product and maybe even suggestions on what else they can purchase to enhance their uses of the product are all appropriate. Look at what Amazon… Read more »
David Slavick

Post-purchase engagement should have a central owner. A customer experience lead or retention lead must be in place to design, specify and execute consistent practices from the moment the “buy” or submit button is clicked. A silo orientation breeds dysfunction. CMO plus e-commerce senior management must get together and make a commitment to service the needs of the buyer. Trial leads to repeat purchase. Issues with the product, delivery or call center follow up creates negative buzz through social posts and personal stories shared with family and friends. As online sales continues to grow exponentially, this approach to seamless post purchase engagement is a must have. Only 9 percent of those dissatisfied make a point to share. That leaves 91 percent to become anti-sponsors of your enterprise. The risk is real and the price steep — make it happen — soon!

Mohamed Amer

The post-purchase experience is the next frontier in retailing. The ongoing shift from transactional to experiential retailing continues to turn on the “sale” as goal and destination. To truly pivot to experience-based retailing, then post-purchase needs to be part of the “experience journey” and not limit our thinking and actions to a “purchase journey.” And this goes well beyond the traditional service contract on a washing machine or dishwasher (not to discount the value of those).

How does your customer use the product? How will she use all those ingredients to make that special pasta sauce? Is that roll of toilet paper really soft or strong? Which wine went well with the fresh fish purchased from Whole Foods or Kroger? Does that non-dairy ice cream get your seal of approval? There are tons of ways for brands and retailers to engage post-purchase if they have that mindset in place and are prepared to engage accordingly — most importantly that they have a process to bring those post-purchase insights into the next engagement cycle with that customer.

James Tenser
Communication after the sale is essential, but most online marketers screw it up badly. A common mistake is a satisfaction survey that arrives within minutes or hours of the order — long before the item is received. The worst are those “rate my experience” boxes that pop up before you complete the purchase! Nothing says “we’re incompetent and really don’t care what you might tell us anyway” more than messing up that timing. The corollary to this common mistake is a follow up sales pitch for another item that arrives before the current order is received. Both types of messages are about the seller’s wants and needs, not the customer’s. Good online retailers need to find ways to turn that dynamic around to put the shopper’s total experience first. Programmed auto-response technology can be a boon in this regard, but only if used in a thoughtful manner. “Thanks for your order! What do you want to do next?” is a possible way to open the dialog with first time customers. The message should be triggered… Read more »
Matt Talbot

I agree with Shep. I do see a greater opportunity to engage and upsell online post-purchase customers, but not necessarily by throwing products at them. The most important component of this equation is customer loyalty and happiness. By giving them relevant updates through the product journey — purchase, shipment and delivery notifications — a customer could feel more inclined to write a positive review or purchase from the same store again. After a few weeks a vendor could solicit a review and recommend items that others have purchased, and because there had been so many emails prior to this one, a customer may go back and online shop again.

Missed opportunities would be not building rapport throughout out the post-purchase cycle. If not frequently contacted it become easier for the consumer to forget about the brand and their purchase experience altogether.

Vahe Katros

Congratulations to Narvar, they have correctly connected the dots between technology, the consumer and retail by packaging a series of events that occur in a well defined segment of the journey: post sales. Perhaps they’ll even spawn a new category of systems, namely: the post sales system (and why not, since the web is making POS an anachronism).

This model can be applied to other portions of the consumer journey and represents a clue as to how to attack the problem of the omnichannel experience. This approach is a breakthrough but will probably be disregarded as obvious — that’s what Narvar is hoping for no-doubt.

Kenneth Leung

Post purchase review requests are good but for the customers, the best value is information about the product they purchased, i.e. how to use it properly, increase usage rate and maximize benefits from the purchase. Immediate cross-sell and upselling from my point of view is counterproductive since the customer hasn’t derived value yet. Make sure the customer is happy and engaged with the purchase, then you can ask for a recommendation in social media for it.

Adrien Nussenbaum
Adrien Nussenbaum
U.S. CEO and co-founder, Mirakl
2 years 7 months ago
The online shopping world is changing fast: estimates are that 39% of online commerce will be transacted via online marketplaces (where 3rd party sellers offer goods on a retailer’s site) by 2020 (source: Ecommerce News). In that context of disintermediated commerce, it becomes even more important for retailers to be in control of the customer experience throughout the full lifecycle from pre- to post-purchase. From a post-purchase perspective, retailers operating their own marketplace need to be able to engage with customers to make sure they are happy first and foremost, to upsell them and to turn them into repeat customers. They must have a platform to monitor and ensure seller quality and to enable smooth communications amongst all parties (operator, seller, and customer). If customers are happy, they will be loyal and buy more. And with a marketplace, it is possible to get to the long tail without having to carry that inventory A marketplace could be looked at as a way to have more post-purchase engagements with customers, as they are buying more products… Read more »
"This biggest missed opportunity is the 'e-nurturing' of all customers post-sale. Questions like, 'Was the customer satisfied?', 'If not, why not?'"
"A common mistake is a satisfaction survey that arrives within minutes or hours of the order — long before the item is received."
"I believe consumers will welcome more post-purchase follow up, as long as the communications sent meet one of 3 requirements..."

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