Retailers need to step into their customers’ shoes to really understand what they want and need from their online shopping experience and adapt their communications accordingly to reap the long-term benefits. This was one of the key takeaways from parcelLab’s recent ‘Optimising the Post-Purchase Experience to Fuel Continued Engagement’ webinar, presented by parcelLab’s founder and CEO Tobias Buxhoidt with guest speaker Forrester senior analyst Emily Pfeiffer.
Retailers and merchants should know by now that Customer Obsession is mandatory, but it shouldn’t stop when the customer clicks “buy”. In fact, the six stages of the customer lifecycle should be viewed as an infinite loop, as gestured by Buxhoidt during the webinar. “It’s a natural thing that if you keep engaging with the customer, a certain percentage will engage and buy something else in the long term. If you are controlling those touchpoints and are connecting with them, the likelihood is that they will come back,” he said.
“You worked so hard to win the sale so don’t lose momentum when you get that first date,” said Pfeiffer. “When you win that engagement and take that next action, you’re staying relevant and delivering value. You’re not just asking them but telling them something they want to hear. Every single touchpoint is engagement and a way to feed into that loyalty. Controlling the experience at every stage of the lifecycle allows them to loop back around.”
Highlighting the need for customer expectation management, Pfeiffer cited Forrester statistics which showed that 70% of customers are less likely to shop with a retailer again if an item is delayed and the retailer fails to inform them of the delay. In fact, in a COVID-19 context, nearly 70% of consumers want to receive MORE communication from retailers about their deliveries during these times and less than 7% want to hear less. “Consumers want frequent, predictable communication,” she said, before stating that transactional emails garner click through rates 3 x the rates for bulk mailings, and can drive more than 4 x the revenue. Shipping confirmation emails drive the most, followed by order confirmations and then return/exchange emails.
“In the post-purchase stage you are communicating something that’s of value,” said Buxhoidt. “If you connect shipping communications, which can garner open rates of 300-400%, with relevant content that is clickable, this allows you to be more precise and take the customer experience to a new level.”
The period between placing an order and receiving a package is the prime opportunity to re-engage the customer through a branded, controlled, relevant experience that adds value for the customer. “When a retailer puts a link in front of me that dumps me onto a carrier, it doesn’t make you feel, as a customer, taken care of. What’s worse is when that dead end link doesn’t offer any information. Either way, this is a very dead end.”
They went on to look at best and worst case examples of how communications set customer expectations and explained how retailers need to provide and manage ongoing status updates as and when things change, even if there is a legitimate reason for a delay. If the experience is carefully managed and based on content that is actually helping, it adds value to the experience. “Being proactive and being upfront goes a long way for the customer,” said Pfeiffer.
“Consider the customer’s mood,” said Buxhoidt. “It might be a good moment to say sorry and offer them a coupon. Show that you truly care about them. Things sometimes go wrong, it happens. You can be super specific and personalised to create a certain engagement that gives you the result you are after.”
By being proactive and with suggestions and value-added, personalised content and communications, retailers can avoid disappointing customers by managing expectations and capitalising on key moments during this stage of the customer journey.
“It all comes down to customer requirements and customer expectations,” said Buxhoidt. “Making sure you are treating every online customer like you would offline, even if things don’t go to plan you can still get the best out of it. If you start communicating with them yourself, you can start to define how this looks and can control and define what every customer journey will look like.”
“You know exactly who the customer is, what they bought, you might even know that customer from before,” he added. “By taking control of this process and monitoring what’s happening, you can become a proactive brand. This turns into trust. Show them you are there for them. It’s not just about the product anymore. You want customers to connect with you as a brand. They remember the experience they had and they come to you because there’s trust, there’s a relationship.”
However, Buxhoidt warned: “One size doesn’t fit all. You need different approaches for different customer segments and different customer groups. Going to every single customer, knowing who they are and what they want, that’s where true personalisation comes into play. It’s about helping the customer,” he said. When you make customers happy, it pays off. Based on data from more than 500 brands that parcelLab works with globally, Buxhoidt referenced three key statistics: 90% increase in repurchasing rate; 55% increase in customer satisfaction; and 25% decrease in customer enquiries.
“Having a good end-to-end customer experience solution and engagement tool is key to making customers happy and creating a loyal customer base,” said Buxhoidt, which allows you to iterate on, look at how customers react and build on this. “Different areas require different incentives. It comes down to customer requirement and brand requirement – this can be very different depending on what you want to achieve.”
“It’s so important to take the customer perspective – it might not be relevant if you don’t know what the customer expectations are,” concluded Buxhoidt. “Use the information you have to trigger a message. You need to put yourself in the consumers’ position to understand what they want, differentiate and communicate your own brand story and values in post-purchase communications.”