Online Retailers’ New Best Prospect? The Post-Purchase Customer
Most retailers put a lot of time and effort into attracting new customers. It makes sense: you need customers to buy your products and sustain your business. However, generating more sales from existing customers is a more efficient, less expensive way to grow.
The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 percent to 70 percent, compared with the 5 percent to 20 percent chance of selling to a new customer, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Every dollar spent retaining or reselling goes further than one spent to attract new customers.
I invite you to reconsider the post-purchase customer as a prospect for continued, expanded business. In many ways, they’re an ideal prospect — you know what products they like, you know that they like your brand, and you have their trust.
Existing customers are also a great source of new prospects: 42 percent of online customers find recommendations from friends and family influential, and 23 percent are influenced by social media recommendations, according to BigCommerce’s Consumer Shopping Habits Study.
7 Ways to Turn Post-Purchase Interactions Into New Sales
The moment a customer completes a purchase, you should think of them as a new prospect, with opportunities for add-ons and additional sales on the horizon. Each interaction is an opportunity for more sales, more revenue per purchase, and more referrals.
1. Make good use of your order tracking page.
Between purchase and delivery, customers who track their orders visit the order tracking page an average of 3.1 times per order, according to the 2017 Narvar Post-Purchase Benchmark. They’re also three times more likely to click through a marketing asset on that page than a regular marketing email. Customers who visit the tracking page are excited about your products. Make good use of that prime real estate with targeted ads for products that would complement their recent purchase.
2. Answer their questions.
This might seem straightforward, but too many retailers are missing this crucial foundation. After purchase, customers expect you to be just as helpful as when you were trying to close the sale. At the simplest level, your website needs an easy-to-find FAQ about topics like shipping, refunds and exchanges.
Ideally, customers should be able to get an answer via any channel: phone, live chat, email, social media, or even in-store. According to Parature, 43 percent of customers cite being passed from agent to agent as a top aspect of bad customer service. Getting this right requires an an omnichannel order management system (OMS) that centralizes information for every agent. A customer standing in your store doesn’t want to hear that they have to call the 800 number, and now they won’t have to.
3. Order modifications: anywhere, anytime.
With the advent of sophisticated order fulfillment software, customers expect you to locate and modify their order right up until the moment it ships. Order management software can solve this challenge, integrated with OMS so that service representatives don’t have to call the warehouse to make changes.
It’s a worthwhile investment. When customers can modify their order, they’re more likely to buy add-ons, knowing that their products will arrive together. You also save on refunds and exchanges by eliminating shipping products that customers don’t want. Finally, you enhance your relationship with customers, who trust you to get them exactly what they want.
4. Provide smooth and easy returns.
Returns are unavoidable. According to the marketing experts at Invesp, 30 percent of products purchased online are returned. A full 35 percent of those returns aren't due to any error, but just because a customer decided not to keep the item. Turn this potentially negative situation into an opportunity by delivering an outstanding, frictionless experience.
Customers want to return or exchange a product via any channel, not just the one where it was purchased. If they bring a sweater they purchased online into their local store, a store employee should be able to process the exchange, then delight the customer by offering the replacement item for pickup or quick shipment. An OMS makes this possible by centralizing all orders, inventory, fulfillment and returns.
5. Make it personal.
Once a customer purchases from your brand, you suddenly have an enormous marketing advantage: you know what they like. Fifty-nine percent of shoppers want personalized marketing online, including special offers, exclusive coupons or advertising for products they’re interested in, according to the Accenture Personalization Survey. Use what you know to market related products via email, direct mail, social media and other channels, and start soon after purchase while your brand is top of mind.
6. Don’t forget the packaging.
Let’s say that 20 percent of your customers open each of your marketing emails — pretty good! How many open the package that contains their order? More like 100 percent. Packing materials are an excellent marketing asset, and not to be overlooked.
Beyond the baseline — delivering the order on-time, complete and undamaged — you can delight customers with enclosed free samples or discount offers. Then make it easy for them to follow up. Set up a special short URL for the offer so they can place their order quickly while they’ve got it on their mind.
7. Get the most out of happy customers.
Loyal customers don’t only bring additional revenue, they can also bring in new customers. Consider implementing NPS, the simple survey that asks customers, “How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend?” Identify happy customers, then follow through: offer referral perks or encourage them to share their favorite products on social media.
Loyalty programs are another great option, although they can be complex to administer. According to Accenture, members of loyalty programs generate 12 percent to 18 percent more revenue than customers who aren’t members. Loyalty programs keep customers actively engaged and drive repeat purchases, social media buzz and new referrals.
Getting the most out of your post-purchase customer interactions has two major parts: a well-designed and well-executed marketing strategy, and an omnichannel delivery and service commitment. Both pieces are necessary to drive higher customer retention, loyalty and referrals, and overall revenue. Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve over 90 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to those that don’t.
Manish Chowdhary is the CEO of Pulse Commerce, an order management and inventory platform.
Related story: Loyalty is Not a Program
Manish Chowdhary is the founder and CEO of Cahoot, a peer-to-peer order fulfillment network where merchants collaborate to increase their sales and margins by offering profitable one-day and two-day free shipping to customers nationwide without spending a penny more than the economical ground shipping.
Manish is an innovator, thought leader, and a highly sought after speaker for all facets of e-commerce. Manish has founded multiple industry-leading companies starting from his dorm room at the University of Bridgeport, CT. Manish’s specialties include e-commerce strategy, business methods innovation, supply chain and logistics optimization, and he holds 10 U.S. patents. He has been featured in The New York Times, Internet Retailer, and many other leading publications. Manish’s mission in life is to positively impact millions of lives through technology and leave the planet in a better state than when he arrived.
Manish is a 40 Under 40 Competition Winner and holds an Honorary Doctorate, the highest honor from his alma mater, University of Bridgeport, CT.