You’ve made the sale. Now what? Unfortunately, this is a question retailers all too often fail to ask. While it’s extremely important to get shoppers to make that initial purchase, it doesn’t end there.
According to a survey by RJMetrics, a data analysis firm, only 32 percent of ecommerce customers place a second order within the first year. But if you can get that second order, the odds of seeing a third purchase jump to 50 percent.
Daniel Carnerero, current and former CEO of a number of e-retailers, explains: “Having a steady stream of repeat customers helps business growth and your bottom line. It simplifies your marketing and saves time and money. Customers’ future value is higher, brand loyalty stops competitors from enticing customers away from you, and price points do become less of an issue as well as creating a word of mouth referral snow ball.” From a marketing point of view, he elaborates further: “Companies that continuously buy customers are inefficient and over time their cost of sale becomes non sustainable; having repeat customers helps every metric, from average order value to overall cost of marketing, cost of acquisition and even the number of items purchase at a time. It’s normally based on confidence that the product and/or service is of the expected quality”
So how do you turn those one-time buyers into repeat customers? With a compelling post-purchase program. It’s much more than a follow-up email with a tracking number. We’re talking about a well-planned, multifaceted approach that offers customers personalized messages, outstanding service, and relevant content to give them an excellent experience well beyond that first purchase.
The direction you take with your post-purchase strategy depends greatly on your brand’s target customers and what they’re looking for. But basic tactics are relevant for most any organization and can help create a positive, memorable experience that will keep your company top of mind.
Make Them Feel Welcome
One of the most common elements in an effective post-purchase program is a welcome e-mail chain. It is a critical contact between a company and a new customer. The message and tone are extremely important. It’s not the time to offer a hard sell, as that can turn away customers who aren’t yet ready to buy again. Use a warm, friendly tone to remind customers of your brand and what it has to offer. Consider including coupons or promotions in the series, as long as they’re relevant to the recipient.
Home décor retailer Annie Selke saw terrific success by adjusting its welcome series to align with customers. This included:
- a coupon in the first message with a unique offer,
- a new the subject line to mention the coupon, and
- replacing the fourth email in the prior series with a coupon reminder.
The changes contributed to a 259% increase in year-over-year revenue from the series.
Offer Helpful Product Info
Do you sell complex products? Some customers may grow frustrated if they have to rely on lengthy manuals to use those products. So why not create content to help them?
This could include answers to frequently asked questions about the products or an easy how-to guide. Consider including videos or infographics in your messages to make the content even more engaging.
Mr Carnerero explain this: “Providing readily available information, easily accessible, and minimizing the contact with customer service agents has a positive impact on customers’ perceptions of how a business operates. It provides both a sense of freedom and 24/7 support that suits most customers. A strong FAQ is highly appreciated by on-line customers, for as long as it is clear and simple to follow. Companies should invest in expanding FAQ sections as they collect business intelligence from previous customer queries.”
The goal: Address potential concerns immediately to avoid product returns and to keep your customers happy.
Product reviews provide credibility and can help generate customer loyalty. How do you get customers to review your products? Just ask!
Once customers have had enough time to evaluate their purchase, send them a brief email requesting feedback. Make it simple, and offer an incentive for their participation. You’d be amazed at how many customers will oblige. This is an excellent tactic for new and established companies. Not only can you increase the quantity of reviews, customers that post reviews are good candidates to buy again.
Remember, though, that not all reviews will be positive. Listen to the bad ones and use them to strengthen your relationship with those customers. And a thoughtful, timely response to a bad review could be just the thing to convert undecided shoppers.
“Every company, regardless its brand, status or success, has a number of negative reviews. Customers do expect to see some, and it is a sign of a genuine retailer. What really matters is the accuracy of the reviews, their validity (if any), and how the company handles them. That gives customers an overall true reflection of the business behind the product and/or service, builds confidence and trust, and re-assures the decision making process” says Daniel Carnerero.
Provide Excellent Service
You can have helpful content, enticing incentives, and a smooth checkout process, but if your service is lacking, you risk losing customers to other brands. If a customer asks a question, answer it. If he has a complaint, respond to it. And if you receive a negative review, look into the problem, reach out to the customer, and solve it.
According to a survey by Dimensional Research, customer service is the number one factor impacting vendor trust.
If consumers don’t trust your company, they’re not likely to buy from it. They may even share their negative views with others. Dissatisfied customers are far more likely to share the details with friends, family, and online review sites.
Still, 33 percent of customers with a positive experience tell at least five others. So take your customer service seriously. Be timely with your responses. Be compassionate with frustrated customers and be willing to do whatever it takes to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Tailor Triggered Messages
Triggered messages are not part of a scheduled email send. They go out based on a customer milestone or activity. This could include birthdays, holidays, time since last purchase, or cart or browse abandonment. The keys to success with triggered emails are personalization and relevance. Consumers respond to personalized messages in real time.
As an example, active wear retailer Brooks Sports creates automated reminders for shoe buyers based on how many miles they run. Brooks Sports also created weather triggers based on a user’s location. These messages include a local weather forecast and product promotions that fit with current and upcoming conditions. The campaigns have contributed to a 60 percent growth in email-generated revenue.
Make Relevant Recommendations
A little segmentation goes a long way. Use browse behavior and prior purchase data to customize messages to a much more refined sub-set of your customers. These messages help build trust in your brand and increase the likelihood of a sale because the products being displayed are more relevant.
Entertainment Magpie, a marketplace for used CDs, DVDs, and electronics goods, segmented its emails to customers looking for a specific genre of DVD and offered relevant product recommendations. This resulted in a 5-percent higher open rate and nearly 3-times more conversions than a generic batch-and-blast email.
Reward Loyal Customers
Loyalty programs encourage repeat purchases. But the programs of many retailers are generic — one size fits all. Those programs lack personalization and fail to create real relationships with customers.
A much more effective program personalizes rewards to each customer and is mobile friendly. Consider using social media to make the program more engaging — such as rewarding customers for checking in at physical stores or for creating user content.
Fast-fashion retailer Lulus created a Black Friday V.I.P. email campaign with private sales for its most established customers. It offered deep discounts, as well as other exclusive incentives. The results? Click-through rates increased by 20 percent. The campaign was responsible for 10 percent of the brand’s entire November sales. It was also responsible for a whopping 70-percent increase in revenue year-over-year.
Encourage Social Media
Not to mention the incredible influence social media can have on the customer experience. One of the easiest ways to improve social engagement is to build it right into your post-purchase email marketing.
In that first “Thank you for shopping with us!” email, encourage customers to like and follow your company. Beyond that, encourage customers to share their purchase experience on social media. Explain how to tag your business, and include any hashtags they should use.
There are many ways to encourage social engagement and get that elusive user-generated content. Ask customers to post selfies with your products and then use those images in future emails. This builds trust with those customers and also shows the real, human side of your business — much more than using models and stock photography.
Consider, also, asking customers for tweets or Facebook posts about your products and what they like about them. Then use that feedback in an email as the ultimate form of social proof.
Sideshow Collectibles is a specialty manufacturer of movie, television, and proprietary figures. It has experienced tremendous success with contests. According to Director of E-commerce Chris Pirrotta, “The total cost of our entire contest giveaway promotion is about $130,000, and we bring in $10 million. That’s a 76:1 return.”
“WHATEVER YOU DO, MAKE IT PERSONAL”
Personalisation is the name of the game, and you’re only as good as your data. If your customer management system isn’t collecting the right information or can’t properly segment your customers, your post-purchase campaigns will surely fail.
Set your goals and identify the types of data you’ll need to meet them. Beyond opens, clicks, and conversions, consider collecting data on location, gender, age, interests, shopping preferences, behavior, and shopping frequency, as well as important milestone dates. Then create smaller segments from your list where those data points overlap.
In short, the more personalized you can be, the better chance you’ll have of creating repeat customers and loyal brand advocates.