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7 ways to optimize your online post-purchase experience

A woman at home opens a box containing a guitar that was shipped to her.

Due to the competitiveness of the online shopping environment, retailers are continually seeking new ways to stand out. After the “buy” button has been pushed, a well-orchestrated post-purchase experience can help you rise above the competition. This final leg of the customer experience can improve your brand image, inspire customer loyalty, and foster customer retention. With the probability of selling to an existing customer at 60-70 percent, compared to 5-20 percent for selling to a new customer, the post-purchase experience isn’t something that retailers can afford to mismanage.

How can e-retailers create an innovative post-purchase strategy?

From simplifying the package tracking process to maintaining steady lines of communication with customers, here are several key ways that your business can optimize the post-purchase experience.

1. Communicate with customers.

Ensuring steady lines of communication throughout the order fulfillment process is key, helping you build a good rapport with both new and existing customers. According to a study by Iterable, as many as 87 percent of the top 100 e-retailers send out a welcome email to new customers, while 49 percent send a series of welcome emails. You should also strive to offer shipping confirmation and tracking in transit, as well as a follow-up email upon delivery to gauge customer satisfaction. It’s almost impossible to over communicate to customers about their order status.

Self-service options are increasingly important for consumers, with online shoppers preferring customer service channels that require less interaction and give them more control. Live chat and social media provide a quick and convenient mode of communication for customers. “Live chat is becoming a popular post-purchase vehicle for the consumer,” says Louis DeJianne, director of retail strategy at UPS. Just 55 percent of online shoppers are satisfied with access to customer service information within the checkout experience, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.

2. Offer delivery options.

When it comes to e-commerce logistics, shoppers want two things: free shipping and options for speed. Free shipping should be part of a strategic marketing strategy that rewards behavior, such as creating a spending threshold, as a reward for loyalty or part of a sales promotion. Expedited delivery options are important to most customers, even though they typically pick the most economical (slowest options) most of the time.

By offering faster transit times, you can cater to the 77 percent of shoppers—not to mention the 88 percent of millennials—who are willing to pay for expedited shipping. When facing a deadline for an event, such as birthday or holiday gifts, faster options are a must. Shoppers also want to be provided a set delivery date, not a range of times. And they are interested in the capability to reroute packages in transit to a more convenient location (like a UPS Access Point®), with as many as 52 percent of shoppers displaying interest in alternative shipping locations, according to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study.

3. Make package tracking easy.

Parcel tracking and visibility into the delivery process are significant for e-retailers. You can tie into your carrier’s technology or set up your own system to enable customers to self-serve. “UPS has tools to provide visibility to both the retailer and the end consumer,” explains DeJianne. UPS offers technological innovations through APIs that can be embedded within the retailer’s website, offering customers an estimated delivery date and visibility into parcel transit. If the consumer is signed up for UPS My Choice® service, they’ll be able to receive delivery alerts, change delivery times/dates and have the option of rerouting their package while it’s in transit.

4. Keep a consistent tone in omnichannel communications.

Maintaining a consistent tone and aesthetic across each retail channel (mobile, in-store, live chat, desktop, emails, etc.) will also serve your business well with shoppers during the post-purchase experience. As many as 55 percent of senior marketers rank consistency of experience across channels as one of the top five most important attributes for customers, according to a 2016 CMO Council/SAP Hybris study. From tone of voice to other aspects such as product pricing and packaging, there are lots of different ways you can ensure a coordinated experience across channels.

5. Use packaging for brand awareness

It’s easy to forget the importance of packaging as a branding element, but retailers who take advantage of inner and outer packaging can leave a strong impression. Packaging should fit your individual brand, whether that involves an embossed box for a little extra luxe or biodegradable packing peanuts to showcase your commitment to sustainability. After all, the product packaging is a kind of mini-billboard that can help you share your values with the customer, so it isn’t something to be taken lightly.

6. Make the returns process as easy as possible.

The complex process of reverse logistics, which covers not just returns but what happens to the items afterward, is becoming an increasingly important piece of the post-purchase puzzle. DeJianne states, “As e-commerce purchases continue to grow, there’s a greater need to understand reverse logistics and put in place a clear policy and easy process for returns.”

In 2017, 11.3 percent of all purchases were returned, amounting to an astonishing $380 billion worth of goods. Retailers should make returning goods an efficient and transparent process. A variety of technology tools are designed to help you meet those demands. For instance, UPS Returns® Manager provides visibility for retailers, offering pre-authorization for the return and generating a return barcode, which can be scanned and printed. It may also be a good idea to consider offering free shipping for returns, with 35 percent of online shoppers claiming that having to pay for return shipping was their greatest concern about the returns process.

7. Be environmentally friendly.

With environmental impact and sustainability looming large in the consumer mindset, reducing waste by minimizing packaging is a great way to increase your brand equity. UPS Ready® providers and companies like Packsize and Sealed Air can help retailers with customized packaging and selecting the best components for their interior packaging.

The post-sales customer experience is always the final impression you make on your shoppers. So, what better way to drive repeat purchases than to offer an exemplary experience? Learn more about the UPS Ready solutions that could help your business thrive in the post-purchase arena.

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