Not all shopping experiences work out the way we’d hoped they would. 

Maybe you were excited about purchasing a pricey new rug – and then the same store slashes the price on it by $100. 

Or maybe you’d ordered a new pair of sneakers with visions of training for an upcoming half marathon, but the shoes don’t show up until less than a week before the race. 

Or – in a worst-case scenario – maybe you propose to your girlfriend with an expensive ring that you picked out from a jewelry store – and she not only doesn’t like the ring, but feels that your relationship has run its course. Though the jewelry store had no fault in the matter, it will probably be guilty by association when it comes to the sad situation. 

There are many reasons why a consumer might experience negative associations related to a purchase they’ve recently made – otherwise known as post-purchase cognitive dissonance. And some of them are things that you can’t do anything about, but many of them can be remedied with the right approach.

Let’s explore some of the ways that your brand can combat post-purchase dissonance.

What is post-purchase cognitive dissonance?

Post-purchase cognitive dissonance refers to a consumer’s mindset changing about a product after they’ve made the purchase, due to any number of factors – some internal, some external.

Some common reasons include:

  • Impulse buys
    Let’s say a customer gets excited talking to their BFF about planning a camping trip, and goes on a midnight online shopping spree to load up on a tent, sleeping bag, mat, backpack, camp stove, and all the other bells and whistles. Then the next morning it occurs to both of them that they can’t stand bugs and dirt and only want to explore the Great Outdoors from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus – but all the new gear is still on its way.

  • The customer’s expectations aren’t being met
    When a customer sees an inflatable water slide online, it looks like it’ll be a thrilling adventure for their kids – but when they blow it up, they realize that since their kids are middle schoolers, not toddlers, it’s a serious flop. Whether a product doesn’t meet customer expectations due to size, material, color, style, or some other factor, this is one of the most common reasons for dissatisfaction.

    Sometimes, the customer has unrealistic expectations going in – but if there was something misleading in the product images or description, that’s a problem that you as the retailer can (and should) correct.

  • Poor experience
    Sometimes the problem isn’t due to the quality or condition of the product itself – it’s to do with the communication between the brand and the customer. Once the customer clicks the purchase button, they’re likely on a post-purchase high – but they might come crashing down to Earth quickly if you don’t meet expectations during the post-purchase experience.

    If they expect a delivery within 2 days, for instance, but receive a note that the product is on backorder and won’t arrive for weeks, they’re likely to be disappointed and may even want to cancel the purchase. Or, even if the product does arrive on time, if you’re lax about providing shipping updates and answering any questions they may have, they might start to lose enthusiasm for your brand.

If a customer reacts negatively to a product that they were initially excited about receiving, you’re likely to lose them as a customer for good – and worse, they may share their negative feedback on online reviews sites and social media, taking other potential customers down with them.

Winning the buyer over again

How can your brand stop this downward spiral from happening? Follow these tips.

  • Understand the problem
    The customer’s first action will likely be either to contact your support team, or to request a return. In either case, make sure that you have detailed notes on why the customer was unsatisfied with their purchase – was the item too large, too small, too pink, or too pricey compared to other options they found? It’s important to gather as much data as you can, both to solve the immediate problem and to enhance the experience for future customers.

  • Make it right
    Most of the time, the customer will want a refund – so you should make the process as straightforward as possible. Burying your return policy in legalese and forcing them to go through customer service channels will just frustrate them even more, so make sure to provide a clear-cut returns policy and a seamless, self-service returns platform where they can automatically request a refund or exchange and get options for sending back their item.

    In some cases, it’s not profitable to request an item back, so you might even provide them with a refund or store credit without requesting the item back. Whatever the case, make sure that you provide the customer with the option they want – whether that’s a refund, an exchange, or an upgrade. 

  • Optimize for exchanges
    Many customers’ first impulse may be to request a refund – but, by recommending an alternative option, you may be able to alleviate their cognitive dissonance while keeping them connected to your brand. With Loop’s platform, you can ask customers to select a reason for a return, and then offer them a suitable replacement – whether that means going up a size or changing the color – without ever having to revisit their shopping cart.

    If a customer is initially aiming for a refund, offering bonus store credit can incentivize them to choose an exchange from any product in your store, helping you retain the revenue from the transaction and preserve the valuable customer relationship.

You’ll undoubtedly find that there are times when customers are less than thrilled with their product or experience – but, by going the extra mile to make things right and making the returns experience as easy as possible, you’ll likely be able to course-correct and keep the customer on your team.

Want to know how Loop can help you build a better post-purchase experience? Get in touch with our team.