Return Strategy

Post-purchase evaluation: 3 Ways to win customers for life

If your brand is keen to win life-long customers, the first 100 days are vital. Here are three major tips to help brands win in the post-purchase battleground.

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Ryan Cordoni

July 7, 2021

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In an era where consumers are blessed with more choices than they know what to do with, we can be sure of one thing: people really want to buy the right stuff.

Despite all their efforts, even the most informed customers make mistakes sometimes. When they end up buying the wrong stuff, the wheels inevitably start spinning... "Am I happy with this?... Should I get a refund?..."

Sure, brands can help customers by making returns & exchanges easy, but shouldn't they do more?

If you trust customer experience super-experts like Joey Coleman, the answer is a resounding yes. Joey says it's in this vital post-purchase evaluation stage where life-long customers are won and lost.

The prospect of customers for life is pretty sweet, but thinking about the post-purchase experience follows for another big reason: the success rate when selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%. For new customers? Just 5-20%.

When you consider that along with the rising cost of acquisition, it just makes sense to focus much more on customers after the buy button. In other words, even if all you care about is the cold-hearted bottom-line for your business, it pays to optimize the post-purchase experience for your customers.

If you're enticed, let's get down to it. We'll start with a brief primer on the concept of post-purchase evaluation. Then we're going to show you three ways to master it and win those life-long customers your brand deserves.

Make-it-or-break-it: Customer experience in the post-purchase journey

The customer journey has changed.

It used to be simple: go to the store, buy a thing. In the digital era though, the customer journey has morphed to become a roller coaster of internal stimuli, external stimuli, blog posts, customer reviews, and several product-evaluation stages.

While many brands are slowly adapting to the changes in consumer buying behavior, their efforts to adapt are usually focused on everything that happens right up to the moment of purchase.

Guess what? The new customer journey continues long after the purchase is made.

Getting new customers is a necessary goal. But the real make-it-or-break-it moment, according to Joey Coleman, happens in the post-purchase period.

When researching for his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, Joey discovered an alarming reality that exists across all industries: 20-70% of customers leave a brand within 100 days.

That factor alone should be enough to get companies to readjust their focus. But that finding was only the start. Joey continued digging - and eventually he struck commerce gold:

He found that time after time if brands can keep a customer for 100 days, and customers are happy, the typical customer will stay for 5 years.

In a business like ecommerce, where the focus is on scale and operations, it pays even more to create a human connection.

What is post-purchase evaluation?

TL;DR: During the post-purchase stage, at a minimum, you want to prevent regret. At maximum, you get customers for life!

This gets a bit theoretical but... bear with me while I break it down. Post-purchase evaluation, meaning post-purchase evaluation in consumer behavior, can be defined as:

"The stage after a product or service has been purchased and used in which the consumer reflects on whether the product met expectations, exceeded them, or was disappointing."

One important takeaway here: at all costs, brands want to prevent post-purchase dissonance. This occurs when people begin to seriously regret their purchase and as a result, they may take negative action against your brand.

So if we can agree that preventing customers from feeling regret is a no-brainer, let's dig deeper into purchase behavior to think about how consumers evaluate products and brands in the post-purchase period.

The consumer post-purchase evaluation process 

Now that the post-purchase evaluation definition is out of the way, let's see how this plays out theoretically. It starts by knowing the 5 Stages of the Consumer Decision Making Process:

  • Need Recognition

  • Information Search

  • Option Evaluation

  • Purchase Decision

  • Post-Purchase Evaluation

Truth be told, the post-purchase evaluation process begins immediately after customers hit the buy button. And as we'll dive into shortly, brands can even begin to influence customers BEFORE purchase too.

Post-purchase evaluation examples

So what are some examples of post-purchase evaluation? Although this is a scientific field of study, it doesn't take a Ph.D. to think of the ways people tend to evaluate their purchases:

  • Did the purchase meet the customer's needs?

  • Is the customer happy with the purchase?

  • Would they recommend the product or write a review?

  • Was the purchase worth the money invested?

  • Will the customer be loyal to the brand?

  • Would the customer buy the same product again?

  • Will they buy another related product from the brand?

If you were approaching things based on the science of consumer behavior, you'd probably collect data with a questionnaire or a survey asking questions from the above list. A complex analysis may involve asking customers about internal and external forces that impacted how they felt about their purchase.

For our purposes, we're going to stay grounded and focus on what we can control: satisfaction or dissatisfaction. By doing everything possible to make sure customers are satisfied, brands can dominate the post-purchase evaluation stage & win more life-long customers.

3 Ways to win life-long customers

Let's get to our tips. By incorporating these ideas into your post-purchase strategy, you'll be on your way toward retaining customers for 100 days and keeping them for the next 5 years at least.

We're going to focus on influencing people at 3 different timings:

  • Before they purchase

  • Before they receive the product

  • After they receive (and/or use) the product

Remember, the goal is to influence customers in that critical post-purchase evaluation period. But even though that period begins after purchase, it doesn't mean we can't tip the scales in our favor beforehand.

With that in mind, let's look at our first tip!

1. Go above and beyond with your return policy

At a minimum, we think every brand needs a clear and concise return policy. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.

If our goal is to ensure customer satisfaction post-purchase, a little goes a long way. Here are a few ways to make your return policy shine:

  • Answer these 5 questions about returns: How long do I have? Where do I start? How long will it take? What will it cost me? Is there anything I can't return?

  • Think from the customer's perspective: Loop's brand marketing manager Alex already said it best, "if I was a customer, how would I feel about this policy?" Humanize your approach and people will appreciate it.

  • Create a dedicated return policy page on your website: A whopping 67% of shoppers check a return policy before making a purchase. When you consider this under the lens of post-purchase emotions, it's clear - consumers want to prevent a bad situation if their purchase fails to meet expectations.

  • Don't hide it! If you want to win hearts in the post-purchase battleground, you've got to make your return policy easy to find. Imagine if a customer isn't in love with their purchase. One way to make them even more steamed is to bury your return policy in the fine print of an email. Yuck.

Bottom line: When people feel safe, they feel happy. A great return policy can make all the difference.

2. Get customers hyped before the product arrives

Somebody buys something... now they wait. Hopefully not long... but when you are waiting... the mind tends to wander...

So why not steer those wandering minds towards a worthy goal: getting hyped for the product they just ordered! Sure you'll send them an order confirmation and shipping info, but why stop there?

Customers buy products based on some level of excitement. Capitalize on that! There are all kinds of things you can send to customers in the days before their shipment arrives.

One awesome example comes from the men's hair product brand BluMaan. They send an email with a few simple tips that most men didn't know they (desperately) need.

Now, instead of worrying about whether their package will arrive on time, they are getting excited to turn their mane into a thing of glory. And if they miss the mark on their first attempt? They can join the BluFam Facebook group to look for more coif-centric ideas (maybe they'll share on social media while they are there).

What's more, following this kind of track is a great way to fuel word of mouth. When people ask "how are you styling that bodacious hair?", your customers have already been trained on how to answer! One email can really go a long way.

Bottom line: Think hard about your product - what can you send to people to get them excited before your product arrives? If you are stuck for ideas, check out the Loop Returns Podcast - we speak on this topic quite often with some of the most inspirational ecommerce brands operating today.

2. Make returns easy (and offer exchanges)

There's a philosophy we talk about here at Loop all the time:

"Love it? Leave a review. If not, let's exchange it"

It's something we mentioned in a recent post about post-purchase emails (by the way, there are a ton more ideas worth checking out there).

Our main focus at Loop is returns management, so it's no secret that we want to help brands make magic happen post-purchase. But we also live for data. In a recent survey we conducted, we found that 90% of customers have kept a product they actually wanted to return.

The point is simple: you don't want people holding onto products they aren't overjoyed with. Remember, we want happy customers in 100 days so that we can keep them for LIFE.

So what should you do? Here's an idea: instant exchanges. Why? Because when looked at data from hundreds of thousands of returns from over 500 brands, it told an optimistic story...

People who exchange products are 33.8% more likely to purchase again compared to people who did not.

Do your brand a favor: start proactively offering exchanges. And if they love the product - great - consider asking for a review!

Failing those two scenarios, you can still find a to make life easier for your customers. One place to start is by looking at the above reasons why people avoid returns. That's what we did, and it fueled one of our most loved features: printerless returns.

Bottom line: Make it easy for customers to be happy, they'll stick with you for a long time. And by the way, even a customer who returns a product is 17.8% more likely to buy again compared to those who didn't.

Wrapping up

Ecommerce is definitely a numbers game on some level, but the customer experience is becoming more and more important. If your brand focuses on giving customers some love during the Post-purchase evaluation stage, you're almost certain to see it pay off.

Keep customers happy and they are bound to keep coming back. 100 days might seem like a long time, but if it gets your brand customer for life? Buckle down and get 'em early!

Returns don't need to be a drag, and as we've pointed out in this post, they can go a long way towards making customers really happy. Are you a rising Shopify brand? Check out our returns management software and book a demo with our team today!

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