What is the post-purchase decision evaluation process?
The post-purchase evaluation process is the final stage in the consumer purchasing process, one that’s sometimes ignored by marketers. After purchasing a product, a customer will naturally evaluate it by comparing it and the purchasing process with their expectations.
While we’ll be focusing on the final stage of the consumer purchasing process — post-purchase evaluation — it’s important to recognize and understand the other stages and overall arc of the customer experience:
- Stage 1: Problem or Need Recognition. In this stage, the consumer recognizes that they have a problem or need and might need to make a purchase to solve it.
- Stage 2: Information Search. After recognizing a need, the consumer conducts research to inform their purchasing decision.
- Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives. The customer considers their options and compares your product or service with other similar offers, deciding which aligns most closely with their previous buying behavior.
- Stage 4: Purchase Decision. The customer makes a decision and purchases a particular product or service.
- Stage 5: Post Purchase Behavior. The customer evaluates their purchase and makes decisions about how to wield their purchasing power in the future.
Why is the post-purchase evaluation process so important for marketers? Simply put, a positive post-purchase experience tends to increase customer LTV by encouraging existing customers to continue purchasing goods from your business. At the same time, it establishes a brand identity associated with reliability and trust, which in turn can attract new customers through word of mouth.
A poor-post purchase experience, in contrast, can be one of the main determinants in decreasing customer loyalty. But what defines a poor-post purchase experience? Shipping problems and delays, unresponsive or ineffective customer service, poor communication, and an unclear refund or return policy can all create a discouraging post-purchase atmosphere for consumers.
Ecommerce delivery is often the only physical touchpoint that a consumer has with a brand, making that experience critical to long term engagement and customer satisfaction — in fact, 99% of consumers expect post-purchase communication from their retailers. As a result, cutting down on cognitive dissonance (also known as buyer’s remorse) that might lead a consumer to reconsider their purchase and research competitors is critical.
And thanks to the Amazon effect — Amazon’s dominance of the retail market and the expectations it creates — consumers know both that they want a high-quality experience, and that finding a new retailer that meets their needs won’t be difficult.
Top Factors That Affect The Post-Purchase Evaluation Process and Subsequent Consumer Behavior
There are a number of factors consumers take into account when evaluating their purchases, though a few stand out, including visibility, responsiveness, and personalization.
- Visibility. As customer expectations have increased, shoppers now expect a high degree of supply chain visibility — in fact, 93% of consumers now want to receive updates on their shipments after the order confirmation.
- Responsiveness. Delivery Experience Management is a critical optimization tool that allows you to reach out to customers at key moments. It can also help you quickly meet their demands when they’re reaching out to you, demonstrating that you understand and take their issues seriously.
- Personalization. 98% of shoppers expect to be able to self serve when it comes to shipping options, delivery appointments, and address changes. With the right technology, you can help customize many aspects or the purchase and post-purchase experience and gather information about the buying decision process.
In terms of best practice to follow if you’re looking to improve the customer evaluation process during post-purchase, a few tips stand out:
- Be proactive. Take care of actionable exceptions swiftly, ideally before the customer is even aware of the problem, to cut down on post-purchase dissonance and nip negative feedback in the ud.
- Communicate clearly. This might begin by generating a clear estimated delivery date (EDD) during the checkout process, but you’ll want to follow through with omnichannel updates, via email or text, reminding the customer that their package is on the way, even if everything’s going according to plan.
- Reward patience. If a customer does end up experiencing a delivery exception, communicate this to them clearly while also offering some form of compensation, whether that’s a discount on a subsequent order, a refund option, or an invitation to your loyalty program.
With much of its business taking place around the holidays, UncommonGoods knew its customers would be carefully tracking their packages. Taking advantage of delivery experience management, they streamlined customer communication and boosted engagement, with 12% of their shoppers signing up for SMS notifications.
In preemptively taking care of actionable exceptions, Grove Collaborative reduced service claims by 50% and saved $65 per damage claim. On top of that, their NPS scores increased by 3 points for customers who experienced DEM in action.
How to manage customer expectations in the post-purchase decision experience
Occasionally delivery exceptions will happen, and it’s important to know how to handle them and manage customer expectations to earn their trust back. In general, these tips can help:
- Offer generous compensation. Don’t be afraid to offer a shipping refund or some other form of credit to ease the transaction. High customer expectations these days mean that even minor delays might require some form of compensation to demonstrate to the customer how much you value their service.
- Communicate. Making clear that, if a delay is experienced, you have the situation under control is vital to creating a sense of trust and ensuring customers don’t abandon your service. Communicating specific real-time data about shipping status and what precise actions you’ve taken to rectify the situation can help, as well as providing faqs. Monitoring complaints that arise over social media is important as well.
- Invest in technology. Many of the best methods for regaining a customer’s trust come down to streamlining the experience and acting preemptively, meaning before the customer is even aware there’s an issue. To do that, investing in Delivery Experience Management is a good idea.
In 2019, Boll & Branch launched Convey Engage and Recover, integrating their Shopify order feed and their carrier data. Pulling disparate data together helped save time and streamline workflows by allowing them to quickly contact the carrier when issues arose. Ultimately, Boll & Branch reduced time to resolution for customers by 66%.
Convey Recover offers an easy tool to improve efficiency. When Grove Collaborative adopted Convey Recover, they were able to drive a 77% reduction in response time, which of course translated into financial savings.
UrbanStems, a modern floral and gift company, leveraged Convey Recover, Engage, and Discover to optimize delivery, better visualize their shipments, and preemptively contact customers experiencing delivery exceptions. Ultimately, this led to a 63% decrease in WISMO calls and a 75% reduction in staff hours needed for the task.
The Future of the Consumer Evaluation Process in eCommerce
The past year has seen obvious shifts in consumer behavior, including an explosion in the popularity of eCommerce, forcing many businesses to shift their focus and move operations online. This means online competition is only set to grow in the coming years — which in turn means maintaining and consistently meeting customer expectations will only get more important.
Clearly, as retail moves into the future, understanding how consumers’ needs and the consumer decision-making process are evolving will be critical for businesses and marketers. In line with growing trends, you can expect many brands to lean into personalizing their brand experiences to aid in customer retention, while also investing in shipping and fulfillment services that are fast, free, and sustainable.