Unlike personalization, proactive behavior is not generally associated with eCommerce. You can probably count on two hands the number of times you’ve had a proactive experience when shopping – either in-store or online. Remember Sally from our previous posts? Let’s revisit her shipping experience with the train table. In one scenario, Sally receives her train table on time. 12 hours later, she receives an email notifying her that her train table has been delivered – not exactly helpful when it isn’t timely. She opens the box and realizes that the table’s corners have been smashed on one side, rendering it unusable for her son’s birthday party. There’s no notification from the seller, and the onus is on Sally to get in touch for shipment pickup and exchange. All this lost time translates to a frantic state for Sally as she tries to get a replacement delivered for her son’s birthday.
This scenario and others like it plays itself out in millions of post-purchase interactions. While many merchants are already taking steps towards reducing customer effort and personalizing the shipping experience, proactive steps are not happening. The lack of proactivity has a huge cost as well. Retailers invest vast sums to acquire customers each year, to the tune of 80% of a given retailer’s online marketing budget, according to the Adobe Digital Index. When those new customers turn into repeat customers, they spend double the amount of new customers – $5.3 billion versus $2.7 billion, respectively. Repeat customers also add items to their cart twice as often as new customers, according to data collected by Monetate. 52% of connected consumers in a Support.com study reported that support and efficiency in the post-purchase experience decide brand loyalty, rather than pre-purchase areas like navigation. And 36% of the same Support.com respondents indicated that proactive service would increase brand perception.
As we saw with personalization, customer expectations run high when it comes to proactive communication. Think about Sally and her train table. Sally is hopeful that her train table will be delivered undamaged and on time. However, Sally also lives in the real world and understands that things go wrong. She expects that if her train table delivery will be late, she will be notified accordingly and offered another option. If her train table is damaged in transit or lost completely, she wants to receive proactive communication from the seller and a potential solution. Survey respondents agree with Sally – 75.2% report that proactive communication is important. And not only do they agree on the importance of proactivity, it must also be timely. 62% of shoppers expect to be notified within 24 hours, while 38% expect immediate notification!
So what can sellers do to meet their customers’ demands for proactive communication? They can start by scrutinizing the data they already have regarding customer interaction after the buy button. What are the types of things that happen during the post-purchase experience that are missing a touchpoint? Other than the standard order confirmation, there are many places a retailer could insert customer touches to keep the lines of communication open. Let’s back up in Sally’s train table experience. Sally does her research and makes her purchase. The first email she receives is that standard order confirmation email. How about adding a follow-up email about communication preferences? After her order confirmation email, Sally immediately receives an email asking “How would you like to receive updates about your shipment?” She’s then able to select email updates, text updates, or no updates (just access to a tracking page). Going further into the process, look to see if Sally can receive an notification regarding when her order is being processed in the warehouse, when it is shipped, and when it is time to schedule a delivery appointment.
In addition to adding customer touchpoints, merchants can also look for ways to automatically flag issues as they happen. These issues can be escalated to customer service representatives (CSRs) and prioritized using both the actual shipping data and other considerations like customer lifetime value and order value. CSRs can manage escalations using a unified command center and select from a number of options to present the customer ahead of time. Sally is anxiously awaiting her train table and watching for updates on her phone, as she chose text updates for her communication preferences. As the train table is going through the shipping process, there’s a weather pattern that causes a delay for shipments in her area. The merchant is informed of the delayed shipment and a CSR contacts Sally regarding the delay. She is offered a 10% refund off her current purchase or a coupon for her next purchase. Sally chooses the 10% refund and plans a special surprise for her son to let him know the train table is on the way. These are the types of proactive interactions that can turn a one-time customer into a repeat buyer. And it isn’t just Sally – according to our research for the white paper “The Cost of Poor Delivery”, respondents expect the following in the case of delayed or damaged goods:
- 53.1% of shoppers would expect expedited shipping on a replacement product
- 43.9% would expect a refund or discount of shipping costs
- 19.4% would expect a coupon for their next purchase.
By adding critical customer touchpoints and taking proactive steps when issues arise, retailers can turn a reactive customer experience into a proactive one and a one-time customer into a repeat buyer. The key is to learn more about what’s not happening in the post-purchase experience and fill in the gaps.
In our next post of the series, we’ll discuss the need to optimize and adapt to supply chain changes that will improve the post-purchase experience for customers.