This is why online retailers need to improve the post-purchase experience

Retailers say customer loyalty is critical to their business, yet few actually measure retention.

This was according to “Best Practices for Enhancing the Post-Purchase Experience,” a study from Boston Retail Partners. While it is no secret that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new shopper, the e-commerce industry continues to be mainly focused on the acquisition of new customers — a strategy that requires adopting the latest technologies and marketing strategies.

By crafting a post-purchase experience that minimizes customer stress and maximizes convenience, retailers will be making an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer.

These best practices include:

• Setting customer expectations before they click “buy.” While your customers are shopping on your website, make sure shipping and return information is clear, concise and conveniently displayed. It is important to show an accurate delivery date range on the product page and throughout the checkout process. If expedited delivery is an option, outline the offering and make any requirements easy to find and understand.

• Communicating tirelessly. From the moment of checkout until the order is at their doorstep, your customers will be anxiously waiting for updates on their order. Providing notifications at the five major stages in the delivery process — order confirmation, item dispatch, transit, out for delivery and successfully delivered — will keep the customer engaged and informed.

• Setting a fair and competitive return policy. Digital commerce has enabled shopping to take place any place, at any time. However, not being able to touch and feel items has its downfalls. It’s the reason why e-commerce has an average return rate of 30%, compared to 8% with brick and mortar, according to another study, “Why the E-commerce Boom Has Increased Customer Return Rates,” from Optoro.

Useful descriptions and accurate photos from different angles are necessary to help shoppers feel more confident about their purchase without being able to touch and feel the item.

• Simplifying the returns process. Including a prepaid shipping label with an adhesive back can dramatically simplify the customer’s return experience and ensure that the return is as easy as possible. Customers should also be able to generate a shipping label through their account page, in the event one was missing or damaged.

• Delivering your products in professional packaging. The shipping package should also enhance the brand experience, and should be appropriately sized and reflect the style of your brand.

• Turning a digital experience into an omni-channel experience. Driving customers into your stores not only gives them another chance to shop, but also can improve your brand equity and keep your store top-of-mind. For example, e-commerce returns handled in physical stores are about 50% less expensive to process than those that are mailed back, plus stores can make a returned item ready for resale more quickly, according to another study, “Many happy returns for retailers,” from AlixPartners.

• Using your stores for something more. Many retailers are retooling their brick-and-mortar locations to serve as miniature distribution centers. Shipping from a store near the customer instead of a centralized warehouse saves on both shipping costs and delivery time. Many brick-and-mortar retailers have locations in close proximity to a large percentage of their customer base, which allows for quicker processing and delivery.

• Gathering customer feedback. Reviews are an important part of making a shopping experience as trustworthy as possible. Asking for feedback on different characteristics also allows for a more thorough review and segmenting the feedback into categories can be useful for future customers to review.

“By crafting a post-purchase experience to minimize stress and maximize convenience, retailers make an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer,” the study revealed. “Enhancing your post-purchase customer experience doesn’t necessarily mean investing heavily in the latest technologies. We believe [our best practices] can create a welcome and trusting experience for your customers to return time after time.”