When it comes to ecommerce, securing a purchase is the number one goal. Considerable effort goes into getting customers on-site and through the checkout – but what happens after that? Many online retailers fail to recognise that the post-purchase experience is just as crucial, and are in fact missing an extremely valuable opportunity for customer retention.

customer experienceIn today’s ecommerce market, online shoppers are spoilt for choice; if you don’t provide an exceptional service, they will simply go elsewhere. Not least with the festive season approaching, making sure your ecommerce site is in shape is more important than ever. It’s no secret that customer engagement and a seamless shopping experience are key – and this should not stop at the checkout. A winning post-purchase strategy is just as critical to ecommerce success, and could make the difference between a one-time purchase and repeat business.

Why is the post-purchase customer experience so important?

Online retailers pull out all the stops in order to secure a purchase, ensuring that browsing and buying is as simple as possible; anyone operating within the ecommerce sphere will be well aware of how important it is to build an ecommerce site that offers everything an online business owner requires, like mobile optimisation, a variety of payment methods, and maximum security. However, optimising your site for a purchase is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s the service you provide from that point onwards that will ultimately determine if a customer returns.

When you consider that it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep hold of an existing one, the importance of customer retention is clear. Online retailers should therefore focus less on getting new customers to the checkout, and more on re-engaging those who have already made a purchase.

This is where the after-buying experience comes in. From a customer’s perspective, it can be extremely frustrating for a retailer to woo you with seamless functionality and plenty of incentives, only to drop the game as soon as a transaction is complete. The way you engage with your customers before they’ve spent any money should therefore be matched – if not topped – after they have done so. If you offer one-click purchasing to entice them to the checkout, your returns process should be just as straightforward, for example. If you appeal to new customers with discounts and deals, existing customers should also be rewarded. Securing a purchase is no longer enough, and those who think beyond the checkout stand to gain a competitive advantage.

How to ensure an optimal customer experience beyond the checkout

One particular area that most online retailers can improve on is their returns policy. Whilst nobody wants to encourage returns, it’s an inevitable part of business – and the easier you make it for your customers, the more likely they are to shop with you again. In fact, one report shows that offering free, uncomplicated returns can boost customer spending by up to 357%. There are many different strategies for ensuring a more user-friendly returns policy; in addition to free postage, it helps to make sure that the policy is clearly visible on your website – and free from overcomplicated legal jargon.

Post-purchase emails tend to be another shortfall. Many retailers make the mistake of charming their customers into a purchase with fun, engaging emails, only to bore them with automated, impersonal messages afterwards. However, maintaining the same level of engagement is crucial if you want them to return. Show your customers that their purchase is appreciated by sending personalised confirmation emails that relate to what they’ve bought, and consider offering a discount code for next time. Whilst it may require a little more effort, a compelling post-purchase email strategy goes an incredibly long way to driving repeat business.

Customer engagement that goes full-circle

As the world of ecommerce grows ever more competitive, securing a purchase is no longer enough. With a little extra investment in the post-checkout experience, online retailers can ensure customer satisfaction that lasts well beyond the point of sale, ultimately encouraging repeat business and building long-term customer loyalty.