There’s a certain rush retailers get when they process a sale. It’s exhilarating to recognize that their efforts have translated into purchases — although their hard work doesn’t end there.
Single transactions alone rarely add up to retail success, which is why post-purchase communication is a vital step that keeps merchants and consumers connected; especially when you consider that attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one.
Keeping this in mind, how can retailers create a business that generates customer loyalty and long-term profitability after a single transaction? To begin, merchants should have a strategy in place that allows them to easily manage their post-purchase customer engagement and ultimately their sales as well. That first sale is just the initial step in building a successful long-term relationship with each customer. Here are some ways to build your post-purchase communication strategy that keeps customers engaged.
Create an Ongoing Emotional Connection
Feelings drive buying decisions. Research shows us that emotions fuel customer choices before, during, and after purchases. As retail expert Georganne Bender, one half of the speaking duo Kizer & Bender, recently said: “People’s buying decisions are influenced daily, and emotions play a huge impact on these decisions.”
Your customers are included in that group that makes spending decisions based on their emotions, and they’d likely spend more with your brand if they felt emotionally charged to do so. The question, of course, is how do you trigger these post-purchase emotions?
Customers can only cultivate an emotional connection with your business if they have an avenue, or multiple avenues, to do so. This can include:
- email marketing;
- hand-written thank-you notes;
- snail mail postcards and direct mailers;
- social media; and,
- online review opportunities.
Each of these avenues can lead to customer engagement and future purchase opportunities. But none will lead anywhere if you make these avenues full of friction for shoppers. That's why your goal should be to make your customer connections as easy, seamless, and comfortable as possible.
Having these avenues organized, in place, and ready to be distributed will make your efforts more streamlined and effective. As a result, this can lead to stronger post-purchase customer engagement.
That means retailers should build a formal strategy to create and automate some (or all) of these communications. Take some time to map out each communication with details on the messaging, when it's triggered, and the goal (i.e. return to your store, share a promotion with friends, etc.). Each message should be an extension of your brand and should help solidify that brand-customer bond by giving them a reason to care.
Create a Reason for Customers to Care (and Share)
Sharing is caring, as the saying goes, so why not get your customers to share more of their brand loyalty and disposable income with your business?
Recognizing that their emotions will help trigger future engagement, create post-purchase communication that reacts to this. For example, you can make it a store policy that any purchase that exceeds a specific amount — whether it’s $100, $500, or $1,000, based on your average daily sales — should require a handwritten thank-you note to the customer to show your appreciation for their business. Luxury retailers like Burberry make this a primary part of their customer service strategy.
This can be limited to higher-than-average sales, but don’t overlook even the smallest purchases made at your store. All customers deserve some post-purchase TLC, so create strategies that will engage consumers whether they’ve spent a little or a lot in store.
While the ideas on how to connect with customers post-purchase are endless, the primary goal is to give them a reason to return to your store. Thank-you notes alone won’t do the trick. Some additional ideas for communications that can help increase customer engagement include:
- Incentives. Make your customers feel like VIPs with special “friends and family” discount pricing, additional discounts exclusively for customers on your email list, and promotions that specifically encourage shoppers to visit your store again (i.e. 15% off merchandise online and 20% off in store this weekend only).
- Promotions to share with friends and family. As aforementioned, creating highly shareable promos is a great way to keep communications open with your current customers and attract some new ones. This word-of-mouth marketing technique incentivizes previous shoppers to pass on discounts to their networks. An example is offering $10 off for every newly referred customer who makes a purchase. You can distribute unique referral codes online or offer printed referral cards in store to track such referrals. As a result, previous one-time shoppers are encouraged to come back to redeem their discount and recruit new customers in the process.
- Value-add communications. One way to help cultivate an emotional bond (and loyalty) with customers is to help them make the most of their purchase. Nurture your relationship with a series of value-add emails or mailers with advice tailored to maximize their buy. For example, if a customer purchased a high-tech washing machine, send a message educating them on how to use the machine’s efficiency settings to use fewer gallons of water per load.
- News about future special events, programs, and sales. Give your customers a heads up about upcoming sales, new inventory arrivals, and any relevant news about your brand. Again, this keeps the line of communication open while giving customers more reasons to engage with your brand and visit your storefront.
Be Consistent In Your Post-Purchase Communications
The core of any relationship comes down to feelings, and when it comes to retailers and customers there are no exceptions. The same way consumers spend based on emotions, consumers also stay loyal to a brand based on emotions. Are you giving your customers enough reasons to stay loyal?
Loyalty is earned over time, so consistency is key when it comes to staying connected with your customers. To help, create a long-term action plan that allows you to easily extend incentives and show appreciation to your customers via email marketing, social media, snail mail communications, and otherwise.
But depending on your demographic, one form of communication may be far more effective than another. However, email is one of the most effective forms of promotional communication used today. Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter, according to research from McKinsey. And 72% people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer social media, based on MarketingSherpa studies.
So, let’s focus on a few examples of how retailers can consistently communicate post purchase via email. Retailers can set up a number of automated email campaigns with tools like Campaign Monitor and MailChimp to nurture that retailer-customer relationship over time:
- Purchase confirmation emails. Set up a post-purchase email to both thank your customer for their recent purchase and extend an incentive to put toward a future purchase. Attach an expiration date to this email to help create both a sense of excitement and urgency among your customers to use this incentive. Avoid keeping these purely transactional; add some flavor and ensure it’s a true extension of your brand (spice up the copy, ensure all the images are bold and beautiful, etc.).
- Product/service review emails. After a customer makes a purchase either in store or online, it should trigger an email requesting them to share their experience. Time it so that customers have ample opportunity to test out the product, and make sure there’s something in it for them. It isn’t enough to ask your shoppers to review your brand so that you “can constantly improve.” In exchange for their feedback, offer them an exclusive promotion, a discount on their next purchase, or even a complimentary gift.
- Cross-sell/upsell emails. Set yourself up for success with prompts to make a second purchase. Create a campaign that offers product suggestions based on a customer’s last purchase (i.e. recommending the matching pants if a customer just bought a blazer). If an entirely separate sales email feels a little pushy, you can incorporate this into the footer of your sales confirmation email.
- Replenishment reminders. If you sell a product that expires or wears down, sending a quick reminder can spur a new sale and bring a customer out of dormancy. So, if you sell 30-day supplies of cosmetics, deploy a replenishment reminder on day 28 after a customer’s initial purchase.
Having these strategies ready to go will also save you time and allow you to do what you love: Run your retail store. And over time, your brand will be top of mind for customers when it comes time for their next purchase. Additionally, this constant flow of communication will keep your store top of mind among their conversations when they recommend brands to their own network of friends and family. This type of marketing is priceless.
No Sale? No Problem
As you consider how to stay connected to customers after a purchase, don’t forget to consider the consumers who haven’t made a purchase. As they are in your store, be sure they have an opportunity to easily sign up for your email list (you have one, right?) and also identify where they can find you on social media.
Both of these opportunities should be identified through in-store signage in multiple spots to ensure your customers see them. Also consider making it a store policy among employees to encourage customers to sign up for these details. One more way to stay connected with customers is to provide them with a postcard that shares dates of future events, sales, or other activities that may be happening in your store in the near months. Creating a postcard (try the simple templates at Moo or VistaPrint) is a fun, easy, and exciting way for retailers to keep customers connected to their business while also serving as a great reminder to consumers to return to your store.
How Will You Communicate With Your Customers Post Purchase?
Research states that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% while the probability of selling to a new customer is only 5-20%. Combine this with that fact that customers you have sold to or have already been to your store and it’s a no-brainer that continued customer engagement is vital for retail success.
How do you keep the lines of communication open with your customers? Share your ideas in the comments.
About The Author
Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the founder of Retail Minded and co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. In addition to helping small businesses and retailers build their businesses, she's also served as spokesperson for Small Business Saturday from American Express since 2014.