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What happens after the sale?

E-commerce · 6 min read

The after sales opportunity

Who’s more important? The customers you have, or the ones you’re trying to attract? Well, of course, the answer is both – but when it comes to delivering value, the customers you already have knock the potential ones out of the park.

This article will cover post-sale communication, delivery, packaging, returns and follow-up communication.

According to research by SignalMind1, the likelihood of a new customer making a purchase is between 5-20%, but the probability of an existing customer doing so is around 60-80% – a pretty big gap, we’re sure you can agree. SignalMind also adds that 80% of your future profits will likely come from 20% of your existing customers – so, it definitely pays to do all you can to ensure customer retention. But how?

The answer is simple: after-sales. Let’s go on a customer journey and learn some more. 

Four steps to success

There are four separate stages of the after-sales customer experience – the immediate communication, delivery, unboxing, and following up. Get them right, and you’re more likely to be looking at a repeat sale. Get them wrong (or ignore them) and you might have lost yourself a valuable customer. Let’s take a look at how to keep your shoppers coming back for more.

Communicating quickly and efficiently

As soon as your customer clicks the buy button, your after-sales communication should kick in. It doesn’t take much to acknowledge and thank your customer via a thank you and confirmation email, while a receipt for their records should be the bare minimum. But not everyone thinks this way, so you’ll already be at an advantage if you do this. In fact, as reported by Ecommerce News2, 93% of e-commerce companies surveyed by ParcelLab end their communication with the customer immediately after checkout. That’s not only a ridiculously high number, but it  also proves that a little effort can go a long way if you can make your service stand out from the crowd by keeping in contact with the customer.

You may or may not have your order confirmation template, which you can send as an email after purchase, and though it doesn’t need to be complicated, it should be seen as an extension of your store. Use it as a way to thank your customers, reassure them their order is in good hands, and invite them to come back again soon. Make it clear how to get in touch should they need to, and reiterate the timeframes for delivery you quoted at purchase.

The most important aspect of your email, however, is your subject line – that’s what’ll encourage people to open it, and enhance your post-sales opportunities. Here are some tips from Shopify3:

  • Emails that contain the word “you” in the subject line have 5% higher open rates than those without
  • Subject lines with the word “tomorrow” are opened 10% more than those without
  • Stick to 30 or fewer characters, as they have the highest open rates
  • Personalization is key: It leads to 20% higher open rates

 

As for the email itself, here's a checklist to use as inspiration:

  • A greeting in your tone of voice
  • Their name (to clarify that this is for them)
  • A short message to say thanks for ordering
  • Their order number
  • Confirmation of the tracking details
  • An estimated delivery date
  • Contact and/or live chat details for any queries
  • Cross-selling ideas of products they might like

 

Getting the delivery right

"In an e-commerce sale, the only human interaction between a brand and the customer is the delivery – that’s who the customer remembers."

Leendert van Delft, Vice-President Sales Programs, Global & Europe, DHL Express

If you’d never considered that before, it’s true - and it means that your carrier of choice takes on added importance. Shipping globally is a tricky business, so you need someone who can manage the whole process – like DHL Express, for example.

When it comes to your delivery, fast beats free – although providing both (perhaps by baking your shipping costs into the unit price) hits the sweet spot. More than 90% of shoppers surveyed by Oracle4 wanted free one-day delivery by whatever means possible. It’s also important to note that customers value choice – 86% of respondents agreeing that retailers should offer their customers a choice of options at the time of ordering.

One thing you should always do, however, is keep your customers in the loop – and do it through their preferred contact method. An email or text to let them know their package is on the way goes a long way – and gets them excited about what they’ve just bought all over again. If possible, you should also include tracking details, as there’s rarely something more frustrating than a missed delivery that could have been avoided.

So, let’s move on to the package itself.

More than just a box

Think of all the time you spent on your product. Getting it right, testing, testing some more… Now, think about how long you spent on your packaging. It’s an extreme comparison, but poor packaging does exist, and it’s a lot more common than you think. This is the first impression you’ll make, so make sure it’s one that impresses!

We’ve looked into packaging as a marketing opportunity before, and how it can enhance the experience for your customers. On top of that, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of your packaging. Our article on sustainable packaging from earlier this year has this covered in more detail, but the crux of it is that as well as reducing your carbon footprint and your impact on the planet, sustainable packaging can also boost your bottom line. It’s an easy win.

Packaging is a perfect place to personalize. A little note to say thanks, a discount voucher for future purchases, or some free product samples – these little things can go a long way and are more likely to keep customers coming back. Inviting them to share their purchase on social media can be another great way to extend your reach – product advocacy is one of the strongest tools in your marketing arsenal; it's free, but more importantly, it's authentic.

If, however, your customer changes their mind about your product this time, keeping the returns process simple is key. According to a survey by Shorr Packaging Corp5, a massive 95% of customers stated that they will do repeat business if a company’s returns process is easy. It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but it goes to show that keeping customers happy at every stage of their purchase process can have a bigger effect on your balance sheet than you might think.

Following up

So, your customer has decided to keep their product – what now? Well, let’s get them to buy something else. You already have the benefit of knowing what they like, so why not offer a few recommendations that they might be interested in via an email reminder. It may not lead to them buying those exact things, but it could prompt another visit to your store, where they might see something they missed, or something new that catches their eye. Plus, the more they buy, the more you’ll know their shopping habits…

Another technique to try is to ask for feedback. Did they like the product? Would they like to review it? Their feedback can make a difference – and letting them know just how valuable this is can (if they liked the product) prompt them to share their views. While it can be anything from a simple star rating, a guide to others on how clothing fits, or a full product review, you’re asking them to stay involved in your brand’s journey, creating stronger links between you and them.

Depending on what you sell, a reminder to replenish when you anticipate they’ll be running out can be both welcome and useful. Or, if you’re selling something more permanent, tips on how to care for, use, and make the most of your product can inspire customers to do more than they thought possible.

Unlocking Customer Lifetime Value

Any person who purchases your product deserves to be treated as the valued customer they are – especially when you consider how much more they could be worth to you. You may already be doing a lot of these things already, but if you aren’t, now’s the time to start. Think about the online purchases you make, and where you make them from, and look at what these companies are doing for inspiration – you’ll notice fairly quickly who does it well, and who doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Your existing customers are your most likely source of future sales, so looking after them is paramount.  Why? Because it is the key to maximizing your Customer Lifetime Value - the total worth of a customer to your business over the course of the relationship. While it might take a little trial and error to get the balance right, all of the above techniques can help improve retention, and enhance the customer experience for both the customer and you. Here’s a checklist to make sure you know exactly what we recommend with every sale:

  • Thank your customer for purchasing
  • Provide a receipt
  • Remind them of the delivery details at time of purchase
  • Send delivery updates as and when you have the information
  • Personalize your packaging
  • Be clear about your returns policy
  • Follow up with customers for feedback
Sam Steele
Sam Steele Discover content team

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