April 2, 2013 Leave a Comment
As we discussed in a recent post, boosting customer loyalty should be a top priority for merchants as the eCommerce market matures. One crucial stage in fostering that loyalty is the post-purchase period, when interactions with the brand can either convert customers into brand advocates and spur additional purchases — or sour the relationship irreparably. Unfortunately, too many merchants still don’t take full advantage of this ripe opportunity: for example, less than half include additional product or service offers in transactional emails, according to Jim Davidson of Bronto Software, whose webinar last week revealed focused on how to engage customers during the post-purchase period.
In a guest post last week, Davidson introduced the concept of the “near customer” when it came to pre-purchase interactions — and during the webinar, he extended that idea to the immediate post-purchase period, when buyers become “near customers” for that next potential transaction. Citing data from an upcoming Bronto study, Davidson said not only do too few merchants use order confirmation and shipping notification emails to invite further engagement with the brand, but an astonishing 75% don’t customize campaigns to purchasers beyond those initial transactional communications — leaving a vast opportunity untapped.
Among the wealth of information and examples Davidson provided, one theme to emerge was how the content of the transactional messages should change over time to forge the strongest possible connection with customers and encourage re-engagement. Merchants should:
Use initial transactional messaging to instill brand confidence. While merchants may already include explicit invitations to re-engage with the brand — perhaps by signing up for further email updates or connecting via social media — there’s a subtler, but just as important, message that transaction emails can send, which is to reassure shoppers that they’ve purchased with a brand that will follow through and offer stellar support for their products. To help boost customer confidence, merchants should:
- Match the design, style and tone of transactional emails to the rest of the shopping experience. An awkwardly-automated order confirmation email that contains no connection to the brand can cast doubts for customers and make them wonder if their order will be fulfilled correctly.
- Restate order details prominently. Reassure shoppers that the right product will be shipped to them in a timely manner with not only the product name, but a SKU-specific image — a tactic used by just 40% of merchants, Davidson said. Include any was/is pricing or discounts to remind shoppers how much they saved with the transaction.
- Display an estimated delivery date to proactively address shoppers’ chief concern. Even before the shipping confirmation message, remind shoppers of the delivery timeframe for their order to arrive.
- Begin customer service messaging immediately. Proactively promote customer service contact details such as an 800 number or email along with hours of service, and message crucial order information such as how to handle changes, cancellations and returns. Although including information on returns may feel too preliminary considering the order hasn’t even been received yet, Davidson noted that customers may use the message as a resource for getting in touch once they’ve received their items. Additionally, such messaging reinforces the commitment the brand has made to stand behind the products on offer and to deliver stellar service.
eBags offers a bevy of customer service information in its order confirmation email, from the order number and date positioned prominently at the top to no fewer than five sections lower in the message devoted to shipping and delivery, gift services, and other customer service information.
Fine-tune timing of post-delivery messages. Davidson offered an array of ideas for further post-purchase communications beyond order confirmation and delivery details, from offering tips and tricks for using products to discount coupons for future purchases. These messages should be timed according to the merchant’s product cycles and replenishment timelines, but in general, merchants should:
- Trigger review invitations later. Merchants who invite customers to contribute product reviews should key the emails off the delivery date, not the order date — and should factor in enough time to allow shoppers to get to know the product, Davidson counseled. In addition, giving customers more time before prompting a contribution can help focus reviews on the product itself, rather than on any glitches encountered during order fulfillment.
- Prompt replenishment orders earlier. By contrast, merchants selling replenishment items such as beauty products or food can pre-empt the next research and buying process by prompting customers to set up a recurring order shortly after the initial purchase. Assuming they’ve had a positive experience of the brand thus far, buyers may opt for the convenience of establishing a re-order schedule rather than repeatedly investing time into seeking out the products again. Specialty music merchant Sharmusic.com crafted emails reminding buyers to replace their instrument strings every six months, and offering a quick reorder link. For those customers who might opt to try something new, the emails also included an invitation to connect with customer service for expert help, and offered free shipping above a threshold to incentivize repeat purchasing. The messages drove conversion 21% higher than other emails, according to Davidson.
- Identify and target lapsed buyers. While the definition of a lapsed buyer varies according to the product offering and the brand, messaging to this segment of the customer base is a worthwhile endeavor for everyone: Davidson said emails prompting re-engagement and re-purchase typically produced conversion rates three times higher and average order value two times higher than typical campaigns. Davidson noted, however, that merchants need to take into account orders across touchpoints when targeting lapsed buyer messaging; sending a “We’ve Missed You” email to a shopper who hasn’t made repeat purchases online, but buys frequently in a physical store location, exposes a disjointed approach that can reduce rather than boost customer confidence in the brand. And any invitation to reconnect should make it easy to do so across channels, such as this email from West Elm offering a 15% discount that can be claimed online or by printing the email so the bar code at the bottom can be scanned at the point of sale in stores.
How are you using transactional email to keep customers engaged — and buying?