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Post-Purchase Behavior: Understand How Customers Think to Boost Loyalty

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
December 2, 2022
December 2, 2022
Post-Purchase Behavior: Understand How Customers Think to Boost Loyalty

When a shopper places an order, the second phase of customer acquisition begins: Turning new customers into repeat customers. Return customers generate 300% more revenue over first time buyers on average, according to data from 10,000 ecommerce brands

So, what kind of post-purchase behavior leads to long-term loyalty? Ideally, your customers follow up purchases with: 

  • Leaving positive reviews and CSAT scores
  • Signing up for a customer community or participating on social channels 
  • Introducing friends and social followers to your brand and products
  • Engaging with follow-up marketing email campaigns
  • Making repeat purchases with the help of product recommendations or a generous loyalty program

Below, learn more about the psychology of your shoppers once they place an order, and get tactics to improve your brand's post-purchase experience.

What is post-purchase behavior?

Post-purchase behavior is the set of actions customers take after purchasing an item. Post-purchase behavior can be: 

  • Positive (repeat purchases, raving fans)
  • Negative (poor reviews, excessive returns)
  • Neutral (transactional purchases, simply using the product)

Why is it important to understand post-purchase behavior?

Post-purchase behavior matters because making the first sale isn’t the finish line. It’s the beginning of a race to win long-term, loyal customers: people who repeatedly return to your store, have a high customer lifetime value, buy more from you (increasing cart size and transaction value), and send new customers your way.

Gorgias’s data shows that while repeat customers make up 21% of all customers, they bring in 44% of revenue

The value of repeat shoppers
Source: Gorgias

What is post purchase dissonance?

Post-purchase dissonance, or what’s also known as “buyer’s remorse,” is when an otherwise positive purchase experience creates cognitive dissonance in the form of discomfort or other negative feelings. 

Usually, customers experience post-purchase dissonance when you don’t give enough information about:

  • Order confirmation: “Did it go through?”
  • Shipping: “When it arrive on time?”
  • The product: “How do I set this up?”
  • Returns: “Am I stuck with it?”

This often, understandably, dampens positive post-purchase behavior. On the other hand, a great post-purchase experience and strong customer service and support can drive positive post-purchase behavior, including brand loyalty.

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13 ways to provide a pleasant post-purchase experience that leads to more sales

Happy customers tend to become repeat customers. Focusing on creating a positive post-checkout process can increase customer satisfaction, bolster customer retention, and build customer loyalty.

Here are 13 ways to anticipate what your customers may think after clicking “Confirm order” and how  steer your customer’s post-purchase behavior. 

First, consider: What metrics are we optimizing for?

1) Do some audience research before getting started 

The first step in encouraging positive consumer behavior through a thoughtful post-purchase experience is understanding what you want your customers to do. Then, take a look at who they are, what they care about, and how they behave. The key is to fully understand your brand’s customer journey. This will help you craft a better experience for them that’s based on real learnings about your business. 

“The first question brands should ask is, what kind of post purchase activities do you want to drive differently,” Bri Christiano, Director of Support at Gorgias, says. “And, who are you really targeting? That's going to dictate what your main metric is, and it’ll determine where you focus.” 

After you have a top-level understanding of the kinds of results you want to see overall, you can drill down into the specific activities that will be effective, like timely email sends. 

“Did my purchase go through?”

2) Immediately send an order confirmation email

In order to ensure a stress-free purchase process for your online store, send shoppers a confirmation email so they can confirm that their transaction went through. 

Include details like their order number, the shipping destination address, payment method, product details (in case of an order mistake), and the total cost including any promotional discounts. 

Order confirmation email
Source: Printfresh

Caption: Gorgias customer Printfresh sends a thorough post-purchase email that includes all important order details.

💡Tip: Bri recommends sending timely emails that “catch customers when they're interacting with your brand. Don't send random emails at times when you’re likely not top of mind. Then, add personalization when you can for goals that they have, if your brand aligns with that.”

Even better if your order confirmation email links to a clear and helpful order management portal where customers can track their order, report issues, and modify the order.

Order management portal
Source: ALOHAS

“Shoot, I messed up my order. I need to change it, fast!”

3) Set up self-service order management

Sometimes a customer realizes that they didn’t make the right decision about an order, or legitimately made a mistake. 

Giving customers the opportunity to cancel an order themselves before it ships gives them peace of mind and allows them to correct their mistake in time without having to wait to send in a return. Using a helpdesk like Gorgias, customers can use self-service order management in chat or in the Help Center to cancel a recent order. 

Order management in chat

If you do require customers to write into support (or if customers bypass your self-service options), set up a ticket prioritization system to surface those urgent tickets before it’s too late. Ensure that your support reps can do a quick information search to find the order and change or cancel it quickly. 

Here’s an example of a Gorgias Rule that automatically tags tickets about order cancellation requests from orders within the last two days, so your agents can confirm the cancellation before the order is shipped:

Order cancellation automation

“When will it get here?”

4) Be transparent about shipping times, carrier information, and customer service information

Retail disruptions have reached 59% or higher over the past couple of years. With supply chain issues and shipping delays, giving people as much information as possible about how and when their purchase will reach them helps better meet customer expectations. 

Plus, questions about order status make up a large chunk of customer service requests. So, preemptively providing this information can help reduce the number of those repetitive tickets that don’t actually require a human touch. 

Offering real time order tracking information (ideally, without making customers jump through hopes) provides transparency, sets expectations, and allows customers to stay up to date with any order delays or changes without having to reach out to customer support.  

Order tracking

📚Recommended reading: Check out our post on how to offer real-time order tracking for more strategies.

“A package! I hope I love it.” 

5) Enhance the “unboxing” experience

Every moment, from the moment a shopper makes a purchase to when they unwrap your product for the first time, should build anticipation. Creating a fun and creative unboxing experience will help. 

Stationary brand Ohh Deer and its subscription program Papergang sends visually stunning packaging, especially for its monthly boxes. These fun, “keepable” boxes spark joy, can be reused or gifted, and create an overall positive experience that customers can look forward to. 

Packaging and unboxing
Source: Ohh Deer 

To get started, take a look at brands like Arka or Fantastapack, which provide custom options for enhancing your packaging.  

“What if I don’t like it?”

6) Have an honest and forgiving return/refund policy

When customers inevitably experience hiccups in the order process, the goal is that their behavior is constructive and positive, rather than angry and combative. To get that kind of post-purchase behavior, you need to offer easy paths to contact customer support and a smooth return or exchange process

Customers love the peace of mind of knowing that they can return something without hassle, even if they never have the need. Communicating that returns are easy (and free, if you can manage it) upfront can even encourage shoppers to convert. 

Still, solely-online retailers can be tricky for consumers. Many are hesitant to make a purchase decision on items that they can’t see in person first. To address that concern, share your returns process and policy in every order confirmation email and in FAQs and the Help Center on your website. 

Mattress company Casper created an easy and generous return policy that’s a gold standard for ecommerce: If you don’t like your mattress, tell them within 30 days, and they’ll cover shipping for a free return. With something as bulky as a mattress, free return shipping can eliminate any concerns about not liking such a big investment. 

Source: Casper

A returns tool like Loop can really help you optimize the product so customers don’t have to jump through hoops to return a product:

Returns management portal
Source: Loop portal on Jaxxon’s website

“I don’t love it. Should I get my money back?”

7) Encourage exchanges over refunds

Encouraging shoppers to make an exchange keeps them around as a customer and also allows you to keep the revenue from the sale, which will help with your bottom line. According to returns tool Loop, “Turning refunds into exchanges is 10x more impactful than reducing return costs.”

Loop incentivizes returns by offering customers slightly more in-store credit than they would get for a refund: 

Incentivize exchanges over returns
Source: Loop

Shopify stores that use Loop for their returns see a 15% reduction in returns on average.  If you use Shopify or Gorgias, it’s easy to integrate Loop as an impactful return/exchange tool. 

💡Learn how Loop integrates with Gorgias to improve the customer experience of your returns even further.

“It’s here! How do I set it up?”

8) Provide detailed instructions on how to use the product or service

Devices or tools that arrive with no or unclear instructions, DIY furniture assembly that seems nearly impossible, or even complex software tools with poor onboarding can cause a less than positive experience, even if the end product is great. 

Create a simple YouTube video, send clear step-by-step instructions with images, or share a live chat hotline customers can reach out to if they get stuck. These options make it easy for people to get all of the information they need to set up or use the product or service they just purchased successfully. 

For example, GEN3 e-bikes come with a paper manual for assembly, but they also send a QR code that takes shoppers to a short, high-quality how-to video that’s less than 5 minutes long.

“This is seriously (un)cool.”

9) Send a CSAT survey and request product reviews from high scorers

Brands usually send a customer satisfaction (CSAT) score after a customer has interacted with customer support. Consider only asking for product reviews from people who score 4 or 5 on CSAT and leave positive feedback about their interaction with support. 

If you use a helpdesk like Gorgias, you can likely send these kinds of CSAT surveys automatically after conversations, purchases, and other kinds of transactions:

Send CSAT surveys

📚Recommended reading: Our Director of Support’s guide to improving CSAT score and survey response rate

“Loved it! What else do they have?”

10) Include relevant product recommendations

The time when shoppers are still deciding on a purchase is a prime opportunity for your support team to cross-sell or upsell them on additional items. 

For example, a customer might have trouble finding an item on your website that they saw on social media. Or, they might ask for recommendations for what to purchase or for items that will go best with the item that they already bought from you.

Provide product recommendations
Source: Able

After a purchase is complete, consider surfacing additional product recommendations for customers via email. Even if these don’t result in an immediate second sale, you keep customers engaged and thinking about how that recommended item would improve their lives or enhance the use of the current item they have. 

“This product’s the best — everyone needs it.”

11) Incentivize customers to show off their purchases on social media

Providing discounts or other perks in exchange for social media shares and reviews brings more exposure to your brand and enhances the post-purchase experience for your fans. 

Underwear brand Parade runs a program like this called Parade Friends. Existing customers apply for the program, and once accepted, post pictures of themselves wearing Parade items on social media. Their followers can then use their Instagram handle as a discount code, incentivixzing future purchases (with a discount for customer delight). 

User-generated content
Source: Flowerpunk

That means that both parties benefit, which makes them happy, and you benefit by bringing in new customers and more revenue.

“I love this brand! Where can I find more?”

12) Build a community for your customers

For many brands, community drives customer perception of the brand — and drives future sales. Brands have leveraged Facebook groups, Reddit forums, Instagram Live, and more to encourage community among their customers and fans. 

For example, soap shop Dr. Squatch hosts its community on Discord, a community-based social and chat platform, so its customers can hang out with each other and chat about the brand.

Ecommerce customer communities
Source: Dr. Squatch

Creating a community can increase customer engagement and satisfaction, generate trustworthy, quality customer feedback about your products, and make more opportunities for cross selling and upselling. 

📚Recommended reading: What is Ecommerce Community Management and Why Does it Matter?

*When your brand is no longer top of mind*

13) Follow up with special offers and marketing sequences

Inevitably, your brand won’t always be top of mind for customers, even if they absolutely love it and your products. This is where a thoughtful marketing strategy comes in, and where email automation can be really effective. 

Set up automated flows that offer personalized product offerings, discount emails based on customer behavior, target returning customers, and ask for feedback. 

📚Recommended reading: 8 Ecommerce Email Automation Series for Online Stores

Encourage great post-purchase behavior with Gorgias

Turning first-time customers into repeat, loyal, raving-fan customers takes meticulous attention to the customer experience, especially in the post-purchase window. This is where Gorgias shines.

Ultimately, getting the ideal post-purchase behavior starts — and ends — with delivering a great customer experience, especially in the post-purchase evaluation phase. Gorgias delivers a powerful platform for your customer service helpdesk, tailored to the needs of ecommerce businesses who want to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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Gorgias offers powerful features that drive ecommerce success, including:

See how Gorgias can transform your customer service efforts. Sign up now!

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