The Post-Purchase Experience: A New Era for eCommerce

With customer acquisition costs skyrocketing, eCommerce brands should start focusing on retention — which means optimizing the post-purchase experience.

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    The post-purchase experience was once an altogether overlooked concept in eCommerce. All arrows for DTC brands were pointed toward getting the customer to complete the purchase in the first place. 

    Back when Facebook allowed for laser-sharp targeting, which meant lower cost per acquisition (CPA) and highly successful advertising, customer acquisition was understandably all the rage. 

    And then, suddenly, things changed. 

    A combination of growing competition, consumers’ decreasing trust in social media ads, and — the cherry on top — a game-changing 2021 iOS update from Apple that protected users’ data privacy all collectively shifted the eCommerce landscape. Although customer acquisition costs (CAC) were already on the rise prior to the Apple update, these factors have all tangentially contributed to CAC having risen by 222% between 2013 and 2022

    And yet, remarkably, repeat sales have also risen by 36% in this same time period. 

    Especially when it comes to subscription businesses, returning customers are the most loyal consumers and hold the most untapped potential. Considering today’s turbulent customer acquisition terrain, DTC brands should be shifting their attention toward enriching customers’ post-purchase experience. 

    Here’s everything you need to know about the importance of a customer’s post-purchase journey, including how you can make key optimizations to transform your post-purchasing marketing strategies. 

    The Customer Acquisition Shift

    Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of the post-purchase experience, let’s talk about the components that led to the drastic customer acquisition shift. 

    Prior to the aforementioned Apple update that sent a shockwave through eCommerce, consumers’ trust in businesses was already beginning to erode. In 2018, Hubspot reported that a whopping 65% of consumers no longer trust advertisements and 71% don’t trust sponsored social media ads.

    Consumer Trust in Ads Graphic
    Source: Hubspot

    In conjunction with this, the eCommerce industry was experiencing an unprecedented boom, particularly in the early stages of the pandemic. In 2020 alone, the eCommerce market penetration saw 10 years of growth in just three months. With this came a spike in competition and an ever-crowded landscape, further contributing to rising CAC. 

    Then, to top it all off, Apple released iOS 14.5 in late April of 2021 (which, as Forbes reminds us, was also National Pretzel Day). The strict privacy features meant that users now had to provide specific consent to have their data tracked, and opt-in rates post-release were low (25% and under).    

    Seemingly all at once, gone were the days of being able to easily target highly specific groups of consumers via Facebook ads. Combined with the already-rising CAC and the already-falling levels of trust in advertising to begin with, this meant an entirely new playing field in eCommerce. 

    But DTC brands have always had to deal with shifting dynamics and have always found ways to adapt. 

    So what does adaptation look like in this situation? Turning toward customer retention and engagement. 

    🧠 The Smartrr Take: Why The Post-Purchase Experience Is The Future for eCommerce

    Especially when it comes to subscriptions, the customers you already have are far and away your most valuable assets. In a competitive industry where customer acquisition is no longer the most effective route for growth, DTC brands would be wise to focus their efforts on their repeat customers, which means enhancing your consumers’ post-purchase experience. 

    The way we see it, this is the new era of eCommerce — and we’re basing that on some staggering statistics. Here are just a few:  

    When you put these stats in conversation with the positive correlation between rising CAC and rising repeat sales, the way forward is clear: unlocking the power of repeat customers through an unparalleled post-purchase journey is the best way for DTC brands to differentiate themselves.

    Joggy Post Purchase Experience Account Portal

    By extending the customer journey and providing a host of different opportunities to engage, you can leverage customer loyalty to bring your brand to new heights. Plus, the more your subscribers love your brand, the more likely they will be to create user-generated content (UGC) to provide you with further brand awareness and build your brand’s overall reputation.  

    So what are the best strategies for leveling up your post-purchase journey? We’re glad you asked.

    Improving The Post-Purchase Experience: 8 Strategies to Delight Subscribers 

    1. Leaning Into Data and Subscription Analytics 

    Let’s kick things off with some data. 

    Having a numerical glance into the successes and challenges of your subscription offering can work wonders to help you improve your customers’ experience overall. 

    For one, these analytics are what enable you to personalize your communications and effectively segment your audience (more on that later). Collecting, analyzing, and leveraging the right data can work wonders to enhance your customers’ experience.

    Smartrr Advanced Subscription Analytics

    But perhaps one of the biggest learning opportunities found in your subscription analytics is your churn rate, also known as the number of subscribers who choose to leave your brand. 

    There are often clear patterns hidden in your churn that, if addressed, can not only improve retention but also delight subscribers who weren’t planning to churn. 

    For example, if you’re noticing a drop off after 3 months, this should signal to you that there’s likely a dip in engagement around this time even for people who don’t opt to unsubscribe — so it’s a great time to offer a small discount to your subscribers. This way, you’re encouraging retention for people who are considering leaving — but on top of that, you’re also providing value and additionally delighting your other subscribers.

    Implementing pause and cancel reasons to find out why subscribers are churning is an even better way to analyze your churn data. If many subscribers are reporting that they had too much product even at an infrequent cadence, you may need to add an additional frequency option. If everyone is complaining about your price, you may consider a price adjustment. 

    As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease — but a squeaky wheel is also a reminder to oil all of your wheels to prevent them from squeaking in the first place. Using your churn data is an excellent way to improve all of your customers’ experiences. 

    Additionally, your data can help you identify products that are typically bought together so you can create effective product bundles to further meet your subscribers’ needs. You can also take things a step further by using your data to see where the majority of your subscribers are located. That way, you can know where to open a brick-and-mortar store, which can level up the customer experience for your loyal customers as well as help foster word-of-mouth marketing to gain new consumers. 

    In other words, there are many ways to lean into your analytics to create a stellar post-purchase journey.

    2. Improve Your Communication Channels

    Post-Purchase Experience Customer Communication

    Another highly important way to keep consumers engaged throughout the customer journey is to ensure effective communication, which goes well beyond just sending order tracking updates or having great customer support. After all, this is the most direct way that you present yourself to your audience, and it will ultimately have a big impact on the opinion that your consumers form about your brand. 

    There are a few best practices when it comes to your external messaging. Here are some things to keep in mind: 

    • Have a consistent brand presentation. This refers to both your brand visuals as well as your brand voice. Make clear decisions about your presentation and then stick to them. To help subscribers feel close to your brand, they need to have a concrete sense of what you’re all about. Plus, consistent brand presentation has been shown to boost revenue by 33%
    • Personalize everything. Not only are consumers expecting a more personalized experience, but personalization has also been shown to increase revenue for DTC brands by as much as 25%
    • Segment your audience. Similar to personalization (and often the practice that enables personalization), effectively segmenting your audience helps you track your subscribers throughout their journey and provide highly specific messaging that’s tailored to their needs.

    Here’s the good news: great messaging can start immediately after the initial purchase, which means one of the best post-purchasing marketing strategies is jumping right in with stellar email & SMS marketing as soon as you get a new customer. 

    Introduce your audience to your brand with a personalized welcome email where you can share facts about your story, everything they need to know about their customer account portal, and even a fun quiz they can opt to take so you can tailor future recommendations and messaging. As the first touchpoint, this lays the foundation for the start of a strong relationship. 

    From there, you can diversify your messaging to make sure subscribers always feel like VIPs every step of the way. You can do this by: 

    • Texting a personalized birthday promotion 
    • Emailing a newsletter with tailored product recommendations 
    • Allowing subscribers to manage their next order via text 
    • Emailing a check-in note to see how subscribers are liking their subscription and asking them for feedback 

    These are just some examples of how you can capture your audience’s attention, make each consumer feel special, and nurture a strong relationship with your subscribers through your communication.

    3. Seriously Strengthen Your Customer Account Portal

    Smartrr Customer Account Portal

    Deep breath — we’re about to enter a long section. That’s because your customer account portal is far and away the most important aspect of the post-purchase journey.

    A well-executed, robust account portal can become a holistic brand engagement hub where subscribers find themselves returning again and again. 

    There are so many ways to decorate your portal with a variety of customer lifetime value-boosting features in order to deepen your customers’ experience. 

    Let’s dive in. 

    Passwordless Login

    Step one to creating an exceptional customer account portal is making sure subscribers actually use it. And the way to do that is to remove as many barriers as possible, which begins with logging in. 

    Believe it or not, studies show that 92% of consumers would rather leave a website than reset their login credentials. By implementing a passwordless login and allowing subscribers to access their portal via a code sent to their email, you ensure that you don’t scare away a subscriber with a dreaded reset password situation.

    Flexible Subscription Management 

    Now that subscribers are successfully in their portal, it’s time to think about subscription management — which is often the main reason subscribers visit their portal in the first place. 

    A big part of the post-purchase experience is giving consumers the power to alter their subscriptions at any time, whether it’s to pause, skip, gift, or swap out an item in their next order. Even though subscriptions may feel like a set-in-stone commitment, having this flexibility creates the sensation that subscribers can mold their subscriptions to their needs and lifestyle. This way, your brand can stay relevant and useful even as your subscribers change over time. 

    Loyalty Rewards 

    Loyalty rewards can do a lot of work for your brand. They encourage higher spending, improved retention, increased engagement, and help incentivize subscribers to try new products they probably wouldn’t have bought on their own. 

    Allow subscribers to accrue points with each purchase that they can then exchange for products, discounts, exclusive merchandise, or something else.

    Referral Rewards 

    Similar to loyalty, referral programs also end up being highly valuable. Not only do they provide a positive touchpoint for your current subscribers, but they also naturally incentivize word-of-mouth marketing. In other words, you can simultaneously enrich your current customers’ post-purchase journey while also bringing in a new audience. In the world of high CAC, this is extraordinarily useful.

    The more customers love your brand, the more they’ll want to talk about it even without any perks — but adding rewards just makes the entire process even more appealing, and the subsequent gratification will only encourage further referrals. 

    To make matters even better, referred customers end up being significantly better subscribers compared with their non-referred counterparts. Referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate and a 16% higher customer lifetime value, so this is a direct example of how focusing on improving customer engagement levels can result in meaningful growth for your brand.    

    Trending Upsells

    Trending upsells are evidently great for merchants (we all know the value of upselling opportunities), but they can also provide a lot of engagement and value for subscribers. The mere presence of the word ‘trending’ on a given product automatically fosters a feeling of community by uniting subscribers together over a shared love of a product. 

    But beyond that, there are so many ways to get creative with trending upsells. You can use it to feature a rotating product of the month, an exclusive subscriber-only product, a limited-edition seasonal product, or even take an educational angle on a lesser-known product to take away the need for subscribers to do any research. 

    Whatever route you take, implementing trending upsells in your account portal is yet another area of engagement that your subscribers will look out for each time they log in (not to mention the increase you’ll see in AOV and LTV as a result). 

    As customer acquisition continues to become more difficult and costly, subscription-based DTC brands should consider turning to the post-purchase experience. This new era of eCommerce is characterized by a turn toward customer engagement and retention — because repeat buyers are the key to unlocking true brand advocacy and lifetime loyalty. 

    At Smartrr, we specialize in leveling up the post-purchase journey. We’re the only Shopify subscription app with a robust LTV toolkit that gives you the resources you need to retain, engage, and thoroughly impress your subscribers. Want to hear more? Send us a note