Consumer expectations have been completely reconfigured by innovations such as virtual assistants, service upgrades and seamless personalization. The same consumer is also besieged by offers of free trials, slashed prices and seductive perks. As one consequence, 78% of consumers say they retract loyalty faster today than they did just three years ago (Accenture, February 2017).
Consumers now expect their brands to magically adapt to their ever-changing needs, wants and whims. As a result, the next iteration of customer service will include a form of post-purchase forgiveness whereby customers expect all kinds of products and services to ‘forgive them’ when they change their minds about the item they selected, the size they chose, or the service options they wanted.
Smart brands are scrambling to adapt by crafting products and services that seem to defy the laws of space and time. Mastercard is piloting a tool that allows customers to switch the debit or credit card used for transactions up to two weeks after the event. In 2017, RYU urban athletic apparel allowed shoppers who lost weight over the previous year to repurchase the same items in smaller sizes at half price. Tesla helped people in Florida flee Hurricane Irma by providing free software that unlocked full battery range for all its cars in the storm-affected area. These are just a few examples that offer consumers the chance to travel back in time, effectively changing decisions long after they are made.
So what? How are small businesses expected to navigate this particularly scary trend? For starters, ask yourself: what’s the opposite of a product or service that is forgiving by design? The answer: rigid and inflexible. Not a good look.
Online Retailers Should Care More About the Post-Purchase Experience
Today, retail brands create customer experiences around a focus on driving shoppers to click the “buy” button. Yet it’s important for brands to remember this is not the end of the journey for the customer. Rather, it’s the beginning of a relationship. When a customer makes a purchase online, there’s an “experience gap” from the time the customer checks out to when the product arrives. This is the new moment of truth for online shoppers. Providing a positive experience at this time of anticipation is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to deepen their relationships with customers and build loyalty for their brands. Surprisingly, only 16% of companies are focused on customer retention, even though it costs at least five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
Focusing on the post-purchase experience is the next frontier for online retailers. Previously, retailers handed off the customer experience to a third party, like FedEx or UPS, which focused on delivery. Now, retailers are extending the customer hand-holding post-purchase with beautiful branded interfaces, delivery visibility, and personalized content. By streamlining customers’ paths to purchase and bringing them back directly into the loyalty loop, brands can convert one-time shoppers into lifelong advocates.
Excerpted from Harvard Business Review.