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Consumer Journey: Post-Purchase and Advocacy — The Total Package

1 Apr, 2017 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response

From fulfillment to loyalty rewards, here’s how performance marketers are delivering — and capitalizing upon — a great post-purchase customer experience.

n this fourth and final round of Response’s Consumer Journey series, performance-based marketers talk about what happens next — after a purchase is complete. Not only is this a prime opportunity to show gratitude, build anticipation, and set expectations for delivery, this is where to keep the conversation going. It’s when to build the relationship further and bring customers full circle, back to discover new items, to engage with fellow shoppers, and — ideally — to advocate for the product or brand.

Performance-based marketing all comes down to the numbers, but through every phase of a consumer’s journey, exemplary campaigns are equally focused on branding and communication. Creating the best possible consumer experience is good business, and when that experience extends after the purchase, the hope is that it leads to even bigger growth.

Clear Before Clever

Before getting into the art and nuance of branding and experiential marketing, order fulfillment begins with a standard set of notifications letting customers know that their order has been received and when it has shipped.

“We have strategic touchpoints throughout [the fulfillment phase], with the goal of ensuring a positive customer experience,” says Michael Weinstein, chief marketing officer at Allstar Products Group, the consumer products company behind many of the top As Seen On TV brands, including Snuggie, Topsy Turvy, Magic Mesh, and most recently, the Simply Fit Board.

These checkpoints include traditional correspondences, such as order confirmation, shipping confirmation, and delivery confirmation emails. To help their customers get started with their new products, Allstar also sends a “Tips and Tricks” email “so our customers can have the best experience using the product,” says Weinstein.

“We are piloting some additional touchpoints in 2017, which we believe will be instrumental in furthering a beneficial customer experience,” he says. “Accurate and timely communication while giving the customer what they want, when they want it, is essential.”

For companies with an international consumer base, it’s also important to note that fulfillment expectations may be different in the U.S. than other countries. Igor Credali, the digital and e-commerce manager of Kiko Milano USA, the Milan, Italy-based international cosmetics brand that expanded to the American market in 2015, says that post-purchase correspondence in the U.S. is much more defined.

In Response’s Kiko Milano USA cover story (August 2016), Credali described the importance of localizing the experience by partnering with Linc, a Northern California-based vendor that helps brands turn their order tracking and return experience into a revenue opportunity.

Along with a simple return process and the opportunity to share delivery feedback, customers are offered a variety of ways to stay connected and engage with the brand, including SMS text alerts and product recommendations. Post-purchase engagement in its SMS channel increased 33 percent, and the effort reduced “Where is my order?” customer service calls by 25 percent. Best of all, Kiko Milano converted 14 percent of customer returns into new purchases.

“Customers want fast and efficient delivery at no cost,” says Credali. “It is important to quickly reply and solve any issues as soon as they arise. Linc helped us by keeping customers informed in real time.”

Fulfillment correspondence is all about setting expectations and, in many cases, a chance to build anticipation. This is especially true for products that include an element of surprise — like mystery subscription boxes.

Supply Pod, for example, is a monthly delivery of mystery goods curated by the “professional Geeks at Outer Places,” a news and reviews online publisher that intersects science with science fiction. Each month, Supply Pod focuses on a new theme. Past pods have featured space exploration, “Star Wars,” warp speed — and its latest is about robotics. Louis Monoyudis, chief operating officer of Supply Pod and Outer Places, says that part of setting expectations and ensuring happy subscribers is letting people know when a new box will ship, what the theme will be, and giving them a chance to skip a shipment if they’re not interested in the theme.

“We have a cadence of communication that we send our customers after their initial order, which starts with a trigger email ‘thank you’ message with receipt,” says Monoyudis. “A few days later we then send a ‘refer-a-friend’ email encouraging them to share a promo code to their friends. Once we have the tracking numbers, we send that via email.”

Unlike other mystery boxes, such as Birchbox (cosmetics and personal care) or Stitch Fix (clothing and fashion accessories), where content is customized based on individual profiles and feedback, Supply Pod uses customer feedback to help determine new themes.

“Most importantly, shortly after our customers receive their Supply Pod, we send out a survey asking them to rank their favorite and least favorite items and give any feedback,” says Monoyudis. “This has been incredibly valuable as we continue to hone and evolve our merchandising strategy. After that, we send an announcement about the next Supply Pod theme, and we might even reveal what one of the mystery items is.”

Mystery boxes are entertaining and great for gifting, but those attributes can also present unique challenges for retention.

“We do not offer customizations of Supply Pods, but if a customer isn’t excited about the upcoming theme, they are able to skip it,” says Monoyudis. “We also have a cancellation process that allows our customer success team to offer discounts and other options to retain customers, as well as to solicit feedback.”

Conversation Starters

Once a product is delivered, it’s time to get social. The new purchase is top of mind and the customer may want to leave feedback — ideally, an endorsement.

“When we believe a brand will have an active social media audience, we establish pages across multiple social media platforms accordingly,” says Weinstein. “As an example, for the Simply Fit Board, we implemented a social media strategy that included creating the ‘Simply Fit Board 21-Day Challenge,’ and created online communities to provide support and to promote engagement, which was tremendously successful.”

In the case of Supply Pod, customers are all discovering the goods around the same time, so it’s an ideal opportunity to nudge them for feedback and sharing. “We encourage our users to share their experiences through social media and, if relevant, through unboxing videos,” says Monoyudis.

Unlike text snippets posted to Twitter, or a photo shared on Instagram or Facebook, unboxing is when customers record a video of themselves unpacking a new product or box of goods. They describe what they see, talk about what they like, and in some cases perform demonstrations. The videos are then published on video-sharing platforms like YouTube or Vimeo.

Depending on the person’s social following or the popularity of a product, the video can attract thousands — even millions — of views. As long as the video links remain active, they’re searchable, too, so if someone wants to see an unpacking video of a Supply Pod from the past, they’re readily accessible.

Consumers are always seeking authenticity, honest reviews, and genuine recommendations. The low-fi production of homemade unboxing videos harkens back to the early days of DRTV, where regular studio audience members participated in a product demonstration and gave a thumbs up to viewers at home.

Video tutorials, how-to guides, and follow-up emails are more ways to engage with customers post-purchase. People may need help getting started with a new product, or they might enjoy it more if they learned different ways to use it.

“Our No. 1 goal is to make sure our products are easy to use and exceed consumer expectations,” says Weinstein. “Additionally, we spend a great deal of time creating and honing our instruction manuals and inserting informational materials into the product shipments where necessary. Our packaging and instruction manuals all reference our online tutorials, ‘Tips and Tricks’ videos, and other valuable ‘how-to’ information, which has been extremely helpful in improving the customer experience — and which often leads to repeat business.”

Demonstrations are also a prime opportunity for influencer marketing. A customer might have discovered an item through social media, and when they own it, they may go back to that same influencer to learn more about how to use it and to discover other product recommendations.

“We have seen the greatest brand lift through influencers who post honest product reviews,” says Monoyudis. “By focusing on micro-influencers (those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers) who have a highly engaged audience, we have been able to leverage trusted sources as brand advocates. Some will opt into our affiliate program, but many are happy with free product. The best way we have for tracking attribution is promo codes.”

Promo codes and referral links are some of the most straightforward ways to attribute sales to social campaigns and influencer marketing, but consumers discover products, research, and purchase them in a path that looks more like a maze than a funnel. When partnering with influencers, which Kiko Milano does regularly, Credali suggests setting up ad campaigns on social media, looking for traffic spikes, and tracking customers from each channel. It’s not the sort of precision that performance-based marketers prefer, but it’s an important part of the overall strategy.

Reviews and demonstrations can come from influencers or average people, but they must be real, says Weinstein.

“The most important thing that we have seen, during the past several years, is that the consumer wants authentic and genuine feedback available at their fingertips,” he says. “With 92 percent of consumers reading reviews before making purchases and ‘astroturfing’ rapidly on the rise, it’s more critical than ever to offer quality products that resonate with our customer base; then, the advocates will organically emerge.”

Closing the Loop

From product discovery to post-purchase experience, performance-based marketers think about every phase of the consumer journey — online, offline, and, as Weinstein points out, even when those worlds come together at once. Digital technology may be new and ever evolving, but captivating viewers and building effective multi-medium campaigns is what they do best.

As consumers look for more interactive shopping experiences, there’s plenty to be borrowed from the early days of DRTV, too. Add an element of surprise and entertainment. Get the audience involved. Show viewers how simple it is to use a product, and encourage happy customers to share their stories.

Today’s shoppers are looking for a balance of digital convenience and real-world experience, a trend that has led to new retail models focused less on merchandising and more on customer interaction. TOMS, for example, is a popular shoe brand, but its brick-and-mortar retail experience is more of a community hub and coffee counter. When visitors are there, they can buy shoes, eyewear, and other TOMS merchandise.

Or, they can browse in-store and purchase online later. Bonobos, Warby Parker, and Adore Me are more examples of companies who’ve used brick-and-mortar set-ups to focus on customer experience and support online efforts.

Outer Spaces has a highly engaged audience interested in science and science fiction, so it was a natural fit to bring Supply Pods to Comic Con. “In the past, we have hosted events at Comic Con events to directly engage with our customers in person, and this has been a great customer acquisition strategy, as well as an opportunity for feedback,” says Monoyudis.

Events, pop-up shops, or any manner of experiential marketing will be unique and tie back into the nuance and art of branded campaigns, but the goal is always the same: to close the loop, keep customers happy and sharing about their experiences — and coming back for more. ■


About the Author: Nicole Urso Reed

Nicole Urso Reed

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