As we approach Black Friday, a prominent day in the ecommerce calendar with a huge potential for businesses to boost their sales, many companies will be readying their biggest offers and slashing prices. But, one thing for companies to look out for at this busy time of year is post-purchase dissonance, which can have a hugely negative impact on a firm’s bottom line.
In preparation for Black Friday, Chris Gorman, head of professional services at business messaging provider Esendex, explains what post-purchase dissonance is and how, without taking this into proper consideration, businesses can run the risk of having to deal with masses of returns and potentially even a damaged reputation.
What is post-purchase dissonance?
Post-purchase dissonance is when a consumer buys an item or items and then later has dissatisfaction or regret over the purchase – usually because the product/service didn’t meet their expectations. This can lead not only to the customer claiming a refund for the product, but also the possibility of them expressing their dissatisfaction via word of mouth, or leaving a negative review. This can be detrimental to a business’ finances and brand perception.
Big sales and promotions can attract more customers to a business – especially on days such as Black Friday – but if they hit ‘buy now’ and then start experiencing feelings of uncertainty, regret and guilt, there needs to be effective strategies in place to reduce the likelihood that they’ll return their product(s).
There are a number reasons why customers can experience these feelings, such as:
- An impulsive purchase which is then regretted
- Finding the same product elsewhere at a lower price
- Reading a review that makes them doubt/reconsider their purchase
- Product not meeting expectations
- Doubts over the trustworthiness of the business
A successful business will have processes in place to navigate these obstacles in order to quash post-purchase dissonance and prevent returns. Here are some top tips:
Speak to the customer service team
If your business is experiencing post-purchase dissonance, get to the bottom of it and find out what is causing returns and refunds. The customer service team will probably have noticed common themes or reasons for the majority of returns and if they haven’t, you can look into it and discover if there are any issues that do stand out. Once the issue has been identified, you can look to put measures in place to address it.
It’s vital to provide as much information about your products as possible; this sounds obvious, but can often be overlooked. The more informed your customers are about the product they are purchasing, the less likely it is that they will be surprised or disappointed with the product when it arrives. Clear and precise product descriptions are essential to managing customer expectations – try to include as much information as you can. Some examples of product descriptions include:
- Precise product measurements
- Augmented reality product visualisations
- Ability for customer to virtually ‘try on’ your products
Keep customers in the loop
Regularly updating customers to let them know where their package is and when it is estimated to arrive cannot be underestimated. According to Esendex’s latest research, one in three consumers (34%) have reached out to a businesses’ customer service team within the last week to ask a question about delivery, or for an update. Having this information will not only reassure the customer, but let them plan their day around the delivery if need be.
Ensure your returns policy is clear
As with buying all things online, there is a risk that it doesn’t quite fit or the product just isn’t what you thought it would be once you have it in person. In some cases, customers simply change their minds and want to return the product. This isn’t 100% unavoidable, so having a simple and clear returns policy in place is essential – often a refund is the lesser evil compared to a negative review, which could tarnish a brand for good if there are too many.
Be transparent with your customers if there is a cost associated with returns too. Over the last few months, businesses such as Zara and Boohoo have hit the headlines for charging customers who send stuff back. According to a UPS study, 61% of European consumers will shop with a retailer that offers hassle-free returns policies.
Customise thank you pages to individual customers
Your ‘thank you’ page is the first thing customers see post-purchase; think about what you could add alongside your basic information to start reducing any feelings of regret. You can add tailored content with tips for the product that was just purchased or links to useful content on how to care for the product, for example. All this added information reinforces to the customer that you value them and haven’t just dropped them as soon as they make the purchase.
Go beyond basic transactional emails
Getting your transactional emails right is essential to reducing post-purchase dissonance; but why not go one step further and incorporate other content you have on your site by creating a post-purchase email flow? This feature is usually subscriber-only based, but it doesn’t have to be. These types of emails, whether it be blog content or instructions on how to make or use the product are great for improving customer loyalty and making customers feel part of the brand. Beware of bombarding the customer with masses of irrelevant content though; the emails need to include specific, useful content which the customer will actually find beneficial in order to create an effective email flow post transaction.
If you really want to stand out from the crowd, consider adding text/SMS or even WhatsApp to your communication stack as it lets you personalise your customer interaction further with meaningful content drawn from your buyer’s previous purchases and browsing history, and lands straight where it’ll be read – on their mobile phone. Further research from Esendex highlights how 3 in 4 consumers would consider opting in to receive text/SMS messages from their favourite brand in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas.
Design a memorable unboxing experience
Quality packaging (and even its design) is important in ecommerce. This is the first time your customers physically interact with your product(s) so the unboxing experience is crucial to delivering a memorable first impression and reinforcing the standard of your service. Adding in something as simple as a personalised thank you card or a low-cost item like a free gift can go a really long way to making a customer feel appreciated and it will reaffirm to them that they made the right decision to shop with your business.
Black Friday is one of the most lucrative shopping holidays of the year for businesses as customers look for bargains and companies push their best deals and promotions to the front and centre. It’s worth remembering that it is just as important to have a plan in place to deal with post-purchase dissonance, because it’s not only about getting consumers over the purchase line, it’s about getting them through the 30-day returns period. Obviously you cannot eradicate every customer returning a product, but by implementing these tactics you will be putting your business in good stead to leave customers satisfied with their purchase – and likely to tell others of their positive experience.