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To any ecommerce brand that thinks they've sealed the deal once customers have made their purchase, you’re gravely mistaken. The opportunistic moment after purchase is pivotal, it’s key and it’s what ecommerce brands know they should do something about, but they aren’t exactly sure. The way you handle the post-purchase experience greatly affects whether you become a trusted go-to brand or merely a one-time purchase.
And to bridge that gap in knowledge of how to create the best post-purchase email campaigns, we’ve spoken to experts who have already done so. Here’s what these experts have to share.
Post-purchase flows should drive retention and brand authority
“After-purchase emails are the best approach to build brand loyalty and customer retention”, says Rohit Arora, Founder, and CEO of Mavenwit. “Since email marketing is becoming a major priority for our customers, post-purchase emails have played a significant role in our email marketing strategy”.
Jean Pascal Charles, Founder of Ecommerce Boost also shared that the best post-purchase campaign they’ve done was for a brand in the pet niche. Said campaign increased the brand’s lifetime value by 600%.
“When our team was planning the structure of the customer’s journey and communication through automated flows, we were conscious of what would drive retention and brand authority; we also had this constantly at the back of our minds when we planned for post-purchase campaigns.”
4 key elements revolved around their post-purchase campaign:
- To create excitement in customers
- To address tips and product care
- To remove buyer’s remorse
- To cross-sell other products
“One cool cross-sell that we offered was a subscription which gave customers a discount on their future order, first access to product launch, and exclusive live Q&A access,” said Jean Pascal Charles of Ecommerce Boost.
Ecommerce Boost’s suggested post-purchase email flow:
- Email 1: Thank the customer
- Email 2: Address FAQs, cross-sell offers, and mention the brand's mission
- Email 3: Educate with product use cases and helpful blogs
- Email 4: Request a review, product feedback, and suggestions for improvements
- Email 5: Cross-sell reminder
Thinking outside the box of the usual post-purchase emails, for Michael Trang, Managing Partner at SKU Agency, the most successful campaign they’ve headed was for a client in the men's grooming industry. The campaign succeeded in the objectives of brand advocacy and customer retention by fusing an influencer campaign into an email campaign and promotion opportunity.
The campaign generated over $25k in revenue across email and SMS. It also had a strong click rate of 4.5% and a conversion rate of nearly 1%. With all things equal, this campaign averaged 2-3x better than the general campaigns for this client.
“The (ecommerce) brand itself carries a lot of authority but double down on that with the power of a respected influencer and you have a good recipe for success.” - Michael Trang, Managing Partner at SKU Agency
Post-purchase flows should increase the frequency of when a user comes back to make their next purchase
The ideal scenario for any ecommerce operator is to make sure that customers come back to their store wanting more. And that’s what the post-purchase flow is supposed to help with.
For Ben Zettler, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Consultant, many clients that he worked with had post-purchase automation to prompt customers to repurchase within a relatively short time from their most recent order. Particularly merchants that sold products with a high repeat purchase rate or a wide product offering.
The post-purchase automation that his team implemented for ecommerce brands usually served 1-2 days after a user's first order. And it provided an offer for a timed fixed-price discount for their next purchase.
Here were a few key details in their suggested post-purchase flow:
- Offer fixed amount discounts (like $10 off) since they tend to work better compared to percentage discounts (10% off).
- Offers should be based on a minimum purchase threshold just above the average order value (AOV).
- Stick to a 2-week expiry window for the offer, or at most 30-days. But, experiment and test.
Ben shared that the main goal for post-purchase flows was to increase LTV quickly, and this tended to be especially impactful for businesses with high acquisition costs. He suggested that ecommerce operators should think of offers like $10 off $50+ or $20 off $100+, etc. And, just like with welcome automation, serve subsequent messaging to users that have yet to complete a purchase in the lead-up to expiry.
“The goal is generally not to increase AOV, but rather frequency for when a user comes back for the next purchase. For some brands, this tactic has doubled 30-day lifetime value for 5% of customers after making their first purchase.” - Ben Zettler, Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Consultant
Post-purchase flows should nurture new customers to become loyal raving fans
“For some businesses, driving a customer to the purchase line—and driving a conversion—is the ultimate success. But it shouldn’t be.” - Caroline Campbell Marketing Manager and Team Lead at Email Broadcast.
She shares that it’s just as important to follow up with customers after a sale as it is to nurture prospective customers.
For one of their clients, they’ve created a follow-up campaign in a two-message series. In the first message, they aimed to preemptively answer frequently asked questions about the product purchased—with an added invitation to reach out to customer service to talk to someone live. This reassures the customer, “Hey, you’re not on your own. We know this can be confusing to navigate at first, and we’re here for you.” While the second message requests feedback about the customer’s experience.
This after-purchase email strategy proved to work well for their customers with the right message at the right time—and they have data to prove it. Of all the messages sent in 2022, the average open rate between the two messages was 69%, which was over 160% higher than their industry average, and the click rates were over 5x the industry average.
Why was this post-purchase campaign successful?
It’s the combination of every element in an email being optimized for post-purchase. Here were some tips that Caroline shared:
- Create an email marketing strategy that supports your business goals.
- Know your audience and their behavior, as well as your brand voice.
- Craft well-written subject lines, preview lines, copy, and CTAs that engage readers and prompt them to take action.
- Design custom-coded templates to drive visual appeal and engage readers whether they’re on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device with responsive coding. Include a navigation bar to direct customers to important landing pages.
- Analyze data to determine the effectiveness and adjust the messaging quickly to maximize success.
As mentioned earlier, while turning customers into loyal, raving fans, there’s also a word-of-mouth marketing opportunity here. Post-purchase flows can also include referral request emails as they target the moment where customers are likely satisfied and happy to share their purchases with people around them.
Post-purchase flows should be well-segmented, well-structured, and timely
Like any other email, it should be targeted to a specific audience at the right moment. Or else it’ll just be treated as spam.
Lucie Simikova, Email and PR Marketing Specialist at Rainfactory mentioned that a well-structured and timed email communication strategy in combination with list curating & pruning had proven to be an effective and profitable tool for their clients.
“We've been working for this client (professional skin care product) for a couple of years. We created regular campaigns & flows for product launches, up-sell automations plus flows that incentivize customers to give feedback & leave reviews. These flows were highly segmented and we left the smart sending feature on to avoid sending too many emails in a short period.”
Here’s what’s in their post-purchase flow:
- Abandoned cart & thank you flow—create a positive customer experience and serve as gentle reminders.
- Nurture series—provide the recipients with valuable & educational content, answer their questions & help them make the right decision when it comes down to their skincare routine.
People appreciate being lightly educated as opposed to being heavily sold to.
The tip here was to segment the audience. Lucie explained that they typically create one flow for purchasers and another for non-purchasers. With years of experience, they believed that providing the customers with high-quality content emails builds up brand reputation and positions the brand as trustworthy (in this case, skin care specialists).
Post-purchase flows should be personalized
Elizabeth Jacobi, Founder at Mochabear Marketing observed that there’s been an upward trend of businesses wanting to better connect with customers through post-purchase emails.
“I have several clients thanking customers for purchasing and providing valuable information even before the item has arrived.” Jacobi shared how an online wine business sent out tasting notes which allowed the customer to prepare for the arriving shipment. And a pet company provided details on using the product.
While these brands sold different products, the one commonality that remained was that the business personalized the email. It helped to set the stage immediately after the purchase to build a long-term customer relationship.
Will Tickle, Director at Social Nucleus shared a similar sentiment regarding the need for segmentation and personalization of after-purchase emails for Core Med Science.
“After starting with a welcome series and abandon cart series, we identified that customers tended to purchase more often if they received product refill emails. Based on this insight, we devised a pair of brand loyalty campaigns.”
He goes on to explain that they crafted an add-to-cart discount pop-up that appeared at checkout, incentivizing customers with 10% off an additional product of their choosing. The second campaign was a two-tiered VIP series that rewarded customers who spent more, where members achieved Gold or Platinum discount rewards depending on the amount spent.
Do post-purchase email campaigns have to be of a fixed flow?
Not entirely. There’re various ways to trigger post-purchase email campaigns. Once a customer is on your subscriber list, even a holiday campaign can be considered a post-purchase flow.
And that’s exactly what Jennifer French, VP of Strategic Partnerships at NP Digital, and her team did for a German clock company. The catch was that the brand believed its audience was a one and done considering the hefty price tags of their products—someone who had previously purchased a cuckoo clock wouldn’t consider buying again.
But in actuality and after great research, NPA convinced the clockmaker to utilize the power of email marketing and have these previous customers learn about the story behind each clock. This was an attempt to retarget their existing customer base and tell the story behind the clock-building art.
The team experimented with various elements, here’s what they did:
- The date
NPA recommended using the holiday season (November & December) to prompt customers to purchase clocks for friends and family.
- The discount
Next was the offer of up to 40% off, encouraging the audience to cart out quickly. A CTA of “BROWSE ALL CLOCKS” was also chosen for its meaning to find the right holiday gift.
- The story and subtle CTA
The team leveraged the story behind these black forest clocks to educate the audience about the unique and vast history of these clocks over the past 300 years.
Emails in this post-purchase campaign had a clear CTA like “Click Here”, “View Collection”, or “Shop Special Deals”. This reassured customers that they didn’t need to spend hours on the website, to find what they wanted because the link was already provided for them. In every email, there’s a subtle “expiry date” for the promotion. If the customer missed it, then the discount opportunity was gone.
- The promise
Their email came with a promise, a confidence guarantee offered from a German-made clock company on the quality of their product and delivery. This served to strengthen the level of trust between their customers and the brand.
The first purchase is just the start
“Email marketing is about connecting with subscribers at the right time, with the right message. It’s even more important in post-purchase email campaigns. When we think of them, we think of order, ship, and delivery confirmation emails. While those are critical, post-purchase emails also significantly impact long-term email engagement and revenue.” - Elizabeth Jacobi, Founder of MochaBear Marketing
There are various ways to mix and match types of emails into your post-purchase flow. Do the research, and find out what matters most to your customers. Not every customer will react the same way to your post-purchase flow, if they’re new customers, product education might be the way to go. If they’re already fans of your product, a simple referral email or loyalty email might do the trick in getting them to bring onboard friends and family.
There’s a lot to weigh, but also a lot of opportunities to scale with post-purchase email campaigns.