I lost the majority of last week due to a power outage in our house.
Turns out one of the electrical cables hidden behind a wall burned through.
It happened at 11 am on a Sunday. By 11:15, I was on the phone to the emergency electricians.
I paid the $100 excess and was told someone would be out to fix the problem shortly.
The electrician eventually showed up at 6:30 PM.
Here’s the thing that really frustrated me.
Between me calling and paying at 11:15 and the guy turning up at 6:30, we heard nothing from the company.
- No confirmation email.
- No estimated time of arrival.
- No “thanks for your business”.
As we had to wait for the electrician, our only recourse was to sit in a house becoming gradually colder and darker.
We ended up playing cards by candlelight.
Which sounds kind of nice, but when it’s forced on you as the only action you can take, it’s simply frustrating.
Over the 4 days it took to fix our power, I had a lot of time to think on good customer service.
And, in particular, how it’s often overlooked in favour of profit.
There’s too heavy a focus on immediate profits with many digital businesses. Too many owners and marketers look at how they can turn one purchase into two, or quickly increase AoV right now.
That short term focus might see a bump in profits today, but it loses revenue in the long run.
Aggressive marketing with poor follow-up leaves a sour taste in customers’ mouths.
If I didn’t have to use British Gas for my utilities, I would already have switched to another provider based on my recent experience with them.
They were quick to take my money, and very slow to reduce my anxiety.
The more I thought on this, the more I realised the importance of a great post-purchase sequence.
Not for upsells, cross-sells, or subscription commitments, but for information and assistance.
So I decided to look more deeply into this and see who is excelling with their post-purchase communications.
Here’s what I’ve found.
The need for post-purchase information
In the above situation, I was feeling acute pain.
The pain of having no heat, light, or hot water.
The pain of having a washing machine filled with clothes and water which I couldn’t drain due to the lack of power.
The pain of knowing I was going to be losing time from work when I needed t get this very study started.
That was all enough to frustrate and anger me.
Paying for the problem to be solved should have been the happy resolution I needed.
However, the lack of communication that came after handing over my card details was nothing but further frustration.
When I think back to the times a brand has annoyed me enough to switch to a competitor, or the times friends have complained about a product or service they’ve bought, there are two commonalities.
- The negative feeling almost always manifests immediately after a purchase (no one is too annoyed about something that happened weeks or months ago)
- It’s almost always related to poor communication from the brand leaving the customer in the dark
After paying money, people only really want the thing they paid for, or to know how long it will be before they get it.
If the benefit cannot be immediately gained by the user, they just want to know how long until they can start experiencing the benefit.
Your job as the brand is to successfully manage those expectations after a purchase.
Manage those expectations and you’ll see happier customers who are more than happy to shop with you again.
Fail to manage them and you’ll see more complaints, more returns, and negative social proof.
All of which leads to resentment from unhappy customers which turns away new customers.
It’s a worrying thought. Especially as it’s so easy to solve.
The problem with most post-purchase experiences
Thanks to messaging apps and social media, everyone now expects instant communication.
I’m not saying every brand needs 24/7 live chat. But some form of swift communication is needed after a purchase is made.
Something needs to be there to temper expectations and let the user know when they should start worrying.
And yet, most brands overlook this in favour of short-term profits.
Search for “post-purchase optimisations” and you’ll find articles and advice around…
- Increasing AoV with cross and upsells
- Getting repeat purchases
- Keeping people engaged with your brand
All are important, yes.
But there’s a huge gap that’s not being addressed.
As soon as a customer hands over their card details, owners and marketers are already looking how to squeeze the next dollar from the customer.
Instead, they should be ensuring the current purchase experience is completed to the highest possible satisfaction.
That experience doesn’t stop until…
- The delivery is in the hands of the customer
- The problem is solved
- The user has their first campaign up and running
If that entire initial engagement is well handled, then getting that second sale is going to be so much easier.
You need to handle that sequence before moving onto the upsells and cross sells.
Thing is, marketers and owners have a blind spot here in their pursuit of revenue.
The post-purchase blindspot that causes unnecessary anxiety and friction
Buyer’s remorse and post-purchase panic is often strongest immediately following a purchase.
As time goes by, the worry a customer has and their desire to complain or request a refund reduces.
It’s similar to what I mentioned in the SEMRush study.
Much like there’s a point of highest intent to serve customers with your CTA, there’s a point of highest anxiety.
Generally speaking, anxiety peaks in the period that sits between a purchase being made and the product arriving.
You must take all measures possible to reduce anxiety within this period.
The reason remorse and anxiety is highest here is because the customer – at this point – only has scepticism to keep them company.
They’ve paid their money, and they’ll now be wondering if…
- This was a smart purchase
- The product will do the job they need it do
- The quality is going to align with the price they paid
And when they’ve not yet got the product in their hands, they’ve nothing to counter those negative thoughts.
Your job within this period is to remove anxiety and set expectations for the customer.
If you send nothing, they’ll over analyse the decision until it’s an all-encompassing burden.
Most brands try to mitigate this with a simple post-purchase email that confirms the cost and lets the user know the next step. That next step could be…
- The first step in setting up software
- An expected delivery date
- A timeline on production
All you’re trying to do is lower the anxiety to a manageable level so the user can get on with their life without worrying.
Anxiety drops significantly once the product is “delivered”. Delivery is different depending on the business, but it includes
- Getting the first campaign up and running with that new software
- Receiving the product they purchased
- Get the finished deliverable
After this, any returns and customer support rely primarily on the quality of your offer.
Take my experience with British Gas as an example.
They took my money at 11 am and didn’t even send me a confirmation email.
I sat for 3 hours before I called again for an update.
And with each passing hour without updates from them, I became progressively more frustrated.
It felt like they’d taken my money and run. I had no idea what was going on nor if there was anything I could do about it.
If gas and electricity were not a necessary utility, I would have jumped ship to another energy provider the next day.
And that’s what you have to battle in the post-purchase sequence.
It’s not just about squeezing more money through an upsell or cross-sell. Good post-purchase sequences reduce the user’s anxiety.
Often simply by giving them a timeline and helping to set expectations.
Over the last week I’ve been on the lookout for brands that do this very well in different fields. Below are some of my favourites with takeaway lessons.
Domino’s post-purchase “real-time” update
I love Domino’s. Not so much as a pizza place (my NY born wife won’t even call it pizza…), but as a brand with great marketing.
A couple of years back, Domino’s CEO said that they’re just as much a tech company as a pizza brand, and I 100% agree.
One of the things I think they do extremely well is their post-purchase delivery tracker.
If you’ve not seen it, it’s a simple screen you can click through to from the order confirmation page. Upon clicking through, you see the below.
The tracker’s highlighted section progresses through the various stages it takes for a pizza to be made and delivery to happen.
- Quality check
- Out for delivery
This is super smart for a few reasons.
First, it’s outlined in the way (I imagine) it happens in-store. It lists the major stations the pizza will go through.
It makes it very easy for the customer to visualise where their order is and what’s happening to it at any given moment.
This not only helps them feel at ease, but it helps them plan their evening around the delivery.
“Oh, the pizza still hasn’t started baking so I have enough time to run the dog around the block before it gets here”.
Second, the segment sizes are based on the time it takes to complete that stage.
For example, baking is almost double the time of quality check.
These two elements make the tracker feel more realistic in its use and information. Which goes a huge way to reducing the anxiety a customer might feel.
It’s kind of ironic as the rumour is these trackers aren’t actually tied to your pizza.
It’s a simple automated timer that’s aligned with what Dominio’s has measured to be the average time it tasks for them to process and order to completion.
Still, I don’t think it takes away from the use and impact of the timer.
It’s a great way to keep your customers out of the dark and remove any post-purchase anxiety that could arise from a slow delivery.
And they ensure that you can’t miss it.
They redirect you from the purchase confirmation page to the tracker, and also remind you in the confirmation email.
It makes it very difficult for you to miss the tracker.
I’m sure the vast majority of people who order from Domino’s keep at least one eye on the tracker and how quickly it’s progressing so they can get everything ready.
Domino’s use 3 different elements within the point of highest anxiety to set expectations.
- A confirmation page with estimated delivery time
- A confirmation email
- A “real-time” delivery tracker
The user is left in no doubt what’s happening and that their order is progressing as planned.
Key takeaways from Domino’s tracker
Domino’s haven’t built any sort of technical tracking into their product. It’s a literal timer with a visual display – anyone could replicate this.
However, it wouldn’t be as simple as saying “let’s throw a timer up”.
Domino’s have a very well defined system and process for making a pizza. It wouldn’t surprise me if the time it takes to get a pizza out the door is the same whether ordering from a Domino’s in New York or Hong Kong.
When the production time is so predictable, you’re able to do this on a basic timer format.
If you have a similarly predictable timeline for your deliverable, you too could add a simple timer into post-purchase communications.
And that would work even if the timeline is far longer. Like the one you’ll find in SEMRush marketplace.
I recently did a study on SEMRush Marketplace and how they have used it as an add on to basic SEMRush research to create hyper-relevant upsells.
Much like Domino’s, SEMRush marketplace has broken the deliverable cycle down to key stages.
The stages for a blog article are…
- Title creation
- Title ready
- Article creation
- Article ready
Here’s the thing.
Unlike Domino’s SEMRush Marketplace will not have a quick turnaround on deliverables.
Creating content takes time.
While they do have the stages mapped out, having a simple timer like Domino’s simply won’t work.
So SEMRush do something a little different.
After purchasing, and in between each review stage, the order update page changes to a countdown of it moving to the next stage.
On that page you get all of the information you need to know.
- You know where your asset is in the entire creation cycle
- You know how long it will take for you to progress this order to the next stage in the cycle
Together, these elements give you an estimate on how long it will take for you to get the complete, finished product.
Which obliterates any anxiety that comes with waiting around.
I’ve ordered a few pieces of content from SEMRush and, so far, they’ve always turned in work before the deadline outlined on the order page.
I’d be willing to bet that – again – these aren’t linked to individual assets but are the organisational and timeline goals their content team has to hit.
In the above example, I was quoted 8 days and yet it was delivered the following day.
SEMRush manage expectations by…
- Confirming your order and the brief of what you’ve requested
- Funnelling you to an “X days left” page which also outlines the stage in the entire process you’re at
- Sending a “stage complete” email
- Redirecting you back to a review page to request edits or move the piece to the next stage
Key Takeaways from SEMRush Marketplace
A lot of the lessons here are very much like Domino’s.
To get away with basic timelines that are based around your in-house targets and KPIs is a great way to do things – ONLY if you have well-defined systems in place.
However, the thing I really like here is the delivery date they’ve chosen.
As mentioned above, was quoted 8 days for delivery, but I received the initial draft within 24 hours.
What it highlights is how the point of highest anxiety that immediately follows the purchase is easily reduced with simple expectation management.
Most customers are pretty logical. They know these kinds of services won’t be instant.
All they really need from you is an idea of how long it might take. By giving them the absolute longest timeline possible, you’re setting yourself up for success.
You’re falling back on the age-old “underpromise and overdeliver”.
No one is going to be annoyed if the thing they’re waiting 8-days for shows up in 1.
So if your brand runs on well-defined systems and you decide to let customers know when they can expect the result, make sure you quote the longest timeline possible.
If for no other reason than to give yourself some wiggle room.
Amazon real-time delivery updates
Delivery of physical products can still be a real problem.
Offering an “estimated delivery date” is nothing new in the world of ecom deliveries.
It was a good step towards alleviating anxiety, but not exactly perfect.
What if you pop out when the delivery shows up? What if the estimated date is wrong and you miss the knock at the door?
You have to wait for redelivery.
Which, if it’s a necessary item, can be an unnecessary stressor.
Amazon have taken these estimated delivery notifications to the next level. They now include 3 different messages (after the purchase confirmation) about a delivery, all of which are sent to remove anxiety and potential issues at the point where they’ll be highest.
Those high points of anxiety are…
Point of anxiety
Confirm delivery has been dispatched and will arrive following day
Morning of delivery
Confirm product is arriving that day
Hour of delivery
Detailed GPS tracking to outlined exact delivery time
Amazon generally sends these initial messages through email. The emails redirect users to dedicated pages.
They also send the later messages in the Amazon app.
After you’ve ordered the product, you first get a notification when it’s been dispatched from their warehouse.
This gives you that first update on the estimated time they outlined and helps you plan accordingly.
On the day of delivery, you get a message like the below to let you know it’s still arriving.
If you click on the “Track your package” button you get an overview of the stages – much like Domino’s and SEMRush.
The only thing that’s not addressed to this point is the time slot.
For deliveries, this is the last point of highest anxiety. Knowing something is going to arrive today, but not what time, can put a spanner in the works.
No one wants to pop out to the shop and miss the parcel.
So, Amazon have one final element. When the package is 8 stops away, you’re able to track it in real-time through GPS tracking of the driver.
At the start of this study I mentioned how the initial experience isn’t over until the product is in the hands of the customer.
Amazon have taken several steps within that period to ensure anxiety is low and the customer is well informed of what’s happening.
They identified the 3 biggest causes of anxiety and manage them masterfully.
It’s also incredibly simple when you think about it as the emails and messages are often redirecting too the same pages that update with the most relevant information.
Here’s how it breaks down.
Key takeaways from Amazon’s post-purchase tracker
It might seem obvious to say that this is a good thing to do. But a lot of brands still don’t do it.
Amazon has addressed the 3 key stages of highest anxiety with product deliveries.
- Immediate post-purchase estimation
- Day of delivery notification
- Hour of delivery notification
These three, simple notifications mean the customer can get on with their day and not worry about picking up their item or missing the delivery.
Of course, for a lot of us, that level of GPS tracking won’t be possible.
But you can still give customers a dedicated day and estimated time slot to make sure they don’t miss their delivery.
Hypefury’s post-purchase KEY ROI feature
SaaS brands have a slightly different battle in reducing anxiety.
After you purchase, you get instant access to the app. So there’s no expectations on delivery or access to manage.
For SaaS and other information products, customer anxiety is linked to getting some form of result from the tool.
Not necessarily a financial gain, but at the least a successful campaign or first action taken.
I’ve spoken about this before. I’ve had great success with SaaS through simply…
- Finding out the feature most long-term, high LTV customers rely on
- Building a new welcome sequence that promotes and educates that feature
- Ensuring all new customers are pushed towards that feature / action
It cuts the confusion out of the equation and helps the user see the value as fast as possible.
I recently signed up for HypeFury who do a great job of this.
After signing up, you get a run of the mill welcome email. However, there’s a link within that email that redirects to a welcome video.
Within the first 2 minutes of the welcome video, you’re introduced to 2 overlapping features that help you send frequent tweets with little to no effort.
Being active on Twitter myself, I know that one of the biggest issues is coming up with ideas and finding the time to create something that will do well on the platform.
I also know that I’m not alone in this struggle.
By promoting features that overcome this problem within a few minutes, Hypefury’s customers immediately see the value.
Any anxiety they had over this being the right product for them is removed, because Hypefury removes the larger anxiety-inducing issue of coming up with great social posts.
Key takeaways from Hypefury
Anxiety isn’t just caused when products and services that take to be delivered.
Even instant access offers like SaaS and info products will have an anxiety element attached. Here though, the anxiety and potential buyer’s remorse is linked not to the product, but to the results the product enables.
The best way to overcome that anxiety and build a great relationship is to simply find the smallest action the user can take which offers the biggest potential reward.
Promote it aggressively to new users – trial and/or paid – to ensure that they see the value and no longer feel anxious about the purchase.
Dealing with post-purchase anxiety is key to better relationships
Too much advice on business growth and marketing is focused on getting new sales and increasing AoV.
The less sexy levers – like churn and customer satisfaction – get a comparatively small percentage of attention.
Which is a shame because these can be incredibly important revenue drivers.
The more I’ve dived into the post-purchase experiences of brands, the more I’ve realised that so many do it poorly.
And it’s a real shame as it’s not hard.
After a purchase your customer’s anxiety is high. Your only job in that initial period is to lower the anxiety.
And the easiest way to do that is to better set expectations so the customer doesn’t end up disappointed.
You don‘t need a fancy timer or detailed tracking to alleviate anxiety.
A simple email telling the user when they can expect X and what they need to do now should be enough.
Of course, if you want to go a step further, then the examples above should be food for thought.
Stop thinking the customer experience ends at the purchase.
That’s the end of the purchase journey, but the start of the customer journey.
You need to foster better relationships from that point, And it all begins with setting anxiety-alleviating expectations.