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It used to be that shopping online was all about convenience. Purchasing a new pair of pants or a microwave oven from the comfort of the couch meant consumers no longer had to drive to their local shopping mall and hunt around endless store aisles. All they had to do was hit ‘purchase’ and wait for their order to arrive.
Pretty nifty, right?
With any new technology, the easiest time to satisfy consumers is at the very beginning. As we grow accustomed to having it in our lives, the expectation for faster, smarter, and more engaging experiences increases.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen this play out in ecommerce in a big way.
It used to be that simply delivering an order to the right place at the right time was all that was required to create a positive experience. But in 2022, ecommerce customer expectations couldn’t be more different.
Today’s consumers expect to be surprised and delighted by unique, immersive brand encounters that add value to the post-purchase experience -- the most overlooked touchpoint in the entire customer journey.
In sum, it’s no longer enough to tick off the bare necessities; unless your brand pulls out all the stops to show customers how much you care, they’re unlikely to shop with you again.
But don’t panic: we sat down with our partners at Whiplash to break it all down for you.We’re here to explain how merchants can use ecommerce fulfillment to keep on top of these sky-high expectations.
Perfect Order Rate (POR) is a common metric that businesses and 3PLs use to measure the quality of the fulfillment and delivery process. In turn, this suggests how satisfied a customer is likely to be with the post-purchase experience.
POR is calculated by bringing together a series of benchmarks that map the number of ‘errors’ in the fulfillment and delivery process. What constitutes the perfect order may differ depending on the business, but always involves the following:
If your business executes all of the above successfully, then congrats, you’ve achieved a perfect order!
But there’s one big problem with Perfect Order Rate. In 2022, it reflects the bare minimum that customers expect when shopping online. A so-called ‘perfect order’ might not get you a negative review, but it’s certainly not going to create a loyal army of brand advocates who will help to grow your business.
Let’s take a look at some stats:
The truth is that online shoppers don’t care about how you move goods from A to B; these are just the table stakes for being an ecommerce merchant. They care about whether you can create a ‘moment’ that surprises and delights them at the point of delivery.
What exactly is a ‘moment’?
‘Moments’ refer to memorable interactions that take place between brands and customers at the point of delivery. They transform the receiving of an online order from a forgettable, everyday exchange into an occasion that forges a genuine emotional connection.
In short, moments are what create the ‘wow factor’ that surprises and delights customers during the post-purchase experience.
Moments are important because it’s never been harder for merchants to differentiate themselves online. In the world of wholesale retail and third-party marketplaces, just about any product that a retailer sells can be bought elsewhere at a cheaper price. Value-added offerings, such as free shipping and hassle-free returns, have also fast become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic as legacy retailers made a frantic switch to trading online.
In sum, fostering customer loyalty in ecommerce is no longer about price, or even about convenience - it’s about whether you can make your customers feel special and unique.
This is a huge part of why merchants choose to offer trial programs, and why the try-before-you-buy model drives so much growth and success. Permissioning a shopper to truly try your products creates a magic moment PRE-purchase. This moment transforms the shopping experience, reducing uncertainty and turning the online shopping experience into a voyage of discovery. Shoppers end up trying more, opening up more possibilities for delight when those products deliver.
But what about once the order is placed? In all cases, not just the case of trial orders, the brand still needs to deliver (pun intended!) on a memorable experience.
Read on to learn how merchants can integrate memorable ‘moments’ into the post-purchase customer experience. It all starts at the point of fulfillment…
The order fulfillment process is where ecommerce merchants have the biggest opportunity to surprise and delight customers at the point of delivery.
Why? Because this is often where a retailer’s careful branding and storytelling strategy goes down the drain.
By the time an order has been picked, packed, and is on the way to the customer, brand identity is usually hidden beneath layers of generic packaging. This makes it almost impossible for your brand to stand out during the post-purchase experience and create that all-important ‘moment’ with your customer.
By bringing bespoke elements into your fulfillment process, your brand can create compelling unboxing experiences that enhance the post-purchase customer experience and foster repeat purchasing habits:
Which is going to excite you more when it arrives on your doorstep: A generic brown cardboard box, or a brightly-colored package with the brand’s name printed on the side?
Generic packaging might be cheap, but it provokes no emotional response in your customer. If the post-purchase experience with your brand is no different than Amazon, it’s very difficult to create memorable moments that make you stand out.
By investing in custom packaging like boxes or mailer envelopes, your brand can elevate itself above the other deliveries your customer receives. Finding an attractive package on their doorstep sparks excitement and anticipation about their purchase, a clever way of leveraging the delayed gratification of ordering online. For a lower cost option, you could consider applying custom stickers or packing tape to plain boxes.
It’s also important not to forget about the interior of your package. The moment of opening the box is one of the most exciting parts of the shopping journey. You don’t want to let your customer down with a cluttered interior!
Die-cut inserts, tissue paper, and packing filler are all ways to help you to arrange your products effectively inside the box for a curated, Instagram-ready finish, as Child Only Design has done:
The moment of delivery is one of the biggest storytelling opportunities available to your brand. Why? Because it’s the one time you’re guaranteed to have your customer’s full attention. This makes delivery a key touchpoint for communicating important brand messaging or CTAs that reinforce your value proposition.
A simple ‘thank you for your order’ insert can make a world of difference to how customers perceive your brand - especially if you take the time to write it by hand. You can also get clever with your messaging and use this moment as a catalyst to spark a fresh shopping journey. For example, you could include a coupon offering a discount on the next order as shown here by Ekstones:
You’ll struggle to find a consumer out there who doesn’t enjoy getting stuff for free. Whether it’s a product sample, a branded sticker, or a miniature candy bar, freebies provide confirmation to customers that they’re getting better value for money than they would with a competitor.
Moreover, free samples help to inspire higher levels of loyalty towards your brand. This is thanks to a physiological phenomenon known as reciprocity. If a person does something nice for us, we feel compelled to return the gesture. In the context of online shopping, this means that many consumers feel obligated to shop with your brand again or to make the effort to engage with you online.
Bespoke fulfillment practices do have some downsides for merchants who are fulfilling orders in-house. The more custom elements you have, the longer it will take to fulfill each order. While this isn’t a major issue if you’re only handling 50-200 orders a month, this can quickly become overwhelming as order volumes increase.
This puts merchants in a different position. Diluting the presence of your brand in the post-purchase experience runs the risk of losing valuable ‘moments’ with your customer. But maintaining the status quo will likely lead to substantial delays to fulfillment and shipping. So, what’s a brand to do?
This is where partnering with an ecommerce fulfillment provider offering bespoke fulfillment services makes all the difference. Choosing a 3PL partner who has a proven track record in custom fulfillment services such as kitting, subassembly, and product sampling is the key to scaling your business effectively while still staying true to your brand.
TryNow partner Whiplash is the ultimate provider for all your custom fulfillment needs. Our full spectrum of value-added services and easy scalability allows us to assist both emerging and established brands with creating memorable post-purchase experiences that surprise and delight your customers.