A woman sits on a couch and opens a box. In one hand, she holds the box's lid; with the other hand, she pulls back tissue paper to reveal a pair of black boots with rubber soles.
Unboxing can be a defining part of the post-purchase experience. A previously satisfied customer may change their opinion if they open their package to find a damaged product. — Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Many small business owners are familiar with the sales funnel or the customer journey: the phases or steps it takes to move someone from a consumer to a paying customer. Retailers invest heavily in marketing campaigns and sales tactics to grow brand awareness, generate interest in a product or service, and motivate someone to click “buy.”

But few small business owners pay attention to what happens after the purchase decision. The post-purchase experience (PPX) covers all the interactions a customer has with a brand following a completed purchase—everything from order confirmation to delivery and customer support.

A positive post-purchase customer experience can lead to repeat business, increased customer loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth marketing. Merchants who pay attention to the PPX may be able to grow customer loyalty and gain a market advantage. Here’s what you need to know to nail this aspect of the customer experience.

Why does the post-purchase experience matter?

Customers notice when the post-purchase experience fails to deliver. Nearly 80% of customers say it’s important for a company’s post-purchase experience to be positive. However, only 1% of consumers felt that vendors consistently met expectations. Getting the PPX right represents a big opportunity for your business to gain a competitive advantage.

The post-purchase experience is the last impression your brand can make on a customer. While first impressions matter, it’s the last experience that someone will remember most when they think about your brand.

When a customer has a bad post-purchase experience, they’re unlikely to give your brand a second chance. One estimate found that more than 70% of customers say they are unlikely to return after a bad delivery experience. Even worse, customers are three times more likely to tell their friends about a negative experience with a brand than a positive one.

Elements of the post-purchase experience

The post-purchase experience covers the steps from when a customer purchases an item to after the product is delivered, including product delivery, packaging, product usage, and customer support. It encompasses every touchpoint between the customer and the brand, starting from the order confirmation email, through delivery, and all the way to customer support.

Sweating the small stuff is key to getting the post-purchase experience right.

Breaking down the post-purchase experience into distinct moments illustrates just how many elements there are in this part of the customer experience. For an e-commerce retailer, key touchpoints are:

  • The confirmation email: Do you let the customer know their order has been received and provide an itemized receipt?
  • Shipping and tracking updates: Do you let the customer know when their item has been shipped and provide real-time tracking updates? Do you offer free shipping?
  • On-time, accurate delivery: Do you work with a reliable shipping company that provides accurate, on-time delivery?
  • The unboxing experience: Does the packaging protect the item in transit? Does it have your company branding? Do customers enjoy the unboxing experience?
  • Returns and exchanges: Is it easy for a customer to make a return or exchange? Do you have a clear returns policy on your website?
  • Customer support: Are there easy ways for customers to get their questions answered via live chat, social media, phone, or email?
  • Product satisfaction: Does your product meet customer expectations?

Sweating the small stuff is key to getting the post-purchase experience right. Small details, like sending a confirmation email and shipping updates along the way, can make a big difference for customers anxiously awaiting their package.

[Read more: How to Choose Shipping Software for Your eCommerce Business]

Best practices for improving the post-purchase experience

Package tracking is one of the easiest ways to boost your post-purchase customer satisfaction. Offer clear and timely information about each customer’s order confirmation, delivery date, shipping updates, and delivery notification status.

Free shipping is another perk that customers love—and it’s good for your bottom line. “Online shoppers like free shipping. They like it so much, in fact, they’re willing to spend up to 30% more shopping online if they know that at checkout they won’t have to foot the bill for shipping fees,” wrote Route.

And, last but not least, be upfront about your returns policy. When someone has to search your website to learn how to return a package or file a claim, they’re less likely to trust your business is legitimate or order from you again.

[Read more: Marketing Your E-Commerce Business in the Digital Age]

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