Lori had purchased a 3-piece living room set from a popular furniture store. She had a wonderful experience at the store and was eagerly awaiting delivery at her new home. She had even opted for a white-glove assembly service. When the day of delivery finally came she received only 2 out of the 3 pieces. The delivery person had not mentioned the missing piece until after the pieces were unloaded, unwrapped and assembled in her freshly painted living room. He refused to take back the items unless he received instructions from a company representative. He also cautioned Lori that it would take 30 minutes to connect the call with a representative, as per usual wait times. Lori remembered she had to pick up her son from the day care in 30 minutes. She was not able to think clearly. She decided to refuse partial delivery and dialed customer service. Lori was promptly placed in queue, while the delivery person kept ranting at the door, trying to connect to the same call center. After an agonizing 28 minutes, a disinterested representative spoke to Lori wondering what the fuss was all about and why she could not just refuse the items. Lori’s ordeal did not end there but I’ll spare the details. A beautiful purchase experience had turned into a post purchase nightmare. Feels like deja vu?

Today consumers like Lori expect a great experience at each step of their purchase and post-purchase journey. While the purchase journey is usually smooth, it is not the case with post-purchase, i.e. once the order has been placed. Post Purchase has traditionally remained a neglected area for retailers, yet a sensitive one for customers. If the furniture retailer in Lori’s case had sent prior notifications with information on the items and quantities being delivered or had invested in a customer care system that provided visibility into her order journey, the experience would have been different. Often retailers with great products and retail infrastructure, lack the software and communication systems to share order processing data across disparate sub-systems and across manufacturer or carrier organizations, (in a way that makes orders visible and consumer notifications possible) resulting in lack of control over the post-purchase experience. At times, the choice of carriers is in question.

Imagine Lori calling up customer care and getting connected in a few minutes. Now imagine the customer service representative (having access to her order, fulfillment and shipping data) apologizing quickly, providing an estimated date for delivery of the complete order and offering free shipping on her next order. Post-purchase experiences play a crucial role in a consumers next purchase decision in the short term, and building brand loyalty in the long term. No wonder post-purchase is the next frontier for retailers in the race to retain customers.

A number of customers prefer to buy online and pick up in store at their own convenience. Visibility into Post-purchase experience becomes even more important in such an Omnichannel context. Grocery biggies like Walmart and Kroger are investing in technologies to create cross-channel, cross-organization data visibility at a speed and scale that’s only possible today – ultimately enabling a superior purchase and post-purchase experience.

Retailers want to take charge of post-purchase experience. Amazon and Wayfair already does a great job of sending order related notifications across multiple channels. Papa John’s pizza provide real-time updates on the status of an order. Shopify’s Arrive App helps customers track deliveries and its recent acquisition of Return Magic strengthens the toolset for an enhanced post purchase experience. Shippo enables personalized tracking and returns for retailers. At the end of the day, it is about making the purchase journey for a customer like Lori transparent, hassle-free and enjoyable.

Lori is considering purchasing a coffee table to match her living room set. Her colleague Brenda had a great experience purchasing a twin storage bed from an online furniture company and can’t stop gushing about it. The company provided Brenda multiple email and text notifications before and after the scheduled delivery and delivered a perfect order within a few hours of the promised time. The delivery guys were quick and courteous. The customer service team has also checked-in with her a week after the delivery. Lori has been spending a lot of time on their website and has zeroed in on an espresso wood-top table. A similar table is also available in the earlier store and they are offering a good discount. Where do you think Lori will go this time?

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