Okay, so you got a sale. Now what?
It’s tempting to sit back, relax, and pat yourself on the back.
But that’s a mistake. You need to focus on ensuring that this transaction is a positive experience for the customer.
Otherwise, they will never shop at your online store ever again, and you can’t build a sustainable e-commerce business without repeat customers.
So how can you provide a positive experience after the customer has made a purchase?
It all starts with transactional emails.
Transactional emails are emails that you send to the customer after they have made a purchase.
There are three main types of transactional emails:
Now, you might be wondering why do you need these emails at all, can’t you just accept the order, ship the product, and forget about it?
Well, what you need to understand is that people are uncomfortable about buying online, which is why they need reassurance from you.
And it’s understandable. They pay their hard-earned money for a product that they can’t examine themselves and then they have to trust you to hold up your end of the bargain and wait for their purchase to arrive. Can you really blame them for feeling a bit anxious?
“Wait a minute, what are you on about?” you might protest. “It’s 2019, we all buy things online all the time, have you ever heard about Amazon?”
Even Amazon, the largest and most trusted online store in the world, can’t afford to ditch transactional emails.
Believe me, if they could, they would, because at their scale all those emails add up to a lot of money.
Now think about what it means to your business.
Amazon sets the bar for e-commerce. It conditions us what to expect when we buy online. And it taught us that once we make a purchase we should get a confirmation email.
Moreover, you are not Amazon, you don’t have the brand recognition it has and you don’t have the public’s trust, which means that you need to go above and beyond to provide an excellent customer experience.
This is especially true if you are a new brand and don’t have any social proof yet. Your customers are taking a risk when they buy from you.
So make an effort to reassure them that they have made the right decision and that you won’t let them down.
Once a customer makes a purchase, the first thing that you need to do is send them an order confirmation email, otherwise they will be confused and wonder whether they placed the order successfully.
Order confirmation email should include:
The order confirmation email should also be consistent with your brand image.
For example, Tens is a Scottish sunglasses brand, their products are known for warm colors.
The founders (who are all photographers) came up with the idea for Tens when they were driving through the Highlands in search of sunshine.
They realized that it would be cool to take the colors that they add to their photographs and add them to real life.
They launched with a crowdfunding campaign in 2014 and since then they have remained a casual, down-to-earth brand that is always listening to their customers.
Take a look at this order confirmation email:
They open the email with a clear, personalized introduction:
Also, notice how they placed the order number in a prominent location, which makes it easy for the customer to find it should they need to contact the customer support.
Then they provide the order summary that includes a product list with images, prices for each individual product, discount information, subtotal, shipping costs, and the total.
Note how displaying beautiful, high-quality product images reminds the customer why they bought the products.
They then provide the payment information that might be useful for the customer.
Finally, and this is very important, they encourage the customer to reach out to them if they need help with anything.
You should learn from Tens and apply the same principles in your own confirmation email.
Once the order is shipped, you should immediately let the customer know, as well as provide a tracking number so that the customer could track the package themselves.
Your shipping confirmation email should include:
For example, Chewy is an online pet store that sells pet food, products, and supplies.
Take a look at this shipping confirmation email from them:
See how they open their email with a huge “Your order is on its way” headline which immediately makes it clear what the email is about.
Then you have a massive “Track Your Order” button with an explanation that the customer should allow 24 hours to track their order.
This prevents the potential problem of the customer clicking on the link immediately, freaking out about not being able to track their order and contacting the customer support for an explanation.
Finally, you have a brief order summary and the shipping address, which reminds the customer which order this email is about and where it will be delivered.
Also, note how the email is consistent with Chewy’s branding.
Don’t neglect your shipping confirmation emails, put in the effort to inform and reassure the customer, and pre-emptively address potential problems.
Once the order has been delivered, you should send the customer an email asking for feedback with an easy way to provide feedback.
The “easy way to provide feedback” part is extremely important because you are asking the customer for a favor.
You also need to ask yourself what kind of feedback do you want: customer feedback on your product or customer reviews that serve as social proof?
Generally, if you are selling an expensive, sophisticated product that you manufacture yourself, then you want to gather customer feedback on that product so that you could improve it.
For example, Nokia is a Finnish telecommunication, information technology, and consumer electronics company.
It was one of the dominant mobile phone manufacturers in the dumbphone era of the 2000s.
Today they have lost their status in the mobile phone market but they still sell phones, both dumb ones and smart ones.
However, their focus has shifted from consumers to businesses and the public sector.
Anyway, take a look at this customer feedback email about Nokia’s Body+ smart scale:
They open with a product image and a “Be honest – what do you think of your new Body+?” headline.
This reminds the customer of the product and lets them know that it’s okay to say what they really think.
Next, you have the “We value your feedback” sentence which shows the customer that Nokia understands that they are asking for a favor and that they appreciate the customer’s input.
Then you have the “Help us improve your Nokia experience by participating in the following 2-minute survey” line which explains why Nokia is asking for feedback and reassures the customer that this will only take 2 minutes.
Finally, there’s the “Start the survey” call-to-action button that tells the customer what to do next.
This approach works well if you have control over manufacturing and want to improve your product.
However, if you don’t have control over manufacturing, meaning you are reselling someone else’s products, then it’s better to ask for a review instead because you get social proof that way.
In fact, that’s what Amazon does, check out their customer feedback email:
Note how they provide a product image and a product title together with an estimated delivery date. This helps the customer understand which order this email is about.
Then they make a clear request: they ask the customer to rate the product based on three questions.
Finally, they provide an easy way to rate the product, though they are being a bit sneaky by giving the customer the impression that all they have to do is click on the rating when in fact that leads to the Amazon product review page.
If you want to gather customer reviews (as opposed to feedback on the product) then you should follow Amazon’s example.
Just remember, the most important thing is to make providing feedback as easy as possible, otherwise no one is going to bother doing it.
Also, you can go the extra mile by reaching out to customers who provide negative feedback and asking them to expand on it. Why were they unhappy about the experience?
And, of course, if you make an effort to collect customer feedback, then make sure you actually analyze it, learn from it, and implement it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Amazon’s transactional emails are cold and formal.
They have established themselves as a corporate entity, their voice is neutral, and it works for them because they are a marketplace.
However, the same approach won’t work for a small e-commerce business, it will just make you come across as boring.
So make sure that your transactional emails are consistent with your branding:
Keep in mind that each interaction with a customer, including transactional emails, is your opportunity to strengthen your brand image. So don’t be bland. Be yourself.
Also, whatever you do, do not use do-not-reply email addresses!
Think about it. A customer just spent their hard-earned money on your product. And then you have the audacity to send them a “do-not-reply” email??
What kind of message is that? “Lol, I already got your money, I don’t care about you anymore!”. Is that how you want to present yourself?
You should follow the Tens example and encourage the customer to reach out to you if they have any questions.
That way, you show them that you value them and that you are there for them, which will leave a positive impression.
Remember, you might think that it’s obvious that you care about your customers, but chances are they do not have telepathic abilities and cannot read your mind.
Your customers, just like everyone else, can only infer what you think about them from your behavior.
So ask yourself what your behavior is telling them. Do you value them? Do you care about them? Are you a genuine person?
Or are you just a grifter that is out to make a quick buck?
Keep in mind that if a customer feels like they have been mistreated not only they will never buy from you again, but they will also tell all their friends about it. And that’s if you are lucky.
If you are unlucky, they will take it to social media and create a PR nightmare for you.
So make sure that your customers know that you care.
And don’t give them any reason to doubt it.
Transactional emails are extremely important.
They are what define the post-purchase customer experience.
So make sure to set up an automatic transactional email sequence to let the customer know that their order was confirmed, inform them when you ship it and get their feedback after its delivered.
It helps you to reassure the customer and show them that you care.
And happy customers are repeat customers!