A Case Study in Automated Post-Sale Ecommerce Customer Communication

This is my first post on the World Wide Access blog, I’ll be looking at the results of an experiment we have run over the last few months into what works well when following-up with customers after a purchase. I normally write about more technical aspects of what we do over on my own blog but today will try to stick to a less nerdy technical format and discuss what we have been trying and the results we have seen from our customer follow-up communication.

Firstly I should give an overview of our customer communication strategy. Part of offering a world class shopping experience is ensuring the customer is kept informed of their order progress as much as possible. When a customer places an order on one of our webstores they’ll immediately receive a confirmation of the order via email, summarizing the purchased items, the totals and the billing and delivery address. A short while later they will receive a notification that the order has been sent through to a warehouse for fulfillment. Depending on the shipping cut-off times for the various warehouses we use in US and UK, the order may ship out from the warehouse within a few hours, or overnight. In either case, as soon as the item is with the carrier and a tracking number is available it is sent to the customer as a final notification that the package is on it’s way. If possible we will also include a delivery estimate in this email, so the customer knows when to expect their package.

So the emails to this point are what we consider simply part of the sales process. Beyond this our experiment begins. We have been trialling three types of emails powered by the autoresponder functionality in MailChimp, and I’ll run through them below with a summary of their purpose, and the results.

Newsletter Sign-up Autoresponder

This email isn’t strictly a post-sale email, it’s sent to a new newsletter subscriber a day after they sign up. They’re not a customer yet but they’re interested enough to subscribe to our mailing list, and so we hope they might be interested in buying the products. In our experiment we have been offering a generous coupon code on a big ticket product as a ‘thank you’ for subscribing.

The results have been pleasing. We have experienced nearly 60% open rate indicating that the recent subscriber is far more likely to open an email than a general subscriber. Furthermore the click through rate of 23% is encouraging as customers are not only reading the email, but coming back to the site to look at the products. These are visits that we may not have got without the follow-up. We achieved a direct coupon redemption rate of 1%. The 1% sale rate may sound quite low, but this is only a measure of direct conversion of customers using the particular coupon to buy a big ticket product, even a 1% conversion rate on such products through this follow-up email is significant.

Post Delivery Follow-up

This email is sent to a customer a few days after their package is due to arrive. The purpose is to reach out to the customer for feedback on the sale, to check the product arrived as expected and to invite the customer to participate in a review of their purchase, in order to win store-credit in a monthly draw. This email directly refers to the products purchased, and links through to the product pages where a review can be made (snippet shown below).

We have seen a 31% open rate on these emails and a 7% click through. This has resulted in a real surge in quality reviews from customers. These represent valuable feedback for us, but also excellent information for prospective customers. Anecdotally we have also had customers respond directly to this email, to let us know the product arrived and that they are happy with them – so even for customers not willing to share their views publicly, it’s a chance to reach out.

Real Nappies Example

Replenishment Follow-up

This email is sent out on certain products at carefully configured intervals. For example a 0-3 month diaper cover will send an email approximately 90 days after purchase. The email offers a generous discount on a range of suitable next step or replenishment products to a customer who might need them or be due for more of a product. This email setup was based on a campaign proposed in Mark Hammersley’s presentation on the topic at an Auckland Magento Meetup earlier in the year.

This email has not seen as wide acceptance as our others have, with a healthy 42% open rate but a lower click through of 3%. This is still encouraging as it represents an opportunity to make a sale to a customer but also makes it very easy for customers buying consumable items to replenish when they need more.

Now what?

The results so far have been great, we’ll be rolling out similar follow-up email campaigns to all of our stores over the next few months. We will be re-working the copy of our emails in the new year, and looking at how the subject line and body copy affects the uptake of these customer follow-ups. I’ll be sure to report back with any interesting results from our next round of experiments.

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