Payments may represent the final interaction point between retailer and consumer for a given transaction, but businesses need to think of it as the start of the customer’s next purchase journey.
When money exchanges hands in-store or card payments are completed offline or online, it represents the first opportunity to ensure a customer wants to come back and continue their relationship with the brand.
Crucially, customer service does not end as soon as a retailer gets its hands on the money. Instead, this exchange needs to be used as a point to get to know shoppers better, market additional ranges or to upsell a relevant item. It’s the never-ending cycle of retail that helps develop loyalty.
Delivery offerings, fulfilment logistics, reward schemes and returns all play an incredibly important part in the omnichannel customer experience, and need to be clearly explained at the point of purchase.
As a payment is made, such details must be clearly stated online or expertly explained in the store. Retailers need to use the transaction point to continue a positive experience to give shoppers every reason to make their next purchase with them.
The point of no return?
It is also worth considering that the transaction a retailer thinks it has made, may not yet be over. This is because in fashion retail, some businesses are dealing with around a quarter of online sales coming back into their operations after a customer changes their mind about the purchase.
Instead of crossing their fingers and hoping an item will not be returned, retailers need to actively embrace returns and offer policies that suit this burgeoning shopping trend. By doing this, the retailer is playing for the long-term goal of retaining loyal customers, rather than securing a single sale.
In our research published this year, ‘From First Look to Last Mile…and Back Again’, we found returns are of critical importance in terms of maintaining strong consumer relationships. Some 51% of customers will not order from a company that does not have a free returns policy. And 63% want the option to return a purchase to any channel if they decide not to keep it.
How a retailer shapes its returns policy and explains it at the point of sale can have an impact on whether a customer actually makes a purchase in the first place. The report shows that 41% are less likely to order a product online if they don’t think they can return the item to a physical store.
Forward-thinking furniture retailing
Managing returns for bulky products, such as furniture, can be more complicated than products in other sectors, and it’s here where optimising the point of purchase becomes critical.
Online players in the furniture sector, such as Made.com and Sofa.com, are good examples of companies that keep consumers fully informed right up until the online checkout. At these retailers, returns policy details are clearly marked throughout the online journey, and there are opportunities for customers to access live support from staff via instant messaging to help develop relationships.
Physical furniture stores should increasingly be looking to offer consumers digital receipts to create a communication platform with customers after they’ve left the premises. To this end, Heals trialled an online video service that allowed customers who had already made an order to receive a virtual tour of their product in the weeks leading up to delivery.
Developing aftersales touchpoints and giving serious consideration to new customer journeys, such as shoppers propensity to return items, will help forge long-lasting brand-shopper relationships.
It’s great to complete a sale, but retailers need to make them all count and understand that the transaction never truly ends to secure the loyalty of the customer.