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What is Post-Purchase Dissonance and How Can Brands Prevent It?

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Every customer has experienced buyer’s remorse. Whether the product was too expensive or just plain disappointing, that feeling of regret is one every brand strives to avoid. 

Is post-purchase dissonance just an updated, digitized term for buyer’s remorse? Not quite. The feeling often involves more than the product itself—it indicates unmet expectations throughout the purchasing journey and often stems from a disconnect between brand and consumer. 

While brands today have multiple channels to reach consumers, each communication is an opportunity to either delight or disappoint customers. And for 80% of customers, it just takes one unhappy experience with a brand for them to churn for life.

In both cases, decreased customer retention is the negative upshot: potential customers become one-time buyers. That's a dangerous outcome when as little as 5% of customers can generate 25-95% greater ROI, while customer acquisition costs five times more. 

With stakes this high, marketers need to focus on creating personalized, timely messaging that makes the purchasing experience enjoyable from start to finish.

Curate Purchasing Decisions

Post-purchase dissonance can begin during the browsing phase, long before the customer has even bought the product. When this happens, it’s usually when choice-overload is in effect. 

In the famous “jam study” done by California researchers, they found that offering customers limited choices increased conversion rates by 27%. Shoppers want their buying choices curated by the brand to make their decision less daunting while receiving a shortlisted indication on what’s their best bet.

If the brand fails to curate their selection, any product the customer finally settles on is susceptible to post-purchase dissonance. After sifting through a slew of disorganized choices, customers often second-guess themselves after checkout and worry they chose the wrong product. When their package arrives, customers will compare what they receive with what possibly could’ve been a better option.

Brands can only curate their product recommendations if they’ve already established 1:1 communication that fosters strong customer-brand relationships. Instead of blasting multiple campaigns with every product under the sun, marketers need to deploy personalized messaging that showcase products that uniquely resonate with each customer. 

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Send Transparent Messaging

There’s a reason why transactional emails have 3x higher CTR compared to other marketing emails. After customers have made the commitment to purchase, they want brands to alleviate any possibility of uncertainty. From order confirmations to shipping updates, it’s the job of marketers to serve personalized messaging that gives customers valuable information at every touchpoint. Without transparent, up-to-date messaging, brands will fail to meet customers’  expectations and lead to churn. 

For 64% of customers, order confirmations are the most valuable message in their inbox. With that many eyes on an email, brands not only need to deploy order confirmations immediately after purchase, but should boost these communications with additional content. Personalized product recommendations or specific CTAs, such as downloading an app to check order statuses on the go, are handy add-ons. Not only does this boost overall engagement, it gives customers full transparency as to what is happening with their order.

Customers that need a product by a promised date and find themselves stuck without it are guaranteed disappointment and are likely to abandon the brand. WIMSO reports that 93% of customers expect regular shipping updates so they can plan accordingly. When messaging doesn’t meet the customer’s needs, even the most pristine product won’t satisfy.

Use Post-Purchase to Re-Engage Customers

The last step to stave off that post-purchase feeling comes down to a simple thank you. While brands may think of a follow-up email as the final bow of a purchase well-done, marketers need to use this messaging as a way for customers to feel seen and heard as well as an opportunity to open the door for re-engagement. 

Reviews are a key way to boost buying confidence and reinforce brand value from those whom consumers trust most: their peers. As a brand, thoughtfully responding to customers is also a pre-emptive win. As 9 out of 10 consumers sift through reviews before purchasing, maintaining an active review forum not only builds trust, it equips customers to make an informed purchasing decision. Setting realistic expectations ultimately prevents post-purchase dissonance.

A product return or exchange doesn’t have to mean a customer has reached the point of no return. Offering a flexible policy, such as including different ports of return or offering both cash-back and store credit options, ensures a smooth brand experience, even if that particular product wasn’t a match. 

Take the 80% of customers who prefer in-person returns to mailing them in. Using dynamic messaging that displays the store closest to them, brands can pivot a misaligned product into an opportunity to drive foot traffic to physical stores that encourage spontaneous browsing. On top of that, brands can also include interactive polling to gather data on what went wrong with the purchase and better tailor future content and product recommendations. 

Using the right relevant messaging, dissonance can be replaced by delight, re-engagement, and lifetime customer loyalty. With tailored messaging that keeps the customer informed, it’s never too late to prevent post-purchase dissonance.

Interested in how Movable Ink can help you deploy personalized messaging at every stage of the purchasing journey? Request a demo today. 

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