When a customer places an order through a retailer's web site, what is the last thing they see? All too often it's just an order reference that they're asked to print out and keep in case anything goes wrong, according to Philip Williams of NetFidelity UK, who suggests that e-retailers are missing a vital opportunity.
The post-sale web space can be used to develop additional streams of passive incremental revenue without actually having to sell more products at the time. It's a space where consumers are already in the 'buying mood'. At that time they usually feel good because they've just bought something they need or want. It's the perfect place, NetFidelity argues, to encourage repeat purchases.
A recent study by Verdict Research found that UK e-tailers have the potential to generate an estimated extra 818 million each year through the introduction of this kind of post-transaction revenue model.
There is some truth in the statement that the online world is different from the offline world, and so it needs a whole new set of tools. But the marketing principles remain the same: put a relevant offer in front of somebody with a meaningful incentive at an appropriate moment and you stand a better chance of creating a sale than if you were to fire off unrelated random advertising.
Three post-sale stages
In the world of online retail, so much focus has been put into getting consumers to visit the online store, followed up by e-mails and e-zines trying to build customer relationships, that an important opportunity in the life of the customer has been missed: the "post-sale real estate". This stage can be broken into three time periods: immediate, short term, and long term:
- The immediate is the moment immediately after the customer has completed an order;
- The short term is the period shortly after the sale when the customer is waiting for delivery, and then starting to use the product or service;
- The long term refers to the weeks and months after a customer has received and paid for their goods.
Offer a post-sale incentive
We are now seeing the development of sophisticated e-mail messages, relevant offers at the point of sale, meaningful e-zines, and the use of loyalty programmes and points schemes. Among all this there is the immediate post sale space that remains largely underdeveloped, and this is where NetFidelity's own technologies and programmes aim to generate revenue and encourage shoppers to return to a site - an activity that costs nothing to do, but has enormous potential value.
In the future, web sites will generate passive income from something that at the moment is an operational necessity. The offer will not detract from the essential message, and actually offers customers a practical benefit (e.g. "thank you for shopping with us - here's a 10 voucher for next time you buy from us").
And the long term space, both on and offline, are very similar with the objective being to maintain a meaningful relationship with customers and either encouraging a change or reinforcing particular behaviour. This is largely focused on a series of relevant offers using endorsed direct mail or e-mail, loyalty points programmes, or offers based on known demographics. The development of sophisticated messages and direct marketing has become the norm, and programmes designed to reactivate dormant customers remain a 'holy grail'.