The Battle for Ecommerce Retention: Is Post-Purchase Dissonance Costing You Sales?

Learn how to keep customers satisfied with their purchase and your brand—after the transaction is complete.

By Tom Wintaugh | July 3, 2023
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While an enormous amount of effort goes into attracting customers and closing sales, the customer buying process does not end with the purchase. Ecommerce retention is an ongoing journey that extends far beyond the transaction to include all of the many interactions a customer has with a brand after payment is finalized. A key part of nurturing this relationship lies in understanding and managing post-purchase dissonance, a significant factor in customer behavior that can have a big impact on retention.

What Constitutes the Post-Purchase Experience? 

The post-purchase experience encompasses all interactions between the business and customer after the transaction, and can be roughly broken down into these four categories: 

  • Product Delivery: The shipping and fulfillment process is often the final interaction a customer and brand have with one another, and its speed, convenience, and accuracy will factor heavily in the customer’s impression of the brand. If fulfillment systems are not well integrated into the total ecommerce experience, service will suffer, as will brand reputation and consumer satisfaction. Read more about aspects of good fulfillment systems here.
  • Product Usage: Once they have the product, the customer's experience using it is a factor in their perception of the brand and the likelihood of making more purchases. This experience can be quantified though feedback originating with the customer, such as a posted review, or solicited by the business as part of its research and customer management. Read a guest blog about how to handle negative product reviews here.
  • Customer Support: Post-sale service and support can dramatically influence the customer's perception of your business. Effective, timely assistance can inspire trust and loyalty, even when products are unsatisfactory. This requires sophisticated integration of order and customer data for both self-serve and rep support. 

What is Post-Purchase Dissonance? 

Post-purchase dissonance describes when a customer feels doubt or regret after a purchase, stemming from the perceived gap between their expectations and the actual performance of the product or service. Post-purchase dissonance can lead to reduced customer loyalty, negative word-of-mouth, and fewer repeat purchases. In the automotive industry, for example, a retail customer may feel dissonance after purchasing from an auto parts store if the part doesn't fit their vehicle as expected. A B2B buyer in this same space may feel dissonance if they did not receive an adequate discount for bulk ordering, or if the buying process itself cost them time and hassle.  

If left unchecked, this dissonance can greatly harm customer satisfaction and negatively impact future purchasing behavior, becoming a huge drag on ecommerce retention rates. 

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Mitigating Post-Purchase Dissonance Through Exceptional Service 

The most effective strategy for preventing post-purchase dissonance is to anticipate common post-purchase issue before they happen, and then be ready with appropriate systems and support to address issues immediately. Here are a few core ways to achieve this after the transaction is complete: 

  • Effective communication is #1. Lean on order management systems, fulfillment partner integrations, and automated messaging to keep customers informed about their order status, and provide clear instructions for product usage or installation. 
  • Easy returns and refunds are an essential part of selling online. Knowing that a business offers a hassle-free return policy can alleviate the stress of a purchase before it is completed. This isn’t just about on-site messaging. The more effortless an actual return process is, including self-service return tools, shipper integration, and automated label generation and confirmations, the more freely customers will commit to purchases. 
  • Responsive customer support: Quick and helpful responses to questions and complaints can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal follower. Support should be offered in various forms that correlate to how a given business’ shoppers like to communicate, whether by chatbot, live rep, FAQs, social media content, and more. 
  • Request feedback: When in doubt about how customers are feeling about their purchases, ask them! Soliciting feedback from real customers is invaluable for any business. It is an excellent way to address problems before they become insurmountable, and can fuel future decisions about product development, marketing, pricing, and more. Developing a customer feedback strategy makes customers feel valued, and provides businesses with key insights into how you can improve all aspect of business. Read more about how to use customer feedback on social channels to improve your customer service.

3 Ways to Enhance Post-Purchase Satisfaction for B2B Customers 

In the B2B context, post-purchase evaluation plays a crucial role in shaping long-term business relationships and driving retention in ecommerce. We wrote more about best practices for working with B2B clients here. By providing excellent post-purchase service, you can turn a potentially negative situation into an opportunity for strengthening ties with your B2B customers. Strategies to alleviate post-purchase dissonance could include: 

  • Proactive follow-ups: Regularly checking in with B2B buyers to ensure they are satisfied not just with products, but with the total sales and shopping experience, can pre-empt any issues and help guide future business and site development.
  • Dedicated account managers: Providing a single point of contact who understands the B2B client's needs can help these customers feel like their issues are important to the business, and connect them with resources and solutions quickly. For professional buyers, being able to save time and get answers fast is an antidote to often complex buying processes with many stakeholders. Account managers can act as conduits to sales teams, who can address needs with new products or solutions. Learn about how to acquire new B2B customers in this Miva expert blog.
  • Regular product updates and training: Keeping your B2B customers informed about new product features or updates and providing necessary training can enhance their satisfaction with your wares. Interactive demos, how-to sessions, and a healthy social media presence can keep customers engaged with your brand and up-to-speed with the best ways to enjoy products. These updates can become jumping off points for new marketing initiatives to an already invested audience, while demonstrating to future customers that no question will be left unanswered. 
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Impact of Post-Purchase Behavior on Ecommerce Retention 

Paying attention to and managing post-purchase behavior is key to successful ecommerce retention. The reason is obvious—when customers feel that their concerns are heard and addressed promptly, they are more likely to stay loyal to your brand and become repeat customers. Here are three specific ways that a satisfying post-purchase experience works to achieve tangible ecommerce retention goals: 

  • Increased customer lifetime value: Retained customers tend to spend more and make more frequent purchases over time. Returning customers spend 67% more than new customers! 
  • Positive word-of-mouth referrals: Satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your brand to others. The benefits of word of mouth are massive—77% of shoppers report that they are more likely to buy a product after a recommendation. 
  • Reduced acquisition costs: It is significantly cheaper to retain existing customers than to acquire new ones. In fact, acquiring a customer can cost 5 times more than retaining one you already have. 

Preventing And Managing Post-Purchase Dissonance 

By focusing on delivering an exceptional post-purchase experience, you can build lasting customer relationships, improve customer loyalty, and boost your bottom line. The way to beat post-purchase dissonance is to prioritize great communication, thoughtful resources, well-oiled return systems, tight integration with fulfillment providers, and outstanding customer service. This is a recipe for satisfied customers, who will return to your store with well-earned confidence in your products and brand. 

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About The Author

Katy Ellquist

Katy Ellquist, Miva’s Digital Marketing Strategist, is an accomplished writer, marketer, and social media analyst who has created sophisticated content campaigns for a broad range of professional clients. She brings to Miva a complex understanding of ecommerce trends and techniques, building upon extensive digital agency experience and a prior role as direct liaison to Miva’s top accounts. Katy is a regular contributor to the Miva blog, covering essential ecommerce topics like design & development strategy, site optimization, and omnichannel selling, with the goal of increasing the actionable knowledgebase of the entire Miva community.

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Author's Bio

Tom Wintaugh

Tom is a Content Marketing Specialist at Miva.

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