We all know that happy customers are the ones who will promote our brands. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of research to find stats like “Happy customers tell at least 4-6 people about their experience,” or “After a positive customer experience, 69% [of customers] would recommend the company to others, and 50% would use the business more frequently”.
So for brands that want their customers to share social proof, ensuring an amazing experience is key. But beyond that, knowing where to spend your time and resources to improve that experience can be the biggest challenge and the hardest question to answer.
Fortunately for us, Malcolm Gladwell provides a framework that might lead us to the answer.
The Concept of Weak Links and Strong Links
Author Malcolm Gladwell explored a concept about “weak-link” and “strong-link” activities in a podcast a few years ago. In it, Gladwell defines a “strong-link” activity as one where the team or business with the best player or experience usually wins. By contrast, a “weak-link” activity occurs when the team or business without the worst player or experience usually wins. Make sense? Let’s try a few examples.
Strong Link Activities
Basketball, for example, is a strong-link activity, where upgrading your strongest 1-2 players, gives you the best results. The addition of a single star player can change the whole season for a team.
Think: Michael Jordan’s 1984 season with the Chicago Bulls. Pre-Jordan: the Bulls won only 35% of games. Post-Jordan: the Bulls were playoff contenders.
Weak Link Activities
Soccer, on the other hand, classifies as a weak-link activity, where upgrading your worst players makes the team much better. “You could have 8 beautiful passes in a row, but if your worst player…botches the ninth, then all the previous 8 beautiful passes are all wasted. It takes several successful contributions from the weakest players to succeed.”
This can be a useful model in evaluating our own ecommerce experiences we create for customers.
Ecommerce Experience Building is a Weak Link Activity
Successful customer experiences in ecommerce are absolutely a weak-link activity, where your customer’s experience is only as good as the worst part of the process. Think about it – if the whole shopping experience was smooth and easy, but if after a customer checked out they never got a tracking number, or if the package arrived damaged, or if it never arrived at all – none of the other steps to get there mattered.
The customer didn’t get what they paid for, and it was a negative experience. As a result, that customer is much less likely to return, let alone provide you with social proof to help you win new customers.
Consider the following statistics about the post-purchase experience:
- Over 73% consider delivery the most important part of the online shopping experience (that’s right, the one part of the process you don’t handle yourself).
- 84% of shoppers won’t return to a brand after a bad delivery experience (even though it’s not your fault. )
- 94% of customers blame the retailer after a delivery goes poorly.
Making your weakest link your strongest
The post-purchase experience can often be the weak link that breaks the chain in your customer experience because it feels like it’s out of your control. But while a 3rd party carrier is doing the work of delivery, there are 2 major areas you can control to ensure an amazing post-purchase experience that will lead to all forms of social proof: a better package tracking experience and a better resolution for failed delivery
Choose the right shipper for the job
Google “which shipping service is the best,” and you’re going to be delighted to find 2.3+ billion results that all vary drastically in opinion.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot of debate on which shipping carrier is the best, and that debate gets hotter the more you get into cost and efficiency. Each shipping carrier has different processes, different services, different guarantees, and very different strengths.
Basic strengths of the “big 4” carriers:
- USPS – cost, shipping small packages
- UPS – tracking, shipping large packages
- FedEx – fast delivery, Saturday shipments
- DHL – international shipments, fulfillment
Trying to manually calculate the subtle differences in costs between carriers is an exercise in minutiae that will only create more time and headaches for you. Since we’re talking all about saving money, do yourself a favor and work with a third-party that has already negotiated lower prices and leverages technology that can serve up the best shipping options for you specific instance.
Better package tracking experience
81% of customers say that receiving proactive updates about their orders is critical to them repurchasing. Pretty high stakes for something you trust a carrier to do for you. Sending a tracking number to a customer over email and relying on them to check it every day doesn’t cut it anymore. Email is a crowded space for communications to a customer. With open rates below 25% in most cases (and brands sending several emails after a purchase), it’s easy to misplace or lose that tracking number.
A free solution you can promote in your confirmation page or confirmation emails is the Route App. Route syncs with your customers’ emails, so they can get push notifications about their order status for every tracking number that is emailed to them. As customers receive updates about their package every step of the way, there’s no need for them to bog your team down with questions like “where is my order?” or feel that you haven’t done enough to keep them up-to-date. They can follow the order right to their doorstep in exactly the same way they would track their Uber to pick them up.
Better resolution for failed deliveries
Failures happen in delivery all the time. The package gets lost in transit, delivered to the wrong address and never recovered. It happens to about 3% of all deliveries, making up nearly 2.5 billion packages every year. Consider also packages that are damaged in transit – there’s another several hundred million. Finally, there’s the growing problem with “porch piracy,” where packages are delivered safe and sound, only to be stolen before the recipient can retrieve them. No matter what goes wrong, in the customer’s eyes, it’s up to you to make it right.
You don’t have to leave it to chance – Route is a fantastic way to give customers the option to protect their order from loss, damage, or theft. If anything goes wrong, they can request a replacement or refund with a few taps, and Route will buy a second one from you at full price to be sent to the customer within a day. When customers get that level of service and the process is painless, it’s no wonder that 87% of shoppers are more loyal to a brand that reimburses them for a lost, stolen, or damaged package.
The End Game
Like making consecutive passes of a soccer ball down the field toward a goal, the entire ecommerce experience has to link together to yield a great result – one weak pass or weak link in that process breaks all the previous successful ones. With as much value as the customer puts on the delivery stage of shopping online, the post-purchase experience is crucial to creating a total brand experience that the customer will want to share back with you and their own network.
Asking for social proof in any form comes much easier when your brand has been alongside them every step of the way, as opposed to taking a 2-7 day break during shipping and delivery and picking up the conversation again when they receive their order.
Adam has spent 6 years immersed in CX ecommerce and SaaS solutions, working with companies ranging from startups to federal governments to Fortune 1000 companies. He currently oversees strategic partnerships for Route.com.