Reduce ecommerce returns and increase repeat sales – your guide to post purchase advice emails

6 September, 2017

Offering your customer’s product advice is a great way to build a positive image of your brand and gain referrals.

Often, customers buy a product but don’t understand how to use and maintain it.Leaving customers to work out how a product works on their own can become quite frustrating — especially if the customer has paid decent money for a product but doesn’t understand how to get the most out of it.

As the retailer, it’s your responsibility to make usage easy. Don’t rely on the 500-page product manual, which makes no sense and will likely create greater customer annoyance.


If you have the capabilities, try to make your customers’ lives simpler wherever you can. For example, sending them a cheat sheet that summarises the 500-page product manual will save them a lot of effort and time.

Customers value simplicity.

They don’t want scary formulas or complicated analyses of the product. They just want to know how to properly use it and how to get the best results out of using the product.

So write usage advice for humans, not for robots.

If you can do this, then your customers will trust your product knowledge and judgement. They’re also likely to keep returning because they know they’re getting the highest level of service.

If you create a helpful advice blog, manual or simple email post, you’re also likely to significantly lower the number of complaints and returns. We have even put together a comparison of different return policies here.

Prepare your customers for what’s to come. Advice can come in two ways:

  • #1. Get your customers ready to use the product.
  • #2. Send helpful advice about maintaining the product over time.

Why do post-purchase advice emails work?

Advice emails focus on helping the customer to enjoy the best possible experience with your product. Show your customer how to use, clean, maintain, update, assemble or improve the product they have purchased, and your ecommerce brand will be much more likely to generate repeat sales (and word-of-mouth referrals).

This email gives you a chance to be customer friendly.

There’s absolutely no imperative to sell, promote or persuade. We just want to help our customers. This pure focus on the customer’s experience will help your brand establish trust with the customer.

Conversion focused copywriter, Steve Hogan, agrees. In his article about optimising post-purchase experience, he talks about the importance of helping customers understand the product they purchased.

“Your job as the vendor is to help people get the most out of the product or service they purchase.”

Peter goes on to say being helpful is a building block to enhance the positive image of your firm. It also reduces uncertainties and will minimise the number of returns from customers who don’t understand how to use the product.

If your brand cares enough to add value to the customer experience without a promotional agenda, the customer is much more likely to open, engage with, and respond to your future emails.

In other words, you’re banking trust brownie points for your brand that can be converted into repeat sales later down the line.

Of course, there’s no way you will be able to send advice for every product your ecommerce store produces.

Reza Farshbaf from Baymard Institute wrote an article about getting more out of your confirmation page. She suggests focusing on your top five to 10 best-selling products or lines. This way, you can alter them if there’s a common difficulty many customers are experiencing.

Does post-purchase advice apply to my industry?

This email is a ‘nice-to-have’, not an ‘absolutely-must-have’.

But, opportunities to surprise and delight your customers can be the difference between a loyal buyer and a one-time shopper.

The effort vs return is a no-contest.

I wanted strong insights on which industries usage advice applies to best. So I went to content marketing manager and expert from GetResponse, Michal Leszczynski for detailed advice.

I asked Michal for his advice on sending usage tips:

“You should be helpful whenever you can, but only if it provides value to the customer.

Cheaper products are often purchased more frequently and, consequently, your advice can reach a higher number of customers. These customers will often first need to build trust in your products and brand as a whole — only then will they consider purchasing something more expensive. If you win their hearts at the start of your relationship, the chances are high that they’ll stick with you for longer.

Take this situation for example: if you’re selling t-shirts, you don’t have to advise anyone about how to wear a t-shirt per se. But if you want to talk about how to wear it with different outfits or in different situations – now that’s advice worth sending!”

There you have it. From the man himself.

The end goal is to create loyal, repeat customers. If you have the resources, you should consider investing some time into usage advice.

Building your customers’ trust is vital to business success. If your customers feel they are getting full value for their money then they will be much more inclined to make expensive purchases and promote their experience with your business to their friends and family.

What should I include in my post-purchase advice email?

Advice emails can be very valuable for retailers with complex or complicated products. Verticals like electronics, homewares and toys often require instructions. If you’re selling online, just repurpose the important parts of your instruction manual into an easy-to-digest blog article or YouTube vid.

Other verticals can still find ways to improve the user’s experience with helpful advice. For example:

  • An online wine store can send information around food and wine matching, ideal serving temperature, and optimal cellaring time.
  • A sneaker brand might like to trigger an automated email two months after purchase with information about how to wash or clean the footwear without damaging the fabric or dye.
  • Office supplies companies can deliver helpful reminders to their printer customers to clean the machine and re-order cartridges and toners before running out.

If possible, try to infuse a respected influencer or expert into this email to add credibility for your brand.

For example, an apparel retail might like to direct their readers to a blog article or video that uses an influential fashion blogger or stylist to show the user how to put together the perfect outfit with the product the customer has purchased. Sleepwear e-retailer, Willa & Mae show you how it’s done.

The key is to be helpful, as Michal Leszczynski strongly argues in his detailed article about the seven rules of post purchase email communication.

When a customer purchases an expensive product, they want it to last as long as possible. Your customers will appreciate any tips and after-care advice you can share to help them get the most out of your product.

I also asked Michal for his expert opinion on timing post-purchase emails.

Result: The quicker the better.

“If you want to be helpful and show your customers how to use the product better, then you should contact them as quickly as possible.

Ideally, you could send your recommendations along with the ‘thank you for your purchase’ message. They’re already excited for the product to arrive, so they’ll definitely want to know more about it and would like to get a taste or feel of it – through a video tutorial for example.

This could work really well, especially if by purchasing your products customers are joining an exclusive community or a club, one about which they’d like to tell others, e.g. on social media. They may even end up more excited than how they felt after they just hit the ‘buy’ button.

Another positive side of this is that by contacting them immediately, you’re avoiding the risk of customers getting frustrated by not knowing how to use your product properly. This is especially important if it is something valuable or very complex. You don’t want them to break it, hate it, and then return it to you!

There’s also a risk to this approach, however. If the product is delivered late or there’s a problem with it, then the usage advice may be received negatively. So think about that and make sure that in those emails, you’re also providing an easy way to get in touch with your customer support team.”

Michal isn’t the only expert to say this. Email marketing company VerticleResponse also stresses the importance of usage advice.

VerticleResponse’s article focuses on the importance of customer service and creating helpful advice.

Valuable usage advice helps resolve obstacles before they arise. It’s also a great point of contact in case something does go wrong.

Instead of being grumpy the product isn’t working, customers will have available online information to fix the issue themselves before spending more of their own time contacting customer support.

Post-purchase advice example


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The best features of this post-purchase usage advice email

When you sell simple product lines, you need to find a way to stand out against competitors. Framebridge focuses on helpful blogs to show customers different ways to use frames.

This is a perfect example of choosing a certain product or product line and focusing on how usage advice can improve the product experience.

Framebridge has also added a series of useful blogs on tips and tricks. They’ve labelled which blogs are in the how-to category and which blogs are useful reads.

This makes it easy for the customer to find the blogs most relevant to their needs. Whether they’re reading to pass time or actually searching for helpful advice, it’s all there.

Useful post-purchase advice is the new way to differentiate yourself from competitors

Post-purchase usage emails are a fairly new concept to the ecommerce world. Many business professionals believe giving away free product advice is a time-waster. In reality, offering product advice will help customers get the most out of their new product.  

It’s an opportunity to showcase your superior product knowledge. A user will be more willing to purchase from you in the future if they know they can rely on you for trustworthy product advice.

But no-one wants to read a 500-page product manual. A short, succinct guide to using the item is all customers want. They want to know how-to operate and best utilise it.

Be a step ahead of your competitors and create a practical usage advice email.

It will prove to your customers that you can provide a better user experience with a helpful usage advice resource.

By Jessica Goerke
Since 2018 Jess has smashed client goals as a PPC specialist with her signature holistic approach to digital marketing. When she’s not driving awesome results for her clients, you’ll usually find her in the gym.
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