Why Savvy SMBs Are Focusing on the Post-Sale Experience

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Small businesses have been struggling in 2020, but this holiday season may be a prime opportunity to turn things around.

Two-thirds of American adults say they plan to shop at more small businesses in the coming months, providing independent retailers with the perfect opportunity to turn those new customers into brand advocates.

“Small businesses can use this goodwill to their advantage and turn one-time customers into advocates by focusing on the customer experience they provide before, during, and after the sale,” says ActiveCampaign CEO Jason VandeBoom.

Putting the strategy into action means capitalizing on what VandeBoom sees as the biggest untapped opportunity for local retailers right now — the post-sale engagement.

Post-sale engagement largely involves strategic, targeted communication with customers after the sale occurs. VandeBoom says the approach works best when businesses are providing excellent customer service and actively working to build relationships that, in turn, encourage loyalty. Post-sale is the ideal time to discuss prior purchases, recommend complementary products and services, offer education, send personalized promotions, and even request customer reviews.

Apple offers a good example of a brand that’s done a great job of creating a customer-first strategy with an emphasis on the post-sale experience, but smaller businesses can get in on the action as well. Independent retailers can differentiate themselves from major brands by focusing on what makes them unique and what connects them to their communities on a personal level. VandeBoom says it needs to feel authentic.

By taking advantage of extreme personalization tactics, like sending thank-you notes and asking for individualized customer feedback, SMBs are putting themselves in a better position to engage with consumers on a more intimate level. That sort of deep connection is what’s often needed to turn first-time customers into dedicated brand advocates.

While most holiday campaigns are focused on winning a quick sale, VandeBoom says the post-sale experience is actually what customers remember most.

“Did the product work for them? Did they feel valued by the brand? Was the brand top-of-mind enough to purchase from again? These are some of the questions that customers ask themselves subconsciously,” he says. “I’ve found that small businesses are often better at creating great customer experiences than larger players because they have more unique products and offer more hands-on support.”

Small businesses that lean into this advantage during the holidays, and carry on that customer experience emphasis, are putting themselves in the best possible position to create new brand advocates. The approach also frees up retailers from trying to run dozens of holiday-related campaigns and promotions that focus on capturing one-time sales all at once. That frenetic approach tends to be less successful, and it’s not something VandeBoom is seeing many small businesses do this year.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is playing a significant role in how small businesses are approaching the holiday season,” he says. “Although many small businesses relied on brick-and-mortar sales in the past, the pandemic is forcing them to create or accelerate their digital presence. Holiday sales, including Small Business Saturday, will widely be conducted online this year.”

With so many seasonal events taking place online, businesses are in an even better position to begin collecting holiday purchase data, such as product purchased, email used, and customer location, and to send follow-up communications post-purchase.

Holiday newsletters offer another example of what’s possible using this approach. By sending localized thank-you promotions in December and asking for product reviews in early January, VandeBoom says small businesses can create personalized experiences for their customers, even digitally.

“Everyone likes to feel special,” he says, “and that positive feeling can in turn create loyal customers.”

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.