Your customers feeling miserable after buying from you is all you ever wanted, right? Learn about post-purchase dissonance and successful email marketing automation in WooCommerce!
Wait – that can’t be accurate…
That’s from some upside-down world where making less money and being worse than your competitors is the goal.
If it still happens though, your customers might be feeling post-purchase dissonance – a dreadful psychological state that might be killing your customer retention, revenue, and reputation.
What you DO want is happy customers, coming back for more, leaving great reviews, and recommending your products to everyone they know.
In this article, we will explore what post-purchase dissonance really is, how it comes to life, and how to make sure it will never hurt your business.
Table of contents:
- Post-purchase dissonance – definition and backstory
- What you risk not taking after-purchase experience into account
- Real-life examples
- Post-purchase dissonance causes you can prevent
- 7 strategies you can steal to protect your customers (and your revenue)
What is post-purchase dissonance?
Post-purchase dissonance is an emotion that every eCommerce business owner (and their customers) has to deal with, 24/7/365.
Post-purchase dissonance is a customer’s negative psychological state that is caused by unfulfilled expectations or new information received after purchasing a product or service.
You can picture it like this:
It occurs when the decision of the customer does not align with their prior evaluation, and there are two general reasons post-purchase dissonance happens:
1) pre-purchase customer’s expectations about the product, service, or delivery weren’t met
2) customer discovered an even better/cheaper product after buying
Dissonance reaches its highest level when your customers are feeling guilty about how they spent their money, and they aren’t able to make themselves feel better by justifying the purchase in any way.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
Post-purchase dissonance is more likely to happen when you sell high-ticket items. It’s easier to forget buying a crappy $30 t-shirt rather than forgetting buying a crappy $4k TV right?
Think about those times you bought something really expensive – a brand new TV, a car, even a house.
Often, you feel great about the purchase only a couple of moments after you make it. But then, as time goes by and you start questioning your own decision, second thoughts slip in.
Sometimes these second thoughts are rational.
That new TV might not have all the features you need after all, and you could have saved some money with a cheaper model or waited until the next big sale comes up.
And sometimes the second thoughts are irrational: maybe the new TV just doesn’t feel right for some reason, or maybe the house is too far from your family and friends.
Why does it matter for eCommerce and your revenue?
It’s very common for consumers to have regrets about purchases they’ve made.
Let’s look at the stats:
- up to 10% of consumer-spent money is wasted on regretted purchases [source]
- 25% of Americans feel buyer’s remorse when shopping under stress [source]
- occasional sales like Black Friday lead to 42% of shoppers being dissatisfied with what they bought [source]
- 1 in 10 buyers are not happy with their purchases during the pandemic [source]
(you might also be extra cautious if you’re in the business of selling the things that people often regret buying)
As you can see, it’s a big threat to your revenue and reputation because it can decrease customer satisfaction, increase returns and result in bad reviews and word-of-mouth.
Your customers’ brain has got you covered… until it doesn’t
One of the ways your customers justify purchases after the fact is convincing themselves into thinking that they are getting more value out of an item than what they paid for it.
This effect can be called the post-purchase rationalization or even Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome.
We tend to tell ourselves that we got a bargain when we didn’t, or that the things we bought were actually worth more than what we spent on them.
To avoid buyer’s remorse, people persuade themselves that what they bought is actually a perfect deal they were lucky to get.
For example, imagine you’re considering buying a tablet.
You read reviews and compare features to those of other tablets on the market, and then you decide to make the purchase.
But once you take it out of the box and start using it, you find it’s not really as intuitive as you would have thought, or that there are a lot of bugs in the software that make it hard to use it.
Here’s where rationalization kicks in: “It has some issues, but it’s still better than my old tablet.” you tell yourself. “And I can always fix the issues with some apps.”
Even though it’s apparently not Mark Twain who said it, there is still much wisdom in the following words:
It’s Easier To Fool People Than To Convince
Them That They’ve Been Fooled
When your customers try to rationalize the gap between the realities of their new purchase and how it was sold to them can induce some pretty uncomfortable feelings, though.
And if the gap is too big, they will certainly take action. The worst you can expect is a nasty review, product return, or even legal action.
But post-purchase dissonance is not just a matter of sending a product back – it goes deeper than that. It can lead to serious problems with customer retention, which is why it requires a more strategic approach than preventing customers from buying in the first place.
Can’t customers take care of themselves?!
Consumers actually want to prevent post-purchase dissonance from happening themselves.
According to Google, 53% of customers always research products or services they intend to buy.
Although it may be the case that consumers do a lot to prevent feeling bad about their shopping decisions on their own, it is still up to you to manage the pre-purchase expectations and post-sales customer experience.
The pursuit for higher conversions – a double-edged sword
Trying to make your store as converting as possible, you may try to implement tactics and tools like social and FOMO plugins to convince your website visitors that your products are in high demand.
There is nothing wrong with this – they are proven to increase revenue when used ethically.
Keep this in mind, though: if your customers are artificially pressured into buying from you, they might end up not satisfied with their purchase after all.
This is especially true for products that are not necessities or that we do not absolutely need, like buying a new piece of clothing at full price or purchasing a new gadget.
Real-life examples that inevitably lead to post-purchase dissonance
Ok, we had enough of theory. To understand it better, we will now see how everyday situations that happen to your customers can lead to post-purchase dissonance.
Family or friends bash your purchase
You just bought yourself a brand new TV. Gargantuan, 75 inches, 8K behemoth that will make your eyes drool.
At work during lunch, you brag about it to your coworkers, and that’s what you hear:
“Ouch, you really bought that crap? My brother-in-law also bought one of those and it’s driving him crazy all the time.”
You will certainly start to have second thoughts and may exaggerate even small defects after hearing this.
A customer reaches for support and doesn’t receive good customer service
Remember this: 80% of customers will not forgive having a bad experience with a company after receiving very poor customer service.
Also, even a minor flaw or complaint can leave a nasty taste when not handled properly.
This scenario is also more likely if you’re selling technical, complicated non-essential goods, services, or your potential customers have lower income.
Competitor ad pops up with a lower price or a better alternative
If your customers are comparing your and your competitors’ products online before purchase, it’s possible that they will be hit by remarketing ads.
If your competitor promotes a better product than the one a customer bought from you (or worse – offer discounts that were not available on their website before), your customers will certainly doubt if they made the right choice.
Pro tip: you can inspect ads run by your competitors on Facebook in a Facebook Ad Library
Delivery/shipping is delayed
Especially if you’re selling occasional gifts that need to be delivered before a certain date, like birthdays.
The product doesn’t work or look like advertised or presented in your store
Probably the most obvious one. What happens if you get your customers’ hopes up about a product’s looks, performance, durability, or other qualities?
You end up with a bunch of distressed customers that will certainly not contribute to your growth this year (or probably any year at all).
5 causes of post-purchase dissonance you can easily prevent
There are many reasons why your customers might experience a cognitive dissonance after buying.
Most of them can be boiled down to the following scenarios:
1. Not enough information was presented about the product
If you don’t want your customers to feel disappointed after buying your products, make sure you include all the relevant information on your product and other important pages across your eCommerce store.
Specifications, dimensions, use cases, warnings, and most common complaints should be addressed and included in your product description or FAQs.
This way your customers will be sure they’re buying exactly what they need and won’t have reasons to complain.
2. Low-quality (or over-photoshopped) pictures
If your product pictures don’t quite reflect how they look in reality, anyone who buys your products might have an unpleasant surprise after removing the packaging.
Both low-quality pictures (details not visible enough) and too enthusiastic use of Photoshop can lead to a non-realistic image appearing in your customers’ minds.
3. Bad communication and customer support
Not every dissatisfied customer is a lost cause.
Even if you can’t convince a customer to keep a product instead of returning it, it’s still worth providing the best possible customer service and not making this harder than it should be.
If you handle it in a friendly manner, it’s likely that they will come back when they actually need a product you’re selling. Otherwise, you probably won’t see your would-be customer buying from you ever again.
4. Long delivery time
Ok, maybe that’s not something you can fix easily (if you can fix it at all, especially if you’re dropshipping).
But there’s something else you can change: manage your customers’ expectations before purchase and make sure the long delivery time is CLEARLY stated, read, and understood.
Yes, it initially can reduce your conversion rates but will save you a lot of nerves and time you would spend dealing with unhappy customers.
5. Overcharging without offering additional value
If your customers don’t compare prices thoroughly before buying and later find a better deal on the product, it’s natural and completely understandable they might feel cheated.
On the other hand, if your prices are higher but come with additional value (like free extras, extended warranty, or premium support) you shouldn’t have reasons to worry.
7 actionable strategies to fight post-purchase dissonance
As a seller, you have a handful of tools available that can help you battle (and win with) your customers’ bad experiences.
So what exactly can you do to prevent post-purchase dissonance? Let’s take a look at 7 strategies that you can utilize to reduce the number of customers who experience this problem.
1. Keep your customers up to date with their order status
If your customers are not informed about their order status, you can be sure there will be some anxiety involved.
If you (and your customers) know that shipping will take longer than usual, it’s still worth it to keep up the conversation and let your customers know that everything is going smoothly.
Using WooCommerce? Here’s how simple it is to set up a delayed, automated email to maintain communication with your customers in ShopMagic:
2. Use multi-channel communication
Not all of your customers use email regularly and some of them might prefer email as a communication channel.
To make sure your message gets through as soon as possible, you can easily send SMS to your customers with ShopMagic and Twilio integration.
3. Analyze your customer service complaints and return reasons
One of the keys to reducing customer dissonance is to identify what is forcing customers to think twice in the first place.
Once you know what is bothering your customers, you can address it in your store’s policy, FAQs, or product descriptions.
If you’re using Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms to process your support requests, you can easily connect your WooCommerce store with Google Sheets and send customer requests to a Google Sheet for easier analysis.
4. 🤯 Use emojis (for real!)
Yes, you read that right!
A recent study shows that using emojis in your post-purchase communication can positively impact your customers’ attitude and lead to an increase in repeat purchases and word-of-mouth mentions.
5, Keep your product descriptions (and photos) real
Your customers aren’t dumb.
If you use too flowery language and all superlatives when describing your product, they will see right through it.
If you will get too creative with your product information, this may be seen as false advertising and hurt your credibility.
6. Don’t hide negative reviews
ARE YOU CRAZY?
Thank you for your asking but no, my mother had me tested (actually she didn’t, but I love the catchphrase).
So are you supposed to actually show bad reviews like some badge of honor?
Actually yes, and there are at least two reasons why hiding negative reviews is a terrible idea:
- No product is perfect. If 5-star reviews are all your customers see, they can suspect that you actually hide any negative reviews that show up.
- Negative reviews can shed light on product features that can be considered important by other customers, helping them make a better-informed decision and reducing the number of returns. If you’re able to respond publicly, you can also profit from showing your engagement and attitude towards supporting your customers.
7. Offer, accept refunds and provide money-back guarantees
Everyone can make a bad purchase, so offering refunds and actually making it easy for your customers is an important part of your long-term customer retention strategy.
At ShopMagic we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and a lot of customers appreciate our accommodating attitude towards this policy.
The bottom line is, you want your customers to be happy with their purchase and experience. Post-purchase dissonance has a long list of possible effects, which can cause your business plenty of headaches and loss of revenue in the long run, especially if it becomes a frequent occurrence.
Hopefully, this article will help you better understand this condition and take action to eliminate post-purchase dissonance from your customers’ lives (and help you increase your revenue!).