Cash in on your acquisition efforts with the first purchase
The first purchase is a precarious moment in the brand-customer relationship. Here’s what you need to do to ensure your new customer doesn’t turn away.
After investing significant effort and resources in pushing your prospect down the funnel from awareness to consideration to decision, here she is at your doorstep, all primed for conversion and ready to buy. That first purchase is a momentous event in her relationship with your brand. It's the final step in the customer acquisition process, the moment when all the marketing money you've poured into acquisition finally pays off.
Though it's often the case that, by the time a prospect becomes a customer, they at least have some understanding of your brand, now is the time where that understanding becomes personal and real.
They're thinking about putting cash on the table, about taking a risk. This is a precarious moment. The time, money, and effort spent by your brand getting them to this point might all end up wasted if your purchase process is cumbersome or off-putting.
Are you doing everything you can to make sure your customer's risk (and your brand's investment) is rewarded? Getting the traditional funnel right is critical. You need to do everything you can to smooth the purchase process and ensure your new customer doesn't turn away.
Reduce friction to optimize the first purchase
Want to know the best way to ruin the profitability of a high-quality product?
Pair it with a painful purchasing experience.
Online or offline, customers are 4 times more likely to dump brands after a bad experience. Customer acquisition clearly suffers when that first purchase is painful. What makes an experience bad? Online, it's about what you'd expect:
- Forcing customers to create an account
- Creating a complex process to check out
- Tacking extra costs on at the end
- Withholding availability or shipping information
- Forcing customers to use a slow website
- Using a sloppy design and UI
- Making customer service difficult to access (or having customer service agents who aren't properly trained or educated on the brand)
To put it simply, the more of a pain you make the purchasing experience, the less likely that first purchase is to happen. When a prospect has yet to make a strong association with your brand, these issues (which can feel like small issues to you) become giant roadblocks that stop customer acquisition in its tracks.
Fast, convenient, consistent, and friendly
The modern customer is busy. Their lives are filled to the brim. They have family obligations, social obligations, work obligations, hobbies and interests, all of which take up enormous amounts of time. They're trying to stay fit and healthy, to maintain relationships, to better themselves. They may work two or three jobs or have a side hustle. They may have a creative hobby that takes up hours and hours each week, not to mention kids.
The last thing they want to spend their precious time on is making a purchase from a new brand they're not familiar with.
Over time, they may be willing to put up with the issues listed above, especially if the quality of your products/services are stellar, but not now. Now, you have to impress them, and you do that by being fast, convenient, consistent and friendly.
We can sum this up by calling it frictionless. A frictionless first-time purchase is key to a long-lasting relationship. Repeat purchases are your goal here. Remember, even though your business and what you do is a huge part of your life, it's likely a small part of your customer's life.
No matter what you sell, your customer ultimately is going to devote a small amount of brainpower to purchases from you.
What are you doing to reduce the amount of time and effort they have to spend to make that first purchase?
If you're not sure, you'd better find out.
Audit your first-time purchase experience
The best way to figure out if your first-time purchase experience is smooth and simple or painful and annoying is to complete an audit. For many businesses, essentially no time or effort or thought has been put into what that experience looks and feels like. By not truly understanding what their customers are going through, they're leaving money on the table (and spending money on marketing and advertising that's going to waste).
You need to understand the experience that your buyer is currently having first. Then, you need to consider how you want that experience to actually look.
Here are a few items to consider in your audit:
- Are the steps required to complete a purchase as minimal and simple as possible?
- Are the steps your customer needs to take clear at every point in the process?
- Is there ever a breakdown in this process that might leave customers confused or annoyed?
- Are you using micro-copy to help your customer navigate the process?
- Can the customer make a purchase as a guest without signing up for a new account?
- If so, do you offer the option of creating an account post purchase?
- Have you invested in customer service and support?
- Have you trained your customer support staff on how to walk the customer through the first purchase in the least amount of time possible?
- Are your front-line customer support employees properly trained and educated on all products and services?
- Is the purchase flow designed and branded in line with the rest of the site?
- Is your site’s load-time optimal across your relevant geographies?
- How easy is it to apply promotions?
- Do you have any surprises at the end of the process, like shipping or availability issues, or extra costs?
- Do you have a cart-recovery solution in place?
- Do you have a post-purchase process in place?
Once you've made your audit, it's time to make changes.
Follow these best practices
The list above implies many best practices, but here are some we'd like to make explicit:
- Allow purchases either with or without online registration
- Request shipping information before billing
- Offer a variety of payment options
- Make the checkout link easy to find
- Ensure consistent branding throughout your website and your store
- Ensure you always have popular products/services available
- Be clear about product availability
- Ensure easy modification of cart contents
- Provide product visuals and links throughout the purchase flow
- Include multiple shipping options with delivery-time estimate
- Clearly communicate your returns policy
- Say thank you and implement a post-purchase process to nurture customers toward the next purchase
Customer acquisition is only the beginning
You’ve invested much time, effort, thought and resources to bring your prospects to your doorstep. The first purchase is literally your brand’s moneytime, so dedicate as much effort as needed to make it the best it can be.
But the stakes are even higher than this first conversion: Getting a new customer in the door costs anywhere from 3 to 30 times what it costs to keep an existing customer. Acquiring a new customer is only the first step—it's what you do afterwards that makes the difference between long-term growth and stagnant profits.
That first-time purchase is the beginning of a new relationship. What are you doing to build and strengthen that relationship? Once you get your acquisition process in place, it's time to start thinking about retention.