Getting consumers to buy is the focus on an unbelievable amount of time, focus and money in the world of retail. Getting that conversion to happen, drawing the customer to that click, is something of an all-consuming passion in retail for the very good reason that if a business can’t convert the consumers, it won’t be a business for much longer.
The problem, noted Amit Sharma, founder and CEO of Narvar, is that all of the focus that has been poured into that moment of conversion has distracted an awful lot of retailers away from what happens after the customer has actually done what you want and clicked buy. Because, he said, for all the attention and adoration, winning the click isn’t the ballgame or even half the battle. There is a whole world of things to do and experiences to optimize between the moment the customer choses to buy — and the moment the goods are delivered into that person's hands.
And those experiences after the buy are what Narvar specializes in.
“We help retailers t0 enable the post-purchase experiences,” said Sharma. “How do you communicate with end consumers about shipping, warranty, returns? We leverage our technology to fix that that after-buy experience.”
Those experiences are somewhat easier not to focus on when building out eCommerce operations. Best-in-class players do it quite well — Navar noted that Amazon offers the sort of standard setting in allowing consumers to track their orders, get updates across devices and make returns pretty seamlessly. And those experiences are actually pretty crucial because after-purchase experiences are crucial to building customer loyalty.
“We have seen Amazon Prime become the biggest loyalty program in the world,” Sharma noted. “We believe fundamentally that post-purchase is a loyalty driver because we see this firsthand every day. But all the focus for the last 20 years has been about driving the next transaction, not about providing the full customer experience.”
And that is the experience that Narvar is building — and for a lot of very recognizable retail brands: The Gap, Sephora, Patagonia, Bonobos, Anthropologie, and Crate and Barrel all rely on Narvar to provide their post-purchase experience — as do a large host of department stores. All in, Sharma said, Narvar services about 300 enterprise-level retail businesses and works to guarantee their post-purchase efforts are every bit as slick and stick and their pre-purchase efforts are.
Sharma said he was driven to found the firm after a career at the intersection of retail, technology and operations that convinced him that the back-end experience was the great unsung hero of loyalty. And Sharma came from brands that are known for their skill in gendering loyalty in their patrons — before founding his own firm, Sharma worked at Pottery Barn, Walmart and, finally, Apple.
The lesson he learned is that those post-purchase experiences aren’t optional add-ons.
Customer Expectations Are Changing — And Retailers Have No Choice But To Meet Them
Consumers get used to shopping in a certain way, Sharma noted, and meeting those expectations isn’t really optional at this point in the digital age. Customers shop online — they expect to be able to track their packages. Almost 90 percent in the U.S. carry smartphones, and they expect to be able to access their accounts from variety of devices. They’ve been offered free returns for so long that they expect that is part of the deal. Opting out on these things isn't opting out of services, Sharma noted, it’s opting out on customers who will go where these services are available.
“Today all the marketing spend in driving the next transaction is lost if you can't make the customer come back,” Sharma said. “This is about more than just acquiring users, it is about building real loyalty. And the experience after the buy is crucial.”
And that, he noted, is felt especially sharply at this time of year — as digital commerce is exploding — and Narwar is getting a front seat to making sure it all happens as smoothly in real-world operations as it does during the online buying process.
"We call the day after Cyber Monday Transit Tuesday — and it is by far the busiest day of our year,” said Sharma.
But, he noted, it is worth it, because the industry is starting to really shift.
Getting Off The Treadmill
The pressure around customer acquisition has made the competition intense — and a bit fractured. But the next challenge, Sharma noted, will be tying all those acquisitions attempts to a fully realized commerce experience that makes all of the customers’ interactions smooth and manageable.
It is admittedly a bigger goal than some might expect.
“Is it easy? Of course not,” Sharma said. “We’ve been at this for for years, and every day we find new challenges.”
But easy isn’t the point, he said — finding ways to make the jump into digital retail is. And Narvar, quietly and almost invisibly, is helping some better-known players perform better on the public stage.