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How Do Consumers Reduce Post Purchase Dissonance?

These six best practices will help you increase customer retention by lessening the chances of post purchase dissonance.

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What is Post Purchase Dissonance?

Post Purchase Dissonance, commonly referred to as “buyer’s remorse,” is not a new concept by any means. It takes the old theory of Cognitive Dissonance, the feeling that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, and applies it to a retail setting. As people we seek consistency between our beliefs and perceptions, and a pronounced feeling of discomfort occurs when this is compromised.

When such a discrepancy occurs, something must be changed to eliminate, or at least reduce, the dissonance. Oftentimes this translates to avoiding situations that are likely to cause dissonance.

In simpler terms, Post Purchase Dissonance happens when a customer’s decision doesn’t line up with their prior evaluation and it’s bad for brands because it generally means the end of the relationship they’ve worked to build through marketing.

This is a big deal when you consider that it costs anywhere from 5-25x more to acquire new customers and that a simple 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a profit increase of up to 95%. This is because each retained customer will spend on average about 67% more with a brand. Despite these staggering figures, 82% of brands are not currently putting any real focus on retention.

How do Consumers Reduce Post Purchase Dissonance?

In today’s competitive ecommerce market it’s more important than ever (especially for smaller retailers) to join the 18% who are actively trying to mitigate Post Purchase Dissonance and keep their customers coming back happy.

We’ve put together six ways you can boost your retention based on some of the key causes of post purchase stress, so getting started is easier than you think.

Quality Control

It should go without saying that a big cause in Post Purchase Dissonance among consumers stems from the quality of the products in question. To avoid a perceived lack of quality it’s important to pay attention to the durability, attributes, features, and uniqueness of the products you’re selling.

The best brands keep their customers at the forefront of their minds as they design, and it shows through in products that deliver. Post Purchase Dissonance through a perceived lack of quality is exacerbated when the brand uses its marketing techniques to over-promise and under deliver. When the customer is lured in by these marketing techniques only to find that the product falls significantly short of the quality that was promised by the brand, the inner conflict begins.

Set Correct Expectations

Customers who conduct thorough market research and comparative analysis before making a purchase are more likely to remain firm in their decision to buy. These shoppers are less likely to experience Post Purchase Dissonance because their evaluation will most probably back up their ultimate choice. Knowing what to expect equips these customers to not be caught off guard.

There are two areas that need proper expectations to be set; your products and shipping. Both are crucial because either one could become a potential deal breaker if the customer is expecting one experience and you deliver another.

Make information about your products clearly available, and if possible make product-centric content easily available to customers so they can explore what you have to offer more in depth. Don’t undersell your products, but make sure to stay honest and be able to follow up on the promises you make.

However, Post Purchase Dissonance doesn’t always have to be 100% product based. For instance, if a customer orders a shirt on Monday expecting it before the weekend may find themselves regretting the purchase when they realize it’s coming on the following Monday and they won’t be able to wear it to the party.

When it comes to shipping and the pre-purchase experience, you can set expectations from the start by displaying an estimated delivery date and using cut off times. Together these features will put the customer at ease by combining past processing data, carrier transit time, and the user’s location to let them know exactly when they’d receive their item.

This is especially helpful if they’ve never shopped with you before and can also help users decide which shipping method to choose. Have certain products that require longer processing time? A good estimator will let you customize processing time on the item level, so you won’t need to undersell the experience of the bulk of your products to be realistic about those few exceptions.

Retailers who throw their customers fewer curveballs are going to see much more repeat business.

Send Proactive Communications

The sale doesn’t end with the sale, it’s actually only the beginning of your relationship with the customer. Now is your time to shine by delighting them through a great experience and coming through on your promises regarding the product. Post purchase messaging is a crucial tool in keeping the relationship going.

To start you should give customers the option to enable SMS notifications immediately after the purchase. These messages will contain important messages from the carrier such as shipping status and when it’s delivered. These have up to 98% open rate, and have remarkable potential to drive future sales when working in conjunction with a branded, shoppable tracking page.

Next, be sure to send an order confirmation email, which over 64% of online shoppers say are the most valuable messages in their inbox. Here again you will link to the tracking page, so the customer can rest assured knowing that all the information they may need is at their fingertips.

Finding the right flow of transactional email and SMS notifications may take a little trial and error but soon you’ll know the exact points your customers want to hear from you and message them accordingly.

The important thing to remember is to not flood customers, but proactively notify them of all important steps (or issues) in the flow to mitigate any potential anxieties. While only 10% of online customers have said they feel over notified after a purchase, you risk breaching the trust of the other 90% by skipping this important Post purchase step.

This is also a great time for unexpected nice gestures that you didn’t outright promise the customer earlier. This could be a discount off next purchase coupon or small free item with their purchase. These initiatives go a long way in keeping that dissonance at bay, as the customer will feel totally justified in making their purchase.

Want to remove post-purchase dissonance?


Want to remove post-purchase dissonance?

Warranty, Exchanges, and Service

What’s the fastest way to ensure Post Purchase Dissonance and cancel out any potential customer retention? Forgetting about them after they make a purchase. Good marketing techniques make the customer feel important and persuade them to make a purchase, but what about afterwards? 

A neglected customer is going to regret shopping with you, so this needs to be avoided.

Good warranty and exchange policies are the perfect post purchase upsell. They’re also a brand’s way of saying “Hey, we’re sorry if things go wrong, and we’ll help you out!” A defective or bad fitting product could actually be the start of a meaningful relationship with a customer if you acknowledge the problem, own up to it, and make things right.

Even if things don’t go wrong, a good warranty program can put customers at ease by mitigating worries about a potential break or malfunction. This is especially helpful for brands who deal in higher priced items.

Maybe the customer doesn’t want to replace or exchange their item, they just need some help learning how to use it. Offering quality service across many channels goes a long way toward building a nurturing relationship with customers.

Provide a knowledge base on your site to handle those frequently asked questions, and give them the option to call, email, and reach out via social media for more complex issues. At the end of the day you know where your customers are spending their time, and those are the right channels to maintain an active, open line of communication.

Offer Flexible, Self Service-Based Returns

Returns are a necessary part of ecommerce, there’s just no two ways about it. The only question is, are you using them to your advantage in building your relationships with customers or are you letting them create Post Purchase Dissonance?

Even if the product and shipping experience were great, and the return was stressful – it’s likely that the customer will not come back. This ends their experience with you on a bad note and could sever their loyalty to your brand.

The best return policies:

  • Empower customers with self-service. By anticipating what issues your customers may face and giving them the resources to handle things themselves you create an effortless experience. Use a customer portal to allow them to initiate the return process and generate their own label once you have approved it. Eliminate pain points by proactively communicating and leaving notes for the customer during the process.
  • Offer flexible solutions. Create a layered return logic that covers your unique products in unique ways. Don’t let “one size fits all” ruin the experience for your customers. Let users choose how they’d like to receive their refund. Sure lots will opt for mailing the item back for a cash refund, but many will take store credit (or a gift card) to hasten the process. These latter options will ensure the customer comes back to spend (oftentimes more) with you! Finally, offering the chance to return online purchases in store offers a distinct edge against ecom-only retailers by catering to the 20% of customers who prefer doing it in person.
  • Exist at all. Somehow, 30% of online retailers are currently offering no returns at all! This is not a good strategy if you want to stay competitive.

Ask for Feedback

The sale is complete, the customer received their item on time, and they love it – but this isn’t the end of your interaction. Now is the perfect time for a post purchase follow up.

By asking the customer’s opinion via the Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, you’re showing them that their experience really matters. This confirms their belief that they made a solid purchase with a reputable brand and mitigates dissonance.

Aside from making them feel good about shopping with you, you’ll also gain valuable information about your website’s experience that you could only get straight from the source.

Keep in mind to strategically time these surveys after the purchase depending on the industry you’re in and the type of products you sell. Bigger technology purchases such as a brand new computer may take a few weeks to get adjusted to while something like a pair of pants will be pretty obvious after the initial wear.


Post Purchase Dissonance can be complicated, but by engineering the pre and post purchase behaviors to put customers at ease, you can mitigate a large amount of it.

If you’re ready to get to work optimizing your website’s experience to keep customers coming back – check out what the WeSupply platform can offer.

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Our shipping and logistics experts will guide you through the product and analyze how WeSupply best fits your eCommerce needs.​

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