The post purchase blues

February 18, 2015


The ‘post purchase blues’ are so, so critical to capture in the User Journey 


These days the customer journey to purchase can be long and complex. In the research we conduct we see that people are taking longer than in the past because people want to be smart and not make decisions that they will regret. With the overload of brands and possibilities, you want to make sure that you make the right decision. This is true for smartphones, cars, TV’s, washing machines, barbecues, clothes, software, apps…most categories are now affected by an extended journey.


Having spent a long time covering the bases to ensure the decision is the right one, it’s common for people to feel more emotional about their decision after the purchase. One could call these feelings the ‘post purchase blues’, as they can often be a critical, negative reflection of the decisions we have taken.


What are the blues?


The post purchase blues are a little bit like going on holiday. The act of researching, booking, preparing and travelling is filled with excitement and promise, but once you’ve arrived and settled in for a few days, those feelings are replaced by the routine of the holiday. The excitement you felt has gone, and now you are living the purchase decision.


That’s not to say you may not be pleased with your purchase; the product or service might be absolutely perfect and meet your expectations completely. But in our experience that perfection is quite rare, as these days people expect a lot more in terms of product performance and experience.  We are also bombarded with (and inflict upon ourselves) comments from brands and owners of brands that we did not end up buying.


Why are they important?


As researchers, those post purchase feelings are absolute gold dust. It’s true to say that we start buying the next product the moment we have bought the current one. In other words, once you are experiencing the purchase you are usually evaluating the decision and, over time, coming to a point of view about buying from the same brand again. You are also, possibly subconsciously, creating the factors you’ll use for the next purchase of this type of product.


For example, imagine you buy a coffee maker. Having covered the bases in terms of price, brand and design, you looked into features like speed, bar pressure and capacity. You like the advertising, have spoken to friends about them and generally feel that the decision is the right one. You buy.


When you first use it, it seems quite noisy and the temperature of the coffee is an issue. You can’t help but look for reviews on Amazon and there they are, talking about the noise and temperature issues. You sort of remember reading them, but for some reason it didn’t seem important at the time. That’s because you were ‘planning the holiday’ – the most important elements at the time are not those that are niggling away at you once you are experiencing the product.  


Those post purchase feelings mature now and the ‘real’ point of view is arrived at. It might be that the noise is a trade-off for other features you like, but it might also be true that you really hate luke-warm coffee.


The emotional satisfaction of the purchase can only be measured after the product or service has been used. This period of reflection will be different for types of purchases – for example people may need a couple of months to fully appreciate a car purchase, whereas a coffee machine may be a couple of days.


What does this mean for research?


We think there are three issues to keep in mind:


1, Samples of people still on the purchase journey should be supplemented with samples of those who have recently purchased to create a holistic model of pre and post purchase considerations. In particular, post purchase feelings are important to create dimensions for future measurements.


2, Measures such as repeat purchase intention and brand recommendation should be taken for those just starting the journey and for post purchasers with a long enough period of ownership (category specific). ROI calculations should take these post purchase measures into consideration.


3, Qualitative research can provide quick, relatively inexpensive and target-specific feedback about which communications are salient and convincing, as well as capturing the presence of post purchase blues, their effects and how to mitigate them.


To hear more about our views on developing a Customer Journey, please drop us a line from the contact page.

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