Cultivating Loyalty by Fixing Post-Purchase

AfterShip has more than 13,000 customers worldwide. That’s an impressive number by any measure but when you take a look at the level of sophistication of their tools, the breadth of their impact (integrated with more than 900 carriers around the world), it’s that much more impressive. AfterShip recently announced the release of a product they call Postmen which is billed as the ultimate multi-carrier shipping software & API. We sat down recently with Andrew Chan, Aftership’s CMO to talk about the new release as well as some of the ways he sees retailers navigating the current supply chain issues.

Transcript below


 

TheCustomer

I’m here today with Andrew Chan who is CMO at Aftership and they’ve got a very interesting product used by a handful of very big brands I’m sure you would have heard of. But they recently announced the release of an add-on called Postmen which we’ll let Andrew talk about in a little bit, but really stands a chance to shake up a pretty staid corner of the shipping world. So, Andrew, thanks for joining me. I really appreciate it.

Andew Chan
Thanks so much for this opportunity, Mike.

TheCustomer
So, maybe you could do a better job than I have of describing your role at Aftership and then maybe, what Aftership does. And then we’ll talk a little bit – I’m really interested in hearing about – Postmen and what that’s all about.

Andew Chan
So, we started actually back in 2012, like 10 years ago. So, me and my other co-founders – we met in a startup competition. And the concept is very simple – it’s to help the merchants to track packages.

In the old times tracking packages wa a pain – like people copying tracking numbers, going to the website, and then that’s it. And the delivery time takes like months, so we come up with this idea to help the merchants to proactively notify customers. Like where is the order? And also get the customers to come back to the store to track the package. So, time flies, now the company is over 350 people, and this year would be 600. We’ve got over 13,000 customers including platforms like eBay, Wish or Etsy, or Brands like MCM to GymShark – by lots of fast growing brands and top-tier brands as well.

So, to help them to improve the post-purchase experience around the tracking space. Because to retain loyal customers, the post-purchase experience is so important – to increase the engagement, getting them to come back to the store, and to remember the brand. So, the customer base keeps growing, of course. Time flies and we got more engineering resources. Customers get more requirements as well. And one part is about helping them to ship faster, to integrate with the carrier faster, so that they can generate the shipping label.
It’s a simple concept. it’s an API product so that’s why we have this Postmen product. It’s around shipping API. And also, we have the web user interface for helping small- medium-sized companies to ship faster. It’s about shipping all the orders in one place.

TheCustomer
If you don’t mind, we’ll spend a moment just unpacking that a little bit. You know, freight forwarders interacting with small to medium-sized e-commerce companies has never really been an easy thing. There’s always been a bit of a disconnect. So, I can see why Aftership is having such success. But it seems like from what you’re saying, that Aftership can handle not only parcel level shipping issues but maybe even freight level. Is that correct?

Andew Chan
We do freight and also parcel as well as actually getting more freight information in. Because we got merchants who will handle freight as well as parcels. So, they have always a challenge, you know, to have a holistic view and also to keep track of those freights and even parcels. So, both they also have issues, so they come to us and see if we can help on improving the supply chain, on time delivery so that you ultimately improve the on-time delivery of the customers.

TheCustomer
So, we’ll talk about supply chain in a minute because that’s its own its own topic. But, yeah would you mind explaining a little bit about what Postmen is and how it is added on to the AfterShip platform?

Andew Chan
So AfterShip like the name implies, is after-shipping. It’s about tracking the post-purchasing experience. But one part of the after-purchase, the merchants need to ship out the product. As online retailers, you are shipping with multiple carriers and also selling at multiple channels. So, in order for them to easily generate the shipping label to, for example, at the shop – at their Shopify store, the customers select standard shipping and then the other channels. Like one-day shipping, for example. And then behind the scenes you’re using multiple carriers. So, you want to have a simple automation tool to generate the right shipping label for that order.

And of course, while one is shipped if you want to say ‘hey get it done next’ and when it comes to high volume you want to do it really, really fast and that’s where we come from – this kind of software.

TheCustomer
And when it comes to scaling to more enterprise grade solutions, they actually will have this software in-house.

Andew Chan
And they want to have these API integrations to integrate with so many carriers in the world they may be using just the two carriers, let’s say, in the States. But when it comes to international, we have lots of international clients you know, and that’s why they say ‘hey can you help us to integrate with these numbers of carriers’ so that they can have one integration partner and then they can talk to all the carriers that they want to integrate.

TheCustomer
Yeah, no small task. I think I read on your site that you’ve integrated with over 900 carriers worldwide and yes that’s a phenomenal number. Having spent some time trying to figure out shipping and freight for small and medium-sized e-commerce companies, it’s hugely complicated. So, what you’re solving here is a really big deal.

Andew Chan
It’s very interesting. Our company is now close to 400 people. 70 and 80 percent of us are more product and engineer. We’re very geeky. We talk about company culture and that we didn’t really do marketing, or really do sales. We started to do it like four months ago. But we get all the enterprises coming in down. So, what we’re doing is really, I think getting the attention. It’s definitely a difficult job. I think we’re very focused on certain things and people notice it and then start to use our service.

TheCustomer
Well congratulations on that! Let’s talk a little bit – because i think you’re in a really unique position – because of what you see and do -let’s talk about supply chain issues, which are for so many e-commerce companies right now, and it probably lands right in your lap to help solve all that. But can you can you talk a little bit about what you see, as we all kind of know where the hurdles are coming, from but some of the potential solutions? And does Aftership have visibility into any of those solutions? It might help e-commerce companies kind of, navigate this.

Andew Chan
Yeah, definitely. I think there are two main issues I’ve seen. Maybe there’s one issue that we can’t help that much now which is the current situation – all the freight scale delays. And then people talk about ordering a mattress or furniture. Say, they have to wait for six months or seven months or whatever. That is a big problem. It’s not about having technology that can solve it. It’s actually a bigger problem about the situation. So, you can’t really control that right now.

That’s one situation I see. And the other situation is something that we can help. Lots of online retailers, they’re shipping parcels and that carriers delivery time actually is still not very stable. They still have fluctuation. The question is, do we know how are the fluctuations? And then, when you promise the customer three days delivery, are we talking about three days?

We asked many merchants two questions. The first question: You know that you ship out ten thousand shipments – do you know how many of them got delivered successfully? Then there is a silence. Looks like no one knows. It’s not a good sign. It’s weird you know, over the last 10 years technology got evolving. Do you know if the humans got delivered or not? And they’re like ‘uh i don’t know’. And they say ‘Oh, I can guess it’s like 95 or 99 percent we got delivered successfully. No one’s complaining’.

And then I asked them ‘do you know your on-time delivery rates and like big, big, big silence! If you don’t know the detail, if you don’t track it, you don’t track it properly, you can’t know this information. So, we have many enterprise great customers you know, they ship tons and they care about this so much. Why? Because now acquisition cost is so high before purchase, it’s about retention – retaining customers is not that easy.

Imagine loyal customers – they know about your product, they know about pricing. They buy again. So what is blocking them from buying again? It’s the post-purchase experience – customer support, delivery, promised on time, lost packages, return, experience, So, all these add up to impact whether customers want to shop again. So, I would say the on-time rate – back to your question – definitely for the parcels. It’s also a challenge for many merchants and something that we can help.

TheCustomer
So, on an enterprise level I know that brands are not only interested in post-purchase but they’re interested in getting that information into their CRMs or CDPs – whatever their central brain is. So that they can understand what customer satisfaction is on an individual basis and how they’re tracking with their broader customer experience efforts. How does Aftership integrate? Is that just a function of your APIs or how do you get … ?

Andew Chan
It’s actually many different ways. So, we’ve got a super technical company. They will get all the data back to the data warehouse – centralized data house – and they can consume this data anywhere they want. This is the ultimate best-practice, like Ebay, Amazon, where they have the engineering resources. And then we talk about the entry level – a new Shopify store. They are using plug-and-play. They’re using some other solution. ‘At least can I see the order information, the tracking information next to it. So, we can support that. So, we have plug and play and we can also we integrate with many different solution platforms like SAAS and Salesforce and many others. So, they can just do plugins and see the data flowing in.

I think the other thing is, actually within Aftership itself we provide a dashboard helping the support. And we also log 26 items to find exceptions proactively. So, you can use lots of different filters, go to the granular levels such as exceptions due to incorrect address. What do you want to do with it? Come inside the portal and then resolve it one by one. Actually it will help you succeed a lot – don’t wait for the customers to complain try to resolve it earlier. So, our product is not just a tracking information portal but it’s actually a customer support uh control tower to control the exceptions.

TheCustomer
Wow well, we’re gonna pay attention to what Aftership is doing with Postmen and whatever new products you end up rolling out. But Andrew – thank you for your time today. This is fascinating.

 

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