7 tips to turn holiday shoppers into loyal customers

December 6, 2018

As classic crooner Andy Williams famously sang, “It’s the holiday season!” What the song doesn’t make mention of, however, is that it’s also the season of building customer loyalty.

A recent study by Blucore discovered that retailers only manage to retain 10 to 15 percent of first-time shoppers in the six months after the holiday season. With retail sales expected to total nearly $1 trillion this year, merchants’ number one goal should be converting these customers into regulars, or better yet, VIPs.

Building customer loyalty isn’t accomplished overnight or with one exclusive discount. Rather, it requires nurturing and continued effort. So where do you start? By getting those first-time holiday shoppers to make a return visit. Here’s how.

1. Entertain them.

If you create a worthwhile, truly unique opportunity for a first-time shopper, he’s much more likely to cross your business’s threshold in the future. Gain an edge over large, online retailers by heightening your customer interactions: Provide tactile or interactive experiences, use technology in a cool ways, offer product demonstrations, distract children while parents shop, or tickle shoppers’ senses using methods not possible via computer screen. Have the magic of the holiday season carry throughout the New Year and offer these types of entertaining experiences all year round.

2. Follow up.

Developing relationships with your customers is very similar to dating. For them to thrive, you need to cultivate them. Otherwise, if you leave them hanging, their interest in your business will be fleeting. A 2016 Holiday Benchmark Report by Magneto Analytics discovered that holiday shoppers will return to make another purchase 27 percent of the time. Of those, 39 percent will do so during the same holiday shopping season and 42 percent will do so in the following off-season. After your initial interaction, use Rewards to nurture customer loyalty and satisfaction. Sign first-time customers up with your loyalty program and delight them with a discount, exclusive offer, or a special event sent via email or text message a few days after their inaugural visit. Be sure to tout your ability to accept hands-free payment in your message. That convenient feature will make it even more likely that you’ll turn a busy holiday shopper into a repeat client.

3. Go the extra mile.

The simple act of sending a personalized, handwritten note thanking new customers for their business is a small gesture that can have big impact on successfully wooing them back through your doors. Same goes for their birthday and holidays. Send a card with a discount that can be redeemed during the recipient’s birthday month and another during the holiday season with a private deal, gift with purchase, tiered discount offer or even an exclusive item available only to those on the mailing list.

4. Get personal.

When customers join your loyalty program via Rewards, they’re trusting you with their personal contact information. Treat them in kind by offering yours. Sales clerks should give out a business card with a phone number and the hours they’re available. As a business owner, share your contact information in your initial email mailing and invite them to contact you whenever they need assistance or have questions. Shoppers appreciate business owners that make themselves available to their clients (as opposed to big-box retailers who are run by faceless, nameless entities that cannot be reached). You can also ask customers to supply you with “wish list” items. Use these ideas to expand your offerings, then reach out once you have them in stock.

5. Be the expert…

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 Holiday Planning Playbook, 54 percent of shoppers utilize recommendations from retailers. But don’t just rely on customers asking for advice to demonstrate your expertise. Develop creative ways to proactively steer shoppers to specific items, including “Staff Picks,” “Customers’ Favorite,” or “Product of the Day/Week/Month.” The consumer marketing app Rocket Responder can help you attractively publicize these picks. Its easy-to-use editing capabilities elevate any product without you needing a degree in graphic design.

6. …in more than just what you sell.

Savvy business owners use email marketing to do more than shill product. To build upon initial in-store interactions with their customers, they create and/or share helpful, interesting content in their holiday marketing. If you sell gourmet food items, for example, write a short post about a recent health study involving nutrition. Or link to several recipes that would pair well with items you sell.

7. Exceed expectations.

The holidays are usually filled with stressful moments. Family gatherings, holiday travel, overwhelming crowds, lost packages. Each situation is seemingly more nerve-wracking than the last. Business owners can solidify long-lasting relationships with customers by exceeding expectations during the holidays. Consider mailing packages with 3-5 day shipping to customers who chose 5-7 day shipping. Use Promos to send high value, real-time promotions via email, text, or social media to VIP customers and those you hope to reel in for subsequent visits. (You can track success in real-time and tweak future promotions accordingly if redemption rates are lower than you’d like.) Or add a small free gift to every purchase. The small price you’ll pay for these gestures will be repaid in full—and then some—in customer loyalty for weeks, months, and years to come.

[image: Nantucket Holiday Stroll – Nantucket by Massachusetts office of Travel & Tourism on flickr]

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