Every year, B2C businesses eagerly look forward to fourth quarter. It’s a time of holidays and increased sales as every day from Black Friday to Christmas brings in revenue that just isn’t seen any other time in the year.
But what if everyday life could be like the holidays? Sure, we might burn out on eggnog and the same 10 Christmas songs that play in every store, but what business owner wouldn’t love the increased sales?
The holidays are great for acquiring new customers, but retaining them is a different story. It’s no secret that customer retention is much more important to long-term success than customer acquisition. Especially because it costs 5 to 25 times as much to acquire a customer than to retain one.
In this guide, we’ll talk more about how you can turn holiday shoppers into repeat customers and increase sales all year round. Think of it as your gift to yourself!
5 Ways to Entice Holiday Shoppers
Customer retention is really important, and the holidays are a great time to turn shoppers into repeat customers. That said, converting holiday shoppers into repeat customers is a game played in January and beyond.
While your long-term goal should absolutely be to encourage customers to make repeat purchases, you can’t forget about the importance of customer acquisition during the holidays. Fortunately, good customer acquisition rules are compatible with good customer retention rules.
Here are five quick ones:
- Make sure your site loads quickly. Shoppers are busy and have seemingly unlimited options. If they land on your site, it better load quickly or else they’ll be tempted to click away. Fast loading helps with search engine optimization too.
- Perfect your SEO. Write long product descriptions and make sure you’re following good SEO principles so you can pull in organic traffic from search engines like Google. (We have a detailed guide on how to do this here.)
- Run ads. During the holidays, there is more shopping demand in many product categories than at any other time of the year. Often, all people need in order to make a purchase is to know you exist. Facebook and Google Ads can help with that.
- Allow guest checkout. Requiring customers to sign up before making a purchase is one of the most common reasons customers abandon their shopping carts without making a purchase. Don’t make this rookie mistake!
- Sell trendy products. Your store is only as good as what you sell. Make sure you’re selling what people are searching for in the first place.
4 Principles for Retaining Customers
When you break it down into its component parts, there are really four general principles when it comes to retaining customers. Consider these your guiding stars before we get into specific tips in the following section.
1. Perfect your branding.
It’s easy for shoppers – especially holiday shoppers – to buy from you and then forget you exist. Good branding is a way to reduce the odds of that happening.
During the holidays, you have the unique opportunity to both reach the buyer and the recipient of the gift. If you pay attention to the elements of branding – your logo, colors, fonts, and especially packaging – you can make a good impression on both the buyer and the recipient, as well as any family or friends watching the recipient unwrap the gift too.
2. Understand the customer lifecycle.
In the course of normal business, customers go through a series of steps when it comes to having a relationship with your business.
- Initial Reach: this is the first time a potential customer hears about your brand.
- Acquisition: the first sale.
- Development and Nurturing: after making the initial sale, your business starts forming a relationship with the customer. Make sure they are satisfied with their purchase and start anticipating future needs.
- Retention: upon determining probable future needs, convince the customer to buy once more.
- Advocacy: convince the customer to spread the word of your brand.
The holidays give you a wonderful opportunity to add customers to the Initial Reach and Acquisition stages of the lifecycle. Your task after the holidays is to push customers into the Development and Nurturing part of the lifecycle.
3. Create incentives to purchase.
People don’t often buy items without being prompted to do so. Usually, they either break something and need a replacement or hear about your business and its products in some form or fashion and then make a purchasing decision afterward.
You need to give your customers – especially one-time customers – a reason to make another purchase, such as a coupon or a time-limited sale.
4. Make the customer experience a good one.
Customer experience is really important. People won’t buy from you again if the shipping is slow, the product breaks easily, or your customer service reps are rude. You want to make sure that everything from the website to the service to the product itself are pleasant so you bring back customers.
Again, this is extra important during the holidays. Not only do you want to impress the buyer, but you also want to impress gift recipients and their family and friends too.
9 Tips to Turn Holiday Shoppers into Repeat Customers
We’ve talked about how you can acquire new holiday shoppers and we’ve talked about the principles of customer retention. Now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty – specific tips on how to turn holiday shoppers into repeat customers.
1. Design wonderful packaging.
First impressions are always important and premium packaging always matters. But it matters even more during the holidays!
Designing wonderful packaging first requires you to think about the first impression. You want to make sure your products are packaged in such away that they look great and reinforce any brand messages you want to send. The key is to be memorable in the best possible way so that people remember your business’s name.
Tellingly, 90% of people will reuse a branded box if they find it attractive. Good first impressions make for good second impressions, third impressions, and so on.
Unboxing videos are a staple of YouTube, and as many as 40% of customers will share pictures of their online orders if the packaging is attractive. This is yet another reason to pay attention packaging.
Make sure the inside is nice too. You want unboxing to feel memorable and enjoyable, too. Especially if people are unwrapping gifts around their friends and family!
2. Collect email addresses.
Email marketing, bar none, is one of the most effective ways to market. It’s said that email marketing can make $36 for every $1 spent. Frankly, I’ve heard numbers even higher than that. Email marketing is just that important!
Now, yes, email marketing requires finesse and forethought. Achieving an ROI in the 30s or better requires you to understand your customers and their needs, and speak to them at the right time.
But forget about perfection for a minute. The most important thing to do is just collect that email address at checkout time! It’s essential to nearly every other tip on this post.
3. Create automated marketing to help develop and nurture new customers.
After onboarding first-time customers during the holidays, you need to have a plan to develop and nurture those customers. One way you can do this is to set up automated email marketing to send out time-tested, carefully crafted emails that promote your products and their uses.
The benefits of this are manifold. Even if the emails go unopened, your brand name will be seen in the customers’ inboxes multiple times, which at least keeps them aware of your existence. For those who do open the emails – a figure which can be 30% or better if you do it well – will read what you have to say and maybe make a purchase too.
4. Keep track of new customers and their buying habits.
Most modern shopping site software, such as Shopify, make it easy to tell which items have purchased in the past. This sort of data can be tremendously powerful, because you can use buying history to predict future purchases. This is especially true as your store continues to grow and develop, and trends begin to emerge.
Tracking alone won’t make sales, but it will give you the information you need to create sales programs that will.
5. Send coupons and freebies at strategic times.
This gets back to what I mentioned about incentives a moment ago. People don’t often buy items unprompted. They need a reason to purchase something, and your email or sale could be just that reason.
Send out coupons or freebies at strategic times for maximum effect. For example, if you offer 2-day shipping, it might be smart to send someone an email on December 21 and tell them there is still time to do last minute Christmas shopping. Similarly, once the new year begins, you can always sell items for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and so on.
You can even run a sale when your revenues start to dip or you simply need to do some inventory management.
6. Cross-sell and upsell after the holidays.
This goes hand in hand with the previous two tips. Sales are probably going to be great in October, November, and December. But January and February? Probably not so much.
By combining a customer’s shopping history with well-timed incentives, you can do some really effective cross-selling. Video game consoles aren’t that useful without games. Maybe one of your customers needs to buy some birthday flatware to go along with the dishes they bought their cousin in December. Complementary and supplementary products are great for January and February revenues.
7. Be excellent at customer service.
It might seem too obvious to mention, but it’s too important not to. Customer retention comes down to making good impressions on both the buyer and the recipient of holiday gifts. Make sure you keep them all happy by providing top-tier customer service if something goes wrong.
8. Be generous with returns.
Stingy return policies make people less likely to purchase in the first place and less likely to come back if they do. This is the case in July, and it’s especially the case in December. After all, nothing stings quite like someone wanting to return your gift without a gift receipt. Everyone loses.
The best practice right now is to provide a 90-day return window, no questions asked. Believe it or not, longer return windows can actually reduce returns because people tend to procrastinate on returning items. Go figure.
9. Insert marketing materials into the box.
The recipient of your products during the holidays may not be the shopper. That means the person who comes into contact with your wares probably never visited your website and maybe hasn’t even heard of your name before. Taking the time to add marketing materials to the box gives you a prime chance to sell to the recipient as well as the buyer.
The holidays are a great time to grow your business for a long time to come. No matter what, you’ll probably end up riding the wave of increased sales during the holidays. But if you play your cards right, your business can be in a permanently better position because you retained customers who would have otherwise never come back.
If that’s not a good reason to spread some holiday cheer, then I don’t know what is!