From Seasonal to Loyal: 5 Tips for Converting Holiday Shoppers into Year-Round Customers

If you’re in retail, you’re likely in the middle of planning for the holidays  — and for good reason. Known as the biggest shopping event of the year, the holiday season consistently brings in tremendous foot traffic and sales.

Last year, sales in November and December rose 5.5% compared to the same period from the previous year, exceeding the forecasts of the National Retail Federation. Consumer confidence is at an all-time high, which means we can expect a flurry of shopping activity in the coming months.

Needless to say, your business is up for a busy shopping season ahead. And while it’s a must that you prep your store for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the days leading up to Christmas, it’s equally important to think about what you’ll do with all your new customers after the holidays are over.

Don’t let all that added foot traffic and sales be a holiday-only occurrence. Craft a marketing and customer retention plan that allows you to keep shoppers coming back even after the gift-giving days are over.

Read on for some ideas on how to do just that.

Get customers to join your email list or loyalty program

What are you waiting for?

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The best way to get people to come back is to stay top of mind through regular communication. And you can’t do that if you don’t have your customers’ contact details to begin with.

In the coming weeks (and beyond), make it a bigger priority to capture people’s email address or phone number. The finer details of this process depend on your store, but here are some pointers:

Collect just one piece of information – You want to make it quick and easy for customers to hand over their details, so avoid asking for too much. If you can, simply ask for their email or phone number.

Communicate, execute, and verify is how good hospitality becomes great

Don’t make them fill out forms – Whatever you do, don’t hand people a pen and paper and ask them to fill it out. This practice will just lengthen the checkout process and give shoppers a reason to pass.

Instead, let the customer dictate the information to your staff. For example, at the cosmetics chain Ulta, cashiers ask for the customer’s phone number at checkout. When the customer provides the information, they’re automatically enrolled in the retailer’s loyalty program. No muss, no fuss.

Now, if you must ask customers to enter their information themselves, do it electronically. Have them enter their phone number or email using a tablet or keypad on the counter.

Provide an incentive – Give people a reason to hand over their information. Find an incentive that you can offer in exchange for their contact details.

Levi’s, for example, offers 20% off towards a future purchase if you enroll in their loyalty program. Like Ulta, Levi’s makes info-gathering easy for both the staff and the customer. When a cashier is handling a sale, they deliver a quick statement along the lines of… “Do you want to enroll in our loyalty program for 20% off?”. When the shopper says yes, they simply dictate their email address and are good to go. The whole process takes less than a minute.

Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

If you haven’t done so yet, set up a process that simplifies how your associates collect information from your customers and be sure to implement it right away. Give your staff the time to practice so they can refine their approach before the holiday crowds descend.

Invest in gift cards

Kevin Graff said it best: Gift cards are God’s gift to retail. This is particularly true during the holiday season because gift cards are the second most popular gift option for shoppers (the first is apparel).

Gift cards can be very effective in driving new and repeat business. Think about it: if you receive a gift card for Christmas, chances are high that you would visit that store or website to take advantage. And once you’re there, chances are also high that you would end up spending more than the value on the card.

Research has shown that on average, consumers spend $38 more than a gift card’s value.

There’s no question about it: gift cards are good for business.

If you’re not selling them yet, you still have time to place orders and set them up in your store. There are plenty of vendors in the market who sell pre-designed and custom gift cards, so shop around and see what you can find.

When you have the cards, display them prominently in your location. In addition to the checkout counter, set up gift card displays in other high-traffic areas of your shop. Also, consider your products that are commonly given as presents, and then see if you can display gift cards near those items.

(Sidenote: Conduct a merchandising audit to ensure that your displays are implemented correctly.)

Don’t forget about online marketing. Share a few social media posts and compose some emails to let people know where and how to purchase your gift cards. Here’s an example from Birchbox, which is actively marketing its gift cards to subscribers.

Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Don’t underestimate good old fashion product inserts

Consider including a little extra something inside a gift box or bag. Product inserts can be very helpful in introducing your brand to customers and encouraging them to check out your merchandise.

Lego is a master at this tactic. The company often includes cross-selling flyers in its current Lego sets to encourage people to buy their other products.

If you’re not keen on including a product flyer or catalog, consider adding a nice note, instead. This is a great way to tell your story, convey authenticity, and even generate buzz.

Sleeping Baby, a company that sells transition swaddles, includes a card with a note from the founder thanking customers for their purchase and encouraging them to share photos and testimonials online.

thank you
Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Got a sale or event coming up? Throw in some event cards into people’s shopping bags so they know what’s in store. Check out this example from pop culture store JapanLA, which used shopping bag inserts to plug their pop-up event.

Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Improve your return process

You may not like to process returns, but you need to do it anyway. And if you want to get people to come back, you need to do it with a smile.

Returns (in brick and mortar) have a big upside: they bring people into your store. As Forbes contributor, Micah Solomon points out:

In retail, we take it as a given that returns are bad for the bottom line. But here’s the silver–maybe even platinum–lining: A return, at least one that is made in-store, means the customer is in the store!

(You’re a shortsighted retailer indeed if you don’t want a customer to enter your store.)

Sometimes a return even means a chance to introduce yourself to an entirely new customer who received the item as a gift, but in the wrong size or color, and is now showing up at the slowest time of the year, when you really need traffic in your stores.

Don’t miss your chance to wow her.

If your existing returns procedure is cumbersome or if you and your staff aren’t shy about showing your disdain for returns, it’s time to change things up. Streamline the process for your customers as much as possible, by making it simple to return products.

As for your staff, help them understand the value and upside of returns and instruct them to put their best foot forward.

If there’s an opportunity to do so, consider implementing suggestive selling. Let’s say someone is returning a product because they’re not happy with the color. If that item comes in a different shade, why not mention it to the shopper? Or, if someone returns a gift because it wasn’t their style, point them to merchandise that would be a better fit.

The bottom line here is to make a great impression and be memorable. The happier a customer is with their experience in your store, the higher the likelihood that they’ll come back.

Unless you do it on time, in full, at every site, you are not executing at all

Start planning your campaigns for the new year

The beginning of the year is the best time to reach out to customers. Since they just purchased from you during the holiday season, your brand is likely still fresh in their minds.

There are several angles you can take when marketing at the beginning of the year. One is to use new beginnings or New Year’s resolutions. If you sell fitness products, for example, the start of the year is a good time to market them.

The beginning of the year is also a good time to encourage customers to try something new or update their [insert relevant product you sell here].

For example, Appsumo kicked off 2018 with the subject line “New year, new website,” along with a solution to help users makeover their website.

Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Meanwhile, Kate Spade encouraged shoppers to update their wardrobe by showcasing their new arrivals.

Image credit: Francesca Nicasio

Have a think about marketing themes for the upcoming year and start planning your campaigns.

Bottom line

The holiday season doesn’t just drive more sales, it also brings in more opportunities for repeat business. Don’t lose sight of this fact during the coming months. Recognize that while gaining immediate sales is essential, building relationships for the long-term is of equal importance.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is a freelance writer and content strategist who’s dedicated to writing about retail trends and tips that help merchants increase sales, improve customer service, and be better retailers overall. Her work has been featured in top retail industry publications including Retail TouchPointsStreet FightRetail Customer ExperienceVEND, and more. She’s also a featured thought leader on LinkedIn, and is followed by over 300,000 professionals on the site.

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