You don’t have to say goodbye to that holiday sales boost. Here are six ways you can help turn those seasonal shoppers into loyal customers.
The holiday selling season is well under way, but what happens after the wrapping paper is torn off, the decorations are taken down and the Christmas music goes back to the Top 40? Do you settle for returning to normal sales after the holiday peak? You certainly don’t have to. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to gain customers who keep coming back year-round.
The most successful ecommerce stores realize that their focus should not be placed solely on the holiday peaks, but on the long-term strategy. Loyalty marketing is key in building relationships that extend beyond the holiday craze.
Loyalty marketing is great, but limited when it comes to holiday shopping. Why? Because often the difficulty is in reaching, not the gift giver, but the gift receiver. The holidays are about giving, which means the majority of your target audience will have zero contact with you directly. The gift receiver is your target market and end user. These are the people who either asked for your product specifically or will receive your products during the holidays. But either way, you have the opportunity to make long-term customers from both the receiver and buyer if you prepare ahead of time.
Below are a few best practices we found that will help you reach your target audience and maintain customer loyalty year-round.
1. Pay attention to those returns
Returns are your chance to shine. Estimates show 10 to 15 percent of holiday gifts are returned or exchanged, and many customers will experience long lines, frustrated staff or difficult online return processes. By making your return process as easy as possible, not only will you look great by comparison, but you may even create a loyal customer.
Only about 10 percent of retailers offered free shipping on returns in 2012, but it’s predicted this number will grow quickly – hopefully starting this year. To keep the return process simple, provide free shipping on your online returns and make store credit available for exchanges.
Another plus-side of returns? They help you find out who the gift recipients actually are, which gives you a clearer picture of your customer base and may open up a line of communication with them.
2. Get your customer support in tip-top shape
After customers unwrap and begin using their fantastic new products, there’s a good chance they’ll have questions or concerns. That’s where your customer support comes in. This is your chance to speak with customers directly and show them what your brand is all about.
So make it easy for them to find you by offering a customer support Twitter handle, live chat or a note accompanying the gift. Be sure to place your support contact information in an easy-to-find spot on your website and, most importantly, respond quickly and thoroughly. Many companies may not realize it, but 57 percent of customers expect the same response time at night and weekends as during normal business hours.
People will also be calling, emailing and tweeting night and day about their new products, so go the extra mile during the holiday and post-holiday season. This could be a make-it or break-it moment for customers using your product for the first time, so it’s worth the investment.
3. Take advantage of email gift certificates
Many of your buyers are tired of the arduous process of figuring out the ‘perfect gift’ (or are shopping procrastinators like me) and will instead opt for a simple gift certificate. In fact, more than one in every four digital or online gift cards sold in December are sold between Dec. 21 and Dec. 24.
This is fantastic news for ecommerce stores because in order to deliver all those gift cards, you’ll need both the name and email address of the gift recipient. Once you have that information, you can follow-up directly with them and ask if they’d like to opt-in for future updates .
Did you know? The average gift card user ends up spending an extra 20% beyond the value of the card.
4. Ship it directly
Show off your exceptional customer service and take away the middleman of shipping. Wrapping & shipping are exhausting (and costly) tasks that most would gladly like to scratch off their Christmas to-do list. So offer to wrap and ship the gift directly to the receiver. You can ask for the billing information of the purchaser, but the name and shipping address of the receiver. This is a perfect way to offer outstanding customer service while still gaining the information you need to continue your customer loyalty efforts down the road.
And don’t forget: Your Volusion platform lets you offer gift-wrapping and even the ability to including a note. So be sure leverage this proactive way of finding out who your customers are.
5. Give them a reason to come back
A great way to reach customers is to give them a reason to check out your site or interact with your brand. Include a note with their gift or offer a discount for future purchases. You could even create a brand community where customers can interact in forums, post discussions or watch videos about their products. This may not be for every store, but a recent study revealed 43% of online Americans between the ages of 16 and 54 have joined a brand community online, so it’s worth considering.
Another option you have is a personal video or email. Yes, that may take a little extra time, but it’ll go far in helping you build the connection you need to create deeper loyalty between your brand and your buyers. Video is a particularly powerful way to reach customers, which is probably why 86% of brands plan to increase video spending in 2014.
Once you get the buyer’s information, don’t forget to thank them and check in on them. It’s amazing what a simple thank you email can do, or even a check-in note to see how they’re enjoying their product. These efforts go a long way in cultivating a relationship that lasts.
6. Segment and personalize
Once you have a grasp of your new customer base, it’s time to start segmenting and personalizing. This is where integrated cloud platforms will be key. Fortunately, integration is far easier now than it was in years past. With integration platforms like Kevy, retailers are able to automatically integrate their cloud apps in only minutes without the cumbersome, costly and error-prone task of manually syncing data. This gives retailers an edge over competition by creating a more holistic view of each customer.
Segment your holiday customers based on past purchase history, customer support questions, last interaction or social profile to create more relevant messages. Customers are saturated with promo emails and coupons around the holidays, so stand out by personalizing your message. Call them by name so they feel like a person rather than a number and suggest other products similar to the ones they received or purchased.
All of this to say – creating a personal connection to your holiday buyers, and gift receivers, is a vital aspect to your holiday marketing strategy. Many buyers may have stumbled upon your site through a promo or coupon, but you want them to stay because of your first class customer service, quality products and sheer loyalty to you and your brand.