Back in October, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted retail sales for the 2018 holiday season might reach more than $720 billion. To offer some perspective, that figure exceeds the national economic output for Saudi Arabia in 2017.
In other words, the U.S. holiday shopping season packs an enormous economic punch. Not surprisingly, the holiday season represents as much as 30 percent of annual sales for some U.S. retailers, according to the NRF.
Once these lucrative seasonal shoppers have wrapped up their gift purchases, how can a retailer turn them into year-round customers?
Experts offer the following four suggestions:
Take Advantage Of Gift Returns And Gift Card Redemption’s
Once the holiday season comes to a close, Americans begin the annual tradition of gift returns, gift exchanges and gift card redemption’s. Some retailers might groan about this pilgrimage, but experts say they should embrace it.
Many retailers see the post-holiday period as a negative — a time when shoppers return to their store to exchange a gift or buy a present with a gift card, says Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm that works with retailers.
“But what they do not consider is those store visits by shoppers can also become a huge opportunity to attract year-round customers,” Castelán says.
One way a retailer can seize that opportunity is by filling the shelves with enough post-holiday inventory, Castelán says.
“Ensuring availability of products maximizes the potential of making a sale or building a longer relationship with customers who may come back to your store for a return or exchange,” he says.
Reach Out To Seasonal Customers
Experts advise retailers to stay in touch with customers who shopped at their stores during the holiday season, perhaps for the first time.
Many seasonal shoppers sign up for retailer newsletters during the holidays, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, which helps entrepreneurs establish and maintain their businesses.
“Now that your e-newsletter list has more email addresses, don’t be afraid to create and send emails to the new and existing customers alike,” Sweeney says. “You can update them about sales and new products, and even create custom emails for personal celebrations like their birthdays.”
Nate Masterson also endorses the idea of collecting email addresses and other contact information from seasonal shoppers.
Masterson – CEO of Maple Holistics, a New Jersey-based company that sells cruelty-free, natural and sustainable personal care products – says getting such information from both in-store and online customers helps retailers market to these customers after the holidays.
“It’s the quickest and cheapest way to reach out to them, and customers are more likely to look at an email than a snail-mail card,” Masterson says.
However, retailers should stick to emailing relevant information to customers, rather than burying them in spam, Masterson says.
To prevent email subscribers from deleting these messages – or worse yet, unsubscribing from the email list – offer deals such as free shipping or a 20 percent discount on the next purchase, he advises.
“Doing so will incentivize them to buy from you in the future, and it will encourage them to open up your subsequent emails, too,” Masterson says.
Reward Seasonal Customers
After the holiday shopping season ends, a retailer cannot turn back the calendar and reward shoppers who visited the store. But a retailer can incorporate a rewards program into plans for the upcoming holiday season. It’s important to make sure that you’re POS system can support a rewards program.
“Customers have choices in where they shop,” says Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency in Atlanta. “Make sure you’re rewarding them for their business.”
“Doing so will go a long way in establishing holiday shoppers new to your brand as long-term customers,” he adds.
Shelley Grieshop – a Creative Writer of the marketing team at Totally Promotional, a promotional products company in Ohio – suggests handing out freebies to customers who made holiday purchases.
For instance, she says, you might slip a pen or koozie bearing your store’s logo into each shopper’s bag. A retailer should couple those freebies with discount coupons that give shoppers a reason to come back to your store, Grieshop adds.
“Creating loyal customers during seasonal events requires ingenuity and a small investment,” she says.
Deliver Outstanding Customer Service
Do you want to truly dazzle holiday customers and keep them coming back? Castelán emphasizes the importance of providing superb customer service that creates a “memorable and positive experience.”
A 2018 survey by Gladly, a San Francisco-based provider of customer service technology, found that 92 percent of consumers would ditch a company after as many as three bad experiences with customer service. For 26 percent of customers, the threshold was just one bad experience.
“Nothing increases the chances more of gaining a year-round customer than providing helpful and impressive customer service,” Castelán says.
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