Christmas All Year: 5 Strategies for Retaining Holiday Shoppers

The biggest spike in retail and ecommerce of the year is approaching– from Black Friday to Cyber Monday and Christmas, Q4 brings an increase in new visitors and first-time shoppers. As many of us know, it’s more costly to obtain new customers than it is to maintain returning shoppers, but this season provides the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the jump in both new and repeat visitors. In 2017, CNN reported that American shoppers spent a whalloping $5 billion in the 24 hours that make up Black Friday, a 16.9% increase from the previous year. There are many emerging trends for retaining the winter season’s shoppers, including mobile and omnichannel marketing strategies, the continued importance of social media, personalized digital and in-store shopping experiences, and AI-powered chatbots and product recommendations.  

Through a series of optimized, tailored emails, building segmented audiences, other cross-channel marketing campaigns, your business can reach its full potential by successfully keeping up with customers after holiday shopping has ended. As we gear up for the winter sales spike and making the most out of the customers it brings, we spend weeks, or likely months, prepping for the onslaught of increased purchases, sales, and shoppers— But what happens after the holiday rush is over? Similar to the rest of the preparations involved with holiday ecommerce, it’s imperative to finalize the most effective strategy for retaining the season’s shoppers for your business now. So, what’s your plan for keeping these newfound consumers engaged and coming back?

1. Take advantage of mobile devices and omnichannel functionality

The number of mobile purchases during the holiday season has steadily risen throughout the last decade. A 2016 Verve survey of 3,000 Millennials and Gen Z’ers found that 25% of customers use a smartphone or mobile device during in-store visits for navigation, product guidance, and item comparison. That means that 1 in 4 individuals of this demographic prefer to gain store knowledge, locate products, request assistance, or make purchases via mobile device while on-location. In-store usage of mobile devices is diversifying, with more customers relying on virtual wallets during checkout, price-checking via mobile browser, and reading product guides or item descriptions online.

In your omnichannel strategy for mobile, your business should prioritize cohesive unity across all platforms and experiences, be it mobile or in-store. Ecommerce platforms, mobile applications, online stores and sites, in-store technology, and a company’s customer service should all provide a uniform, on-brand experience. In order to spur a site’s traffic and success, to gain high mobile return rates, app downloads, and opt-ins for email or push notifications, your site must be fully optimized for mobile.

Consistency and cross-channel integration create positive experiences for your customers anywhere, anytime, regardless of platform. To fully take advantage of this trend, an omnichannel, dynamic approach to email, text messaging, web, in-app and push notifications, and in-store marketing is required. In today’s ever-changing world of increasingly demanding consumers, omnichannel functionality across your platforms and sites will foster your ability to craft entire user experiences from start to finish. Ecommerce platforms that are fully responsive in design will successfully reduce friction throughout the mobile purchasing process, like the Magento platforms’ incorporation of Instant Purchase functionality.

2. Use personalized, AI-powered product recommendations

Many retailers are justly following the artificial intelligence ‘trend’ and incorporating deep- and machine-learning into their retail and marketing strategies. Customization and personalization of individual user experiences can be enhanced through AI and its capacity to interpret consumer data to tailor the online/mobile shopping process. Your business can leverage AI and language processing software to cater to a customer’s preferred buying behaviors, product recommendations, and customer service interaction methods.



Shoppers vary in their expectations, from product recommendations to personalized ads; some are more partial to email discounts, communications, and promotions, while others may respond better to real-time deals offered through geolocation-based sales or in-app notifications. Utilize AI technology to gather data on individual shopper preferences for re-targeting and segmenting at different points in the year. By applying these technologies, your holiday retainment strategy can take advantage of deep-learning technology to generate custom, individualized messages and experiences that encourage first-time visitors to return to your site.

3. Employ chatbots and voice-enabled virtual assistants

AI-powered customer support in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants can aid your shoppers and help to provide your consumers with a more pleasant, guided buying process. As the usage of AI becomes more commonplace and readily available to businesses and store operators, customers have begun to expect the functionality that comes with AI technology in their everyday shopping experiences. They expect the novelty features provided by machine deep-learning that ecommerce giants supply, like Amazon and their product recommendation system, from all retailers: store directions and locations integrated with navigation apps, geo-based coupons and notifications for ongoing sales, available services, and store recommendations.

Many companies have begun to implement voice-enabled in-store kiosks to assist with FAQs, product listings and locations within the store, checkout inquiries, and more. Virtual assistants can help your shoppers with customer service requests, product availability, price-checking, or in requesting the help of a real store associate. Creatuity’s collaborative chatbot with Magento and Amazon Lex and other intelligence programs can be applicable for an immense variety of functions and tasks to provide support during the purchasing journey and post-buying information.

4. Adopt social media as a powerful marketing tool

Winter retainment strategies should prioritize keeping customers from the holiday season engaged year-round through superior social media campaigns and brand recognition. By cultivating an emotional, psychological attachment between your brand and your shoppers, you can create a fully-engaged audience of followers that widens your arena for increased profitability and revenue for the average consumer. Some companies expound upon the heightened emotions associated with the season to connect with their followers/shoppers on a deeper level.

Your ability to tell your brand’s story through visualization and execution on social media platforms is crucial, particularly during the holiday season when emotions run high and business-consumer relationships take on a more personal shape. The importance of social content and social media marketing will only grow in the upcoming years; social content directly influences consumer purchasing behavior and buying habits. The influx in online shopping during the winter season demands incredible customer service, and more businesses are relying on social media to answer customer questions and complaints; it’s a fast and easy way to communicate with your audience and make customers feel heard.

5. Utilize follow-up marketing campaigns

Q1 is likely to be a slower season than the busy rush of the holiday shopping period; you can make the most of this time by collecting customer ratings and reviews. This not only illustrates to your shoppers that you value their feedback, it creates a space for personalization and consumer input. Asking for product reviews with a clear call to action or immediate benefit (provision of discounts, exclusives, and promotional offers for completing a review) provides channels for cross-platform engagement. Hyper-relevant to the holiday season, provide your customers with a free personal gift while they’re gift shopping for someone else.

A particularly effective method centers on offering coupons or promotions to customers who complete reviews to be used in the subsequent quarter. You can also use social media or targeted email campaigns to remind segmented followers/customers to purchase gifts or return to your store during key shopping periods like Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or birthdays. Loyalty programs, rewards vouchers, exclusive “members-only” discounts, and point systems are another way of encouraging loyalty and return. The email addresses you gather upon sign-up for these programs are an invaluable sales and marketing resource.

Conclusion

Although a variety of research has shown that the customers you acquire during the holiday season have an estimated lower lifetime value than those gained at other times of the year, marketers and business owners should attempt to continue building longer-term relationships that turn one-time shoppers into loyal returning customers. Instead of solely promoting short, hyper-relevant campaigns and promotions that capture your customers’ span of attention momentarily, create a wholistic, all-encompassing multichannel experience that functions to keep shoppers engaged year-round.

Holiday shoppers may not convert easily into loyal or return customers, but that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. Instead, focus on the ways you can make the most out of data that’s been collected, and the knowledge you’ve gained, to segment and connect with these buyers in authentic, creative ways. Send personalized, retargeted offers based on purchase history and interests, engage and re-engage across all channels, and don’t forget to utilize AI-powered technology, efficient marketing tools, and mobile optimization campaigns to power superior customer shopping experiences.

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Images courtesy of Unsplash & Pixabay

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