Ah, the holidays. That busy part of the year when customers flood your store and sales go through the roof (hopefully). It’s a wonderful time to be an eCommerce store owner.
Then comes the new year and everything seems to fall apart: sales take a sharp dive and all those new customers seem to disappear like holiday cheer on the 26th. It’s a stressful time to be an eCommerce store owner.
But is that just the way of the world? Is that the inevitable price you pay for running a retail business in the 21st century?
Happily, the answer is no, it doesn’t have to be. That said, it’s going to take some work because turning holiday shoppers into long-time customers is very much the same as starting a romantic relationship -- it demands a good majority of your attention and often requires that you step outside yourself to make someone else’s happiness your priority.
Below we’ll lay out some strategies that can help keep those holiday numbers going all year long and transform one-time, holiday shoppers into loyal, long-term customers.
Think about a time in your life when you were dating.
What was the one thing that moved that relationship along? The correct answer is communication. You talked about your likes and dislikes, found out why they do what they do for a living, and generally got to know the person better.
This communication nurtured the relationship and helped it grow from a nod and a smile across a crowded train to holding hands across a candle-lit table on a Saturday night.
And while searching out your customers to talk with them face-to-face might be a little creepy (not to mention difficult if they live in another country), we have technology that makes communicating with anyone, anywhere simple and convenient. Automated email marketing campaigns are your best tools to communicate effectively with customers.
Below is a good example from British clothing retailer, Boden:
Email marketing draws the customer back to your products and can help bring back customers who have abandoned their online shopping carts by providing intriguing discounts, the promise of free shipping, or posts containing more information on the product(s) they have in their cart. With what outcome? More sales, profitability, and long-term retention, just to name a few.
Sony did an excellent job of this a few years back and increased the conversion rate for their Sony Rewards Loyalty Program by 300% through their data-driven email campaign. Check out one of their sample emails here.
The First Follow-up
A follow-up email after an initial sale is like that first phone call or text after meeting someone: It lets them know you’re glad to have met them and subtly starts the nurturing process.
Just remember that sometimes less is more (in terms of what you say). You don’t have to flood them with information (in fact, you shouldn’t). Simply saying “hi” and “thanks for shopping with us” can go a long way. Maybe relate an interesting fact about your business. The company Nomad, did this well with the following email:
Above all else, keep it simple -- you’re just planting a seed, not maintaining an arboretum. This is intended to start the process that leads to more sales and lifelong customers, not seal the deal. Sealing the deal can be done later with further follow-ups and retargeting.
The Second (Third, Fourth,...) Follow-up
You can’t just send one email and expect a relationship to flourish or sales to be made. Remember you’ve got to nurture and care for said relationship if you want it to grow.
That requires continued communication akin to the first follow-up. After the first communication, it’s important to remember not to smother the customer. Daily emails are a bit excessive and can turn your messages into spam fodder.
Once every few days (the exact number is up to you), send a simple email that contains things like:
- a recent blog post (here’s why it’s important)
- a funny video that is relevant to your product or service.
- customer stories and testimonials.
- discounts or promotions.
Just like in a romantic relationship, communication between you and your customers deepens the attachment they’ll feel for your product or service.
Keeping the communication consistent translates to dollars in your pocket by making you their first choice for the product or service you sell. What’s more, informing your customers of sales, deals, new offerings and the like through effective communication can result in sales, not just once, but all year long.
The Loft produced an excellent example of this type of email that is entertaining, delivers immediate value and encourages the customer to make an additional purchase:
Dating is not a one-place, one-time experience. Neither is nurturing a relationship with your customers.
A good strategy to avoid this trap is to maintain engagement outside of your website and email list. Doing so means more sales because customers will turn to you first for the things they need.
Social media is a great place to make this happen. If you’re using Facebook (and why wouldn’t you be?), a good place to start is with a custom audience pixel. Retargeting ads can be a cheap yet effective way of engaging customers that visited your site or made purchases (and can therefore be presumed to be interested in buying).
You can use retargeting to advertise new product announcements, a new sale, a discount for visiting your site again, or simply to show that you care and would like to get their opinion on your product.
Busted Tees, one of the web’s leading t-shirt brands, put this idea to good use to bring back visitors who hadn’t made a purchase in a while.
The result? 195 total conversions and an ROI of 390%
Combining automated post-purchase email campaigns with re-engagement campaigns on social media will have a profound impact in turning these one-time customers into long-term customers. These types of campaigns are foundational to inbound marketing for eCommerce.
When you’re dating, you want to do things for the other person that are memorable and that make them happy. The same can be said for turning holiday shoppers into long-term customers.
Most eCommerce stores treat holiday shoppers as one-time scores. Inevitably, then, that’s what they become. You, on the other hand, can do things to make these customers happy, to stand out from the crowd, to exceed expectations.
You can provide expanded customer service, exclusive discounts, and personalized product recommendations. The sky really is the limit so use your imagination and come up with unique ways that you can be different.
As we’ve seen, email is a powerful tool for setting your business apart. But there are additional, sometimes more effective, methods that can be used in your quest for differentiation. Mail (yes, the kind that requires a stamp) can be an excellent way to reach out and touch your customers. A handwritten note is a great way to communicate with your customers (if time and your customer base allow it) and can be even more memorable than an email because of the personal nature of the medium.
Whether you choose email, regular mail, or some other method of delivery, send something enticing to lure them back to your store. Discounts, coupons, and gift cards are superb choices to include with your handwritten note or email.
Turning holiday shoppers into long-term customers doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.
Like you do when you’re dating, focus on the customer experience, listen to what they say, and make them happy. The ways you do this are nearly as numerous as the number of potential customers. But whatever you do, be sure to communicate effectively and continuously engage (through retargeting, social media, or email marketing).
Do the above well and your customers will come back again and again, regardless of the time of year.