Don’t let your customers become ghosts of holiday seasons past. Learn how you can build loyalty and retain the shoppers you acquire this holiday season.
Consumers have more options than ever for shopping this holiday season. Capturing their attention is the first step towards growing your brand's online revenue. Keeping them coming back (and encouraging them to tell their friends about you) is key to your long-term success.
It's much easier (and six to seven times cheaper) to nurture a loyal customer than it is to acquire a new one—not a bad investment.
Hear from four experts with e-commerce, personalization, and loyalty backgrounds to get a 360° look at how you can build customer loyalty and drive retention this holiday season.
Use first-party data to create relevant experiences
“Apple’s iOS 15 updates will have the biggest impact on loyalty messaging,” says Rachel Cowlishaw, Associate Director of Retail Strategy at digital marketing firm Movable Ink. “Historically, these messages relied more heavily on contextual information—making zero and first-party data increasingly critical.
The data customers share with brands is becoming increasingly important. Channels and integrations that use zero- and first-party data to deliver relevant experiences will play a critical role in brands’ customer loyalty strategy. Brands need to establish a direct line of communication with shoppers to collect valuable data. Cowlishaw predicts the data brands collect through these channels will improve their email marketing content.
Marketers are now relying on owned channels, such as SMS marketing and loyalty programs, to collect first-party data and deliver relevant experiences. Using this data, they can target subscribers with personalized offers and updates—like product recommendations or notifications about buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) options at their nearest location—based on subscribers’ preferences, browsing history, or zip code.
Tap into your brand’s community
Consumers are looking to each other when considering their purchase, especially if it’s their first time buying with a brand, according to Lindsay Kolinsky, Partner Marketing Manager at Okendo, a customer review platform. Brands rely on their customers to help build trust. "Social proof and user-generated content are powerful tools for nurturing shoppers," said Kolinsky. “And brands are increasingly using SMS to ask engaged shoppers for reviews and tags on social media.”
As supply chain shortages and extended shipping windows disrupt consumers’ holiday shopping plans, sharing testimonials and top reviews from your loyal customers will help you earn trust from first-time shoppers. At the same time, spotlighting your customers’ content on your digital channels makes them feel heard, appreciated, and ultimately more connected to your brand. Customer shoutouts can serve as a strong word-of-mouth strategy, too—excited customers may share their spotlight with friends.
Mollie Woolnough-Rai, Senior Content Marketing Executive at LoyaltyLion, a data-driven loyalty and engagement platform, agrees. She believes customer referrals will be key to acquiring new customers and driving repeat purchases during the holiday season. “You should empower your existing customers to act as your advocates,” said Woolnough-Rai. “Referral programs help you reward existing customers who already know and love your brand. And because the shoppers they refer already trust their friends’ recommendations, they’ll convert much more quickly.”
Diversify your offers and incentives
During this extended holiday shopping season, brands are getting creative with the offers they share to protect their bottom line and keep shoppers coming back. Most brands can't offer major discounts from October to December. Instead, you need to choose the most impactful moments to share significant discounts. At the same time, you don't want to risk stopping shoppers from coming back to your site with stale offers. Letting them know about your levels of promotions throughout the season can encourage them to check in regularly for new offers.
The key is to build relationships with your customers by sending a mix of non-promotional and VIP offers, says Woolnough-Rai.
“You don’t have to rely solely on discounts. Instead, offer alternatives like membership to a private Facebook group or free products to build loyalty,” says Woolnough-Rai. “You can re-engage already loyal customers with exclusive experiences and VIP perks. This approach will strengthen the connections you have with them and make them more engaged in your community.”
Use direct marketing channels like SMS to segment your shoppers by purchase history. Reward repeat purchases with gifts or opportunities to earn extra loyalty points. Think about how you can use these offers to remove friction for your customers, too. Consider giving your most loyal customers early access to new products and sales so they can shop before their favorite items are gone.
Surprise and delight shoppers
Consumers are craving moments of nostalgia and delight this holiday season. "After a year when so many couldn't be together, retailers have a chance to help consumers bring the magic back," says Melissa Dixon, Director of Content Marketing at BigCommerce, an e-commerce platform.
Surprise shoppers with incentives—like free shipping or an exclusive gift—to encourage repeat purchases this holiday season. Your surprises don’t need to be limited to promotions, though. Deepen your connection with repeat purchasers by giving them VIP access to behind-the-scenes looks or exclusive content. Consider inviting them to members-only events, from Instagram Lives to exclusive after-hours shopping events.
Automated text messages and emails can help you deliver these perks at exactly the right moment. Consider sending a post-purchase message to say “thank you” and offer customers content and perks that will keep them engaged with your brand after their items arrive. You can also follow up with personalized recommendations to complement their recent purchase, helping your customers feel like you’ve taken the time to consider what’s important to them (and encouraging repeat purchases).
Nurturing shoppers and building brand loyalty throughout the holiday season is a long-term investment in your brand’s future growth.
Want more insights and tips for using SMS to drive customer loyalty and retention year-round? Download The SMS Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty and Retention.