How to Improve Customer Retention Among First-Time Holiday Shoppers

By Jay Kulkarni

As retailers prepare for another rollercoaster of a holiday season, they have a lot to look forward to. After 2021 saw a 17-year high of holiday shoppers spending 8.5 percent more year over year (YOY), forecasters predict continued growth despite the threat of a recession and looming inflation on the horizon.

In fact, experts believe that retail shopping will rise again in 2022, between four and six percent. This means an influx of new holiday shoppers to attract, delight, and retain. In the spirit of looking forward to another successful year, these post-holiday marketing best practices explore how to improve customer retention among new shoppers, so you can increase revenue not just for the season at hand, but also for the year ahead.

Dress Your Goods to Impress Recipients and Holiday Shoppers Alike

Holiday shoppers who are sending gifts to far-flung friends and family members appreciate an unboxing experience that mirrors the magic of receiving a beautifully-wrapped gift in person — and so do their recipients.

The investment you make in a memorable unboxing experience can benefit your business in two ways:

  • The gift buyer and recipient will consider sending more of your products to family and friends as gifts due to their elevated presentation
  • The gift recipient might share your products displayed with packaging and extras on social media, creating a DIY advertisement for your business

Give Your Post-Purchase Email Welcome Series a Holiday Update

Add a new branch to your post-purchase email welcome series that is solely dedicated to retaining holiday shoppers. This enables your marketing team to optimize onboarding emails by determining what the customers who recently discovered your brand and products care about most. In addition to a confirmation email, request for a review, and other staple follow-ups, consider including:

A product quiz that reveals what the buyer likes
Many holiday shoppers are on your site to buy gifts for others, so their purchase may not necessarily reflect their interests or potential future purchases. Send a short quiz in your post-purchase email series that asks them about their preferences.

Let's say you're a DTC skincare brand, you can ask your customer about:

  • Their skin type
  • Skin challenges and goals
  • Favorite fragrances

Once they complete it, you can set up your marketing automation system to tag them by their answers and segment the content you send to them accordingly so outreach from your brand is much more likely to be relevant and resonant.

An update on popular items that were recently restocked.

With supply chain issues still in effect, not every customer will get their hands on the season's hot ticket items in time for the holidays. But that doesn't mean they won't want to score the latest trends when they're back in stock. Send an email with a curation of your most popular items that are newly available to leverage their buzz beyond the major shopping days.

A price-drop notification email on items shoppers engaged with but didn't purchase.

Lean on dynamic content to automate price-drop emails to first-time customers that lets them know that items they were eyeing are now on sale. Due to inflation, customers are most enticed by getting the best price, so even though the season is over, they may still take the plunge if the offer is too good to pass up.

Pinpoint Your Top Holiday Sale and Launch a Post-Holiday Version

While you don't want to focus on sale after sale especially after the slew of holiday promotions, strategically choosing a single sale to entice first-time shoppers to buy once again can jumpstart your retention efforts. First, decide what your goal is for this sale. Would you like to boost overall revenue, the number of conversions, average purchase value, or average items per order?

Dive into your data to determine which holiday sale drove the most success for the metric you aim to improve and create a post-holiday sale that mirrors its promotion. For example, if your goal is to increase average purchase value by the end of the year, determine which sale achieved the highest average purchase value during the holiday season. Let's say that sale was "Save $50 when you spend $200." You may want to repeat this sale structure in a way that aligns with the week after the holiday like framing it as a holiday clearance sale.

Tout the Benefits of Your Customer Loyalty Program to Holiday Shoppers

Fifty-three percent of consumers say that they joined at least one or more brand or retailer's loyalty program, so introducing new customers to its benefits soon after their first purchase is a good idea if you want to keep them coming back. 

As mentioned before, customer retention success is often achieved by listening to what first-time customers tell you through their purchase behaviors and engagement data. The good news is that first-party data is even easier to obtain when you have loyalty benefits to give them in exchange.

80 percent of customers say they are willing to share personal data to earn loyalty program benefits, and 70 percent are willing to share their data to get special discounts and offers. 

To make sure first-time customers don't miss out on the opportunity to join your loyalty program, be sure to promote it through banners on your website, in your post-purchase emails, and on your website's check out page by giving them the option to earn points with their purchase.

If you don't have a loyalty program, you'll first want to decide how to structure it. You could opt for one or a mix of the following models:

Boost Customer Retention with Convenient Ways to Stay In Touch

Not every holiday shopper will be glued to their inbox after the season's end. Impending credit card bills and email fatigue may cause them to avoid the Promotions tab altogether. To keep lines of communication open, promote different ways to stay on their radar that don't rely on email click-throughs like:

  • Inviting them to follow your brand on social media
  • Asking customers to opt-in for text messages
  • Including thank you post-cards with promo codes and social media handles in holiday shipments

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jay Kulkarni is the CEO of Theorem.