The online holiday season keeps growing by leaps and bounds. For many retailers, it’s the pivotal moment that can either make or break their business. According to ComScore, holiday e-commerce spending is expected to increase by 16% to $61 billion, while mobile commerce continues its upward surge, with 25% growth between 2013 and 2014.
So as an online business, how can you capture your share of the profits not just for the holiday season, but beyond? Here’s how to turn gift-hunting holiday shoppers into lifelong customers that will continue to give your business well into 2015.
It’s the Little Things that Count
Chocomize is an online store that lets visitors create their very own customized chocolate bars. Although their website says that orders will usually arrive within 3-4 days, most customers get theirs within 1-2 days.
If that doesn’t already create a favorable impression, they also include a free gift with every order. Sometimes it’s sample size chocolate bars, sometimes it’s hot chocolate on a spoon. These cost around 50 cents to make, but create more lifetime value per customer.
Hot chocolate on a stick! Ingenious!
Chocomize co-founder and CEO Fabian Kaempfer says that, on average, 32% of first time customers order again at least once within the next 12 months. As a result of their marketing efforts, the company’s revenues are on track to exceed over a million dollars in sales.
Make Use of Every Opportunity
There are so many overlooked opportunities to interact with customers that many companies forget about them altogether.
For example, gift cards are the number one most requested item on people’s holiday shopping lists. Many department stores and restaurants will take advantage of this by offering a deal not just for the recipient, but the gift giver as well – buy a $30 gift card to your best friend’s favorite restaurant, get a voucher for a free appetizer on your next visit.
An example of a follow-up promotion for gift and bonus cards
Receipts and email confirmation messages are other great opportunities to maximize revenues by letting shoppers know how much you value them. For example, if you sell electric guitars as Christmas presents in December, why not follow up with a percentage off coupon for lessons or accessories in January?
Including these discounts doesn’t mean giving away the store – it means getting people back in the (virtual) door and keeping your business front of mind for all their shopping needs at every level.
Even returns can be used as an opportunity for a new sale. Great online retailers make it easy to understand their shipping and returns policy, and make it hassle-free for the recipient to return a gift for nearly any reason. Of course, over the holidays, gifts are often returned simply because they don’t fit. This presents the perfect opportunity to let the customer know that you have that same item in a larger or smaller size, or failing that, similar styles in a similar price range that they might appreciate.
Remember that it’s less about pressuring someone for the sale than it is helping that someone find the right gift for the right person and creating a moment in the recipient’s mind that they will treasure forever. Taking these extra steps to build customer goodwill is like depositing money in your Retention Bank. You can build on these relationships over time by continuing to improve the experience that you deliver – but it always starts with one person.
Keep Them Looking Forward
Nearly every kid born before the proliferation of the Internet can remember getting one of these huge catalogs in their mailbox:
All major department stores had them, and many a child would gleefully grab a marker and circle all the things they wanted. Sugarplum dreams were replaced by dreams of Lego sets, video games and action figures (at least during my childhood).
Some of the best memories were made browsing through the catalog as a family, even if there was no way you’d get everything you wanted. You could still dream – and Sears in particular was betting big bucks on those dreams.
Now that online shopping and mobile shopping have captured our hearts and our dollars, you may not get the same warmth and joy scrolling through the pages on an iPad – but you can still deliver an experience to look forward to online.
For instance, if someone orders an action movie online, why not throw in a cross-sell flyer with upcoming release dates on related action movies? Then follow that up with a special notification and offer on the day that same movie is released?
Keep in mind that you want your online store to be remembered as more than just an option for holiday gift-giving, so giving customers something to look forward to based on their current preferences is a smart move that can pay for itself month after month.
Accessible and Customized are More than Just Buzzwords
Many well-known stores and companies are turning to mobile as a way to accentuate their in-store or on-site offerings. Target’s Cartwheel, for example, is an app that lets customers scan bar codes for instant savings on their favorite products, as well as get in-store offers for related items they might like.
Target’s Cartwheel app combines coupon clipping with friendly Facebook savings competition
Target spent over a year developing the app and it has finally paid off: in March, customers spent nearly 100,000,000 hours browsing and shopping target on their mobile devices. According to Andrew Lipsman, ComScore’s vice president of marketing an insights, “[i]f you’re not occupying that valuable real estate on people’s home screen with an app, you’re potentially putting your business at risk…[p]eople will gravitate to eBay and Amazon’s apps if others don’t have good ones”.
But you’re not Target, you say, and you don’t have a limitless marketing budget? No problem. You can still use an app or a mobile responsive site to deliver a seamless shopping experience as well as follow-up using retargeting and outreach methods to keep customers informed and excited about your offers.
The keys here are accessible and customizable.
People want to know that they can reach your site and enjoy the same shopping experience and ease of use as they would on a desktop – including adding items and checking out via the cart. They want more personalized recommendations and the ability to customize and share things – but don’t want to be pitched to for everything that isn’t related to their wants and needs. Anything that acts as a stumbling block to prevent them from doing this is just one more reason for them to go elsewhere.
It’s a delicate balance – but marketers who hit that sweet spot are amply rewarded by sales that go well beyond the holiday season.
Do you do the bulk of your business over the holiday season? What are some methods you use to keep customers coming back long after the decorations come down? Share your thoughts and comments with us below!
About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps businesses improve website design and increase conversions with user-focused design, compelling copywriting and smart analytics. Learn more at iElectrify and get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up. Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!