Holidays are a busy time for businesses. Sales peak, web traffic surges, and plenty of engagement opportunities sprout up within the customer experience.
According to eMarketer’s 2022 holiday shopping predictions, US retail sales will total $1,297 billion in 2022.
Despite these large numbers during the holiday season, most businesses see marketing and sales numbers return to normal. Customer demand slows and the outstanding performance drops off by mid-January.
This trend is shown in the chart below, which outlines retail sales per month since 2017. If we look at the red circles, we can see how sales rise in November pre-holiday season, peak in December, and decline significantly at the beginning of each year.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this — there’s plenty you can do to replicate holiday sales throughout the entire year. In this post, we’ll explain what consumers expect from customer service during the holidays, and how you can foster relationships with your customer base and retain loyalty and sales beyond the holiday season.
What do customers expect from customer service during the holidays?
As the holiday season is when people might be more stressed about their purchases and finding solutions if issues arise, we were curious about consumer expectations for service teams and reps during these periods.
In a recent survey, we asked consumers what they expected from customer service reps during the holiday season (they could pick more than one option), and the top expectations were:
- Feeling heard, appreciated, and valued by customer service representatives and teams.
- Being able to find solutions to issues quickly.
- Having omnichannel options for getting customer service (chat, email, social media, phone support, etc.)
Most respondents said they have these expectations because they spend more money during the holidays and expect a higher caliber of service where they feel heard, appreciated, and valued as a customer. They also expect that businesses prepare for the holidays and have enough reps available to help people come to find solutions quickly.
While you always want to meet customer expectations, going above and beyond for customers during the holiday season can pay off when building customer loyalty and retention. If customers see that you can rise to the occasion during a stressful period, they’ll appreciate the effort you put in for them and might be more likely to return to make repeat purchases.
Read on to discover how you can meet expectations and boost customer retention beyond the holiday season.
7 Tips for Boosting Retention Beyond the Holidays
1. Share appreciation for your customers.
The holidays are a season for being thankful and expressing appreciation and gratitude. As a brand, business, organization, or creator, a great way to boost retention during the holidays is to let your audiences know that you appreciate them and the support they give you.
You’re showing them that they’re more than just a name on a receipt; you value that they choose to do business with you over a competitor. Customers that feel genuinely recognized and appreciated by their favorite brands are more likely to remain loyal and make repeat purchases.
2. Launch a new campaign in January.
Engaging customers during the end of the year can be challenging, especially as every other business is also vying for their attention. This makes January a great time to launch new marketing campaigns to stand out from the competition that might take breaks after the holiday season.
Below are a few effective post-holiday season campaign ideas:
- New Year Resolutions: Many people come up with "New Year's Resolutions" at the beginning of January. If your business can help customers accomplish these goals, it's a great way to build strong and valuable relationships between them and your company.
- Q1 Sale: January is a great time to create new deals and promotional offers. Bundle up what you’ve got left in store and keep the sales momentum going. This is a valuable strategy for businesses that sell seasonal products, like clothing stores.
- Content Marketing: You can create fresh content that helps customers make buying decisions and discover better ways to use your products.
- Retargeting Campaigns: Retargeting campaigns engage customers after they leave your website. Once a customer views a product or webpage, an ad related to that content is displayed after leaving your website. That way, they're reminded of your brand even when they're not looking at your content. This is especially valuable if you see that customers browsed during the holiday season but didn’t follow through with a purchase. Add them to a remarketing list, and serve them an ad to remind them you’re still around.
3. Implement a customer loyalty program.
Customer loyalty programs are effective because they reward your customers for their purchases from you, making them more likely to make repeat purchases so they can eventually cash in on their rewards. Loyalty programs are important for brands in a crowded marketplace, where it can be challenging to stand out with your product or service alone.
Here are a few fundamentals to building a successful loyalty program:
- Send gifts to your most valuable customers: These gifts don't have to be expensive, but they're much more effective when they're thoughtful and personalized.
- Adopt a point-based system: Your reward system needs to be comprehensive and fair, and it should be easy for customers to figure out how it works and benefits them. If you have customers that have racked up a significant amount of points during the holiday shopping season, they may be eager to come back and cash in on their points.
- Upsell and cross-sell: You can offer additional products that supplement an initial purchase or provide personalized recommendations that might convince customers to try a different product. This is can also help you retarget consumers that have made a purchase during the holiday season.
- Reward loyalty with recognition: If you don't send gifts, you should at least send "congratulations" or "thank you" cards that recognize customer loyalty. Even a quick shoutout on social media can go a long way with a customer supporting your brand.
4. Prioritize the customer experience.
Shopping is an experience, and customers will always remember your brand if you make that experience unique and delightful.
Improving the customer experience requires more than just providing special prices, gifts, and offers. Emotional factors play a crucial role in the buying process, like how pleasant your store is, how you support your visitors, and even how you display your products in store, in your catalogs, and online.
Here are a few factors that you should prioritize when crafting an excellent customer experience:
- Delight new customers visually: Whether it's in your store or on your website, you should make your brand visually appealing.
- Make it easy to discover your products: Improving product discovery will increase your average order value and make your customers feel like you understand what they want.
- Personalize the shopping experience: Customers crave experiences that are unique to their needs and interests. You can personalize your customer experience by gathering customer feedback and creating content and campaigns based on their input.
- Make returns easy: Many returns are made in January, so it's smart to remind customers that they can trust you if they're not satisfied with your product. This can reduce buyers remorse as customers know they’re easily able to initiate a return or exchange if they’re not satisfied.
5. Implement omnichannel customer service options.
Omnichannel customer service is a valuable strategy for retaining customers post-holiday season, and in general, because customers want to be able to reach out to you on their preferred channels, whether via email, a social media DM, or by visiting you in-store.
An omnichannel support strategy ensures that you have service agents across multiple channels, ready to meet customers where they are. Customers are more likely to stick around when your business is responsive and timely.
6. Follow up after the holiday season with email marketing.
Email addresses are like gold for marketers because you can leverage email lists to follow up with customers after purchase. You can send them information about their orders, unique offers, segmentation emails, and valuable content related to your brand.
The most powerful ways to leverage emails include:
- Promoting new offers, bundles, and special gifts to a specific segment of your target audience to increase engagement.
- Sharing relevant content from your company's blog and establishing your brand as a thought leader in your industry.
- Interacting with your audience by surveying them and asking questions about their experience with your brand.
- Sending email newsletters containing updates about new products and information that your audience will find valuable.
Email is a beneficial communication channel. But, to dominate email, you need a strong online presence to convert leads once they engage with your content. Fortunately, there are plenty of handy tools and resources available to help you build and grow a digital brand.
6. Personalize the customer journey.
One of the best ways to engage customers is by personalizing their experience with your business. Doing so creates a customer journey tailored to their needs and designed specifically with them in mind. This makes it hard for competitors with a one-size-fits-all approach to win over your most loyal customers because you've created an experience that's customized based on their preferences.
Remember, the devil is in the details, so below are a few elements you should pay attention to when outlining a customer journey map.
- Entertaining Experience:Whether it's your content, store, or website, a delightful experience makes your brand much easier to remember.
- Handwritten Notes: A handwritten letter is much more genuine than sending an email or linking a customer to a "thank you" page. So, try to have upper management or C-level employees write personalized thank you letters to your customers when appropriate.
- Personalized Gifts: These might be a bit more expensive, but depending on your customer's lifetime value, it may make sense. The higher their customer lifetime value is, the more money they'll generate for your business over time. Buying them a nice gift now will end up paying for itself if you continue to retain them as a customer.
- Unique Unboxing Experience: People record unboxing videos because it's one of the most exciting parts of the buying experience. If you can make your packaging a delightful part of the customer journey, it will make your brand much more memorable and may even give you some free promotional content, too — like in the video below.
These tips should not only help you maintain your sales momentum through January, but retain customers long after the holiday season is over.