5 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty During the Holiday Retail Season

The holiday shopping season offers a unique opportunity for retailers to gain the loyalty of two different customers at once: The gift buyers, and the gift recipients. Retailers that can delight both by making their lives easier during this stressful season will win big. But what should retailers focus on if they want to get it right?

According to Comscore, the top five factors that influence online customer satisfaction (CSAT) are price, site navigation, delivery, package condition, and customer service. Three of those five factors—delivery, package condition, and customer service—are part of the post-purchase leg of the journey. To keep customers happy, retailers should be doing everything they can to ensure a customer is satisfied with everything that happens after they’ve clicked the buy button.

Acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as keeping an existing one—and at no point is this more true than during the high-stakes holiday season. Here are 5 ways that retailers can ensure their post-purchase experience will keep customers merry, bright, and loyal.

Be explicit about estimated delivery dates.

No one wants to spend a ton of time picking out the perfect gift only to discover it won’t arrive on time. To avoid disappointing your customers, make sure messaging around cut off and estimated delivery dates (EDD) is well-placed and straightforward. Publish ‘purchase by’ dates via multiple channels: site banners, email and social marketing, product page disclaimers, and pop ups. It’s just good business: 60% of online shoppers say they are more likely to choose a retailer that can tell them the exact date a package will arrive, so retailers should be able to give customers a clear estimated delivery date before they hit the buy button.

There will always be consumers who procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping. The retailers that make it clear that they can get gifts delivered on time will see more last-minute orders and earn more shopper loyalty.

Make sure your returns policy is easy to find.

Picking out a gift for someone is tough, but it’s even tougher if the recipient gets stuck with a gift they don’t like. If a consumer can’t easily figure out your returns policy, she’ll likely leave your site and find a retailer that can guarantee her loved ones end up with items they actually want. A clear returns policy is crucial at any time of the year, as 49% of shoppers want to check those details out before committing to a purchase. But during the holidays, having an easy-to-find policy becomes even more critical.

To encourage more gift purchases, many retailers opt to extend their returns policy around the holidays. Make sure any changes are crystal clear, and be as specific as possible. If you leave it ambiguous, it could lead to a lot of confusion—and frustrations—down the road. An example of a clear returns policy looks like this: “Purchases made between November 15 and January 1 may be returned within 60 days of the purchase date.”

Your returns experience can also help you win over new customers in the form of giftees, since 75% of shoppers say that an easy return or exchange is likely to make them come back.

The CTR from branded tracking pages back to a retailer’s website increases by 3.8% during the holidays.

Keep traffic coming back to your site with on-brand tracking.

When you send customers to an external website for delivery updates—whether it’s UPS, USPS, FedEx, or DHL—you’re no longer able to manage that experience. But by implementing a branded tracking page that integrates shipping details from your carriers, you can maintain control over your customer’s post-purchase journey. A branded tracking page ultimately serves as a control center where customers can continue to check in on, redirect, or hold their packages to ensure they reach recipients on time and at the right address.

By keeping shoppers within your own branded ecosystem, you can drive additional traffic and revenue with strategic marketing initiatives. This is particularly effective during the holiday season, when shoppers are regularly checking in on their shipments. In fact, according to Narvar data, the click-through rate from branded tracking pages back to a retailer’s website increases by 3.8% during the holidays.

Alert customers through the right channels at the right time.

When receiving updates about online orders, 38% of shoppers want to be contacted via multiple channels. Email is still the king of customer communication (93% of shoppers refer back to emails for record-keeping), but texts, push notifications, and messenger apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp can offer more immediacy for timely updates about delivery statuses and delays. Retailers that want to cover all of their communication bases should allow customers to opt-in to receive notifications through these emerging channels.

Along with delivering status notifications, these channels can also play an important role in how your customer service team operates during this busy time. AI-powered chatbots can take over some of the overbearing customer service load by answering simple order tracking questions, such as, ‘When will my package arrive?’ This allows your human representatives to stay focused on the more nuanced and pressing matters, ensuring your customers get the attention and service they need.

98% of customers feel better about a company if they’re notified as soon as something goes wrong.

Be proactive when something goes wrong.

In an ideal world, no order would be delayed, no package damaged, and no delivery lost. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, and the better prepared retailers are to handle the inevitable, the better their customers will feel despite the hiccups. The most important thing a retailer can do is be proactive: 98% of customers feel better about a company if they’re notified as soon as something goes wrong. By sending timely messages about disruptions, you’ll be able to get ahead of a customer’s frustration. For instance, you might be able to let a customer edit location info in case of a late delivery, or maybe even offer her a discount to make up for the delay.

In order to be proactive, retailers need to understand what’s going on with their orders on the backend. One way to do that is to look at the order data together with the carrier data to understand where and how often disruptions are occurring. How frequently are packages getting delayed? Is there a problem with a particular DC? Get ahead of these issues by looking closely at the data and you can a) be equipped to proactively alert customers, and b) find places to improve operations across the board and better prepare for next year’s holiday rush.

The holidays can increase sales year-round.

Delivering a seamless, customer-centric shopping experience will set retailers apart in a season filled with stressful shopping situations. It’s a time to focus on fostering lifelong customer relationships, and not just increasing short-term profits. By making things as simple as possible for customers during the holiday post-purchase journey, retailers will set themselves up to see year-round success.

For more tips about how to optimize your post-purchase experience for holiday, be sure to download our preparedness eBook.