The holiday season is upon us, and end of year sales are expected to be strong. As an online retailer, you want to be perfectly positioned to reach consumers as 2018 draws to a close. After all, 24% of new ecommerce customers are acquired during the holidays, and 20–30% of annual business is generated during the holiday peak, according to RJ Metrics and NRF.
“To do well during the holiday season, you have to do well digitally,” says Sucharita Kodali, Lead Retail Analyst at Forrester. “Of course, you want to do well in physical stores too, but you absolutely need to own digital.”
This season, you’re likely to see an influx of purchases, many from first-time customers. But how can you ensure these new customers stick around, staying loyal to your brand throughout the year? It’s essential that you take the right steps now to build powerful relationships with customers coming out of peak season and set yourself up well to retain them throughout the year. We’re sharing four things you need to do this holiday season to gain repeat customers.
1. Optimize the experience for both gift buyers and receivers
During the holidays, consumers are giving and receiving gifts. This gift-giving spirit means that you have two opportunities to delight customers. This is an extremely powerful opportunity, as the gift buyer may be a loyal customer already, whereas the recipient may be unfamiliar with your brand or your products.
“The holiday season gives you an opportunity for a ‘twofer,’” says Charlie Cole, Chief Digital Officer and Global Chief eCommerce Officer at Tumi and Samsonite. “If you have both a giver and a receiver, both of those people are a chance to optimize the experience so that they become return customers.”
Many gifts will be purchased by a gift giver and shipped directly to the recipient. In these situations, the tracking process needs to ease anxiety for the gift giver, who won’t be able to see a package on their doorstep. Similarly, if the recipient does not want the gift, the return and exchange process should be seamless.
2. Prioritize accurate delivery estimates and proactive communication
This is a time of year when consumers are anxious about the timing of deliveries. That’s why customer trust hinges on accurate delivery estimates and proactive communication.
According to research conducted by Narvar, 72% of consumers ranked on-time delivery as more important than loyalty points, customer service, and association with a good cause when it comes to becoming a repeat customer. Additionally, 60% of shoppers say that they will be more likely to choose a retailer that can tell them the exact date the package will arrive.
Even if things go wrong, proactive communication can make a huge difference. According to our research, 98% of customers say they feel better about a company if they are notified immediately when something goes wrong.
3. Ensure the return and exchange process is up to snuff
There’s nothing worse than not being able to return an item you purchased that wasn’t what you’d expected. That’s why 15% of consumers say they have re-gifted an item originally purchased for themselves to avoid having to return it.
In the age of online retail, returns are a major pain point. Returns can even prevent conversion, as consumers say they will not make a purchase if they have to pay for return shipping or can’t find the return policy.
“Consumers find it to be an enormous hassle to return items that they purchased online,” says Kodali. “The youngest consumers, usually those under 30 years of age, are even more aggravated, and retailers wind up with customers who are unhappy with their purchases.”
Getting returns and exchanges right can be a big advantage, especially during the holidays when many are receiving gifts. In fact, 95% of those who are satisfied with a company’s return process say they’ll purchase from the retailer again, according to our research. As a retailer, you want to make sure your return process is seamless for both gift buyers and gift recipients.
4. Consider consumers’ channel preferences
During the holidays, many consumers are sensitive to crowds and prefer to get the bulk of their shopping done online. We’ve found that consumers are 28% less likely to choose “buy online, pickup in-store” during the holidays than during the rest of the year.
Even so, some prefer to shop in store so they can evaluate products in person and get personal assistance. If you want to continue to reach customers after the holidays, you must consider channel preferences and personalize your ongoing marketing efforts accordingly.
Create loyal customers this holiday season
The holiday season represents a major opportunity for retailers. It’s not only a time of year to make more sales and gain new customers, but is also the perfect time to create the foundation for customer loyalty. By prioritizing the customer experience for both gift buyers and receivers, you’ll be well-positioned to be a consumer favorite throughout 2019. To learn more about how to create loyalty this season, watch our webinar on making the holidays count.