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Halfway to the Holidays: How to Keep Customers Year-Round

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August 3,2016

By Kristen Gramigna, BluePay

 

The holiday season may officially extend from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, but consumer decisions about what they’ll buy, from whom and when, take shape long before that. In fact, research by The NPD Group reveals that half of all holiday shoppers now tackle at least part of their holiday list before Thanksgiving.

 

To attract holiday shoppers, your best strategy is to cultivate a relationship with customers year-round. Here’s how:

 

Put your marketing muscle into paying customers. Think you can’t afford to offer customers appealing promotions, or include premium services that give them a reason to keep coming back? Consider that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than investing in a relationship to keep existing ones, according to Forrester Research. Analyze customer purchase history to get a sense of the price points, merchandise and occasions that attracted customers; and invest in promotions that give them more of what they want.
 

 

Measure your marketing efforts. The experts at Bain & Company estimate that businesses waste about half of their marketing budgets on customers who will never become truly loyal. The 80/20 rule (80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers) still applies, and becomes particularly important during the holiday season, when competition for customer dollars is fierce. Establish a customer ranking system to determine which customer segments are most loyal, or most likely to be. The more you understand about their loyalty potential, the more informed you can be about how much to invest in each of those segments, and when to stop investing so aggressively in those who are a lost cause.

 

Invest in loyalty by way of your employees. Loyal customers prioritize you over competitors for intangible reasons: like service and the feeling they have when they interact with your staff. Bain & Company recommends that businesses establish customer loyalty with a focus on front-line customer-facing staff. Fast food chain Chick-fil-A uses that approach by giving its store operators the freedom to earn more money in exchange for stellar sales, and low customer-defection rates.

Empower your front-line employees with tools like mobile payments that allow them to process customer purchases from anywhere in the store or off-site location, as soon as the customer is ready to buy. Offer your staff financial incentives like bonuses or commission based on customer satisfaction surveys; share how each employee’s performance stacks up to other co-workers to instill a sense of a shared mission to exceed customer expectations.

 

Give customers a voice. Encourage customers to connect with you on social media. Use this as a platform to give customers a voice. If you have a new product, for example, invite social media followers to decide the product name, or vote on the marketing campaign concept that will release it to the masses.  Host a special event and offer existing customers a premium item when they attend, or VIP seating to make them feel special. The two-way communication will be a venue you can use to listen to their feedback, and connect with them consistently.

 

Let them know their time is important. The amount of time you require customers to spend on the purchase process is critical during the holiday season. In addition to using mobile payments to expedite checkout processes, streamline your checkout flow for online purchases. Remove unnecessary form fields like — “Miss,” or “Ms.,” prefill city and state when the ZIP code is entered, and allow checkout as a guest or registered user. Test checkout flows on desktop and mobile devices to confirm usability.

When customers provide an email at checkout, send them notifications when their order ships, the expected delivery date, and the name and number of a person on your team they can contact directly with questions.

 

Attracting holiday customers requires that you invest in efforts to win their trust — year-round. Leverage the tools, promotional strategies and policies that put the customer first the moment he or she encounters your business, and use them to keep nurturing the relationship. You’ll fare better throughout the year, and become less threatened by competitive forces when the holiday season is in full swing.

 

 

 


 

Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer at BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO

 

 


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