By: Liran Mayost, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Como
As countless shoppers hurry to finish their holiday shopping before they miss their chance, business owners know that they are the ones who really don’t want to miss out on the opportunities of the holiday season. After all, for countless businesses, this is the peak sales season that owners look forward to all year.
Unfortunately, many businesses get so laser-focused on maximizing their sales for the current holiday season that they ignore the season’s potential for driving future sales. Sure, they slash their prices and advertise like crazy in order to encourage customers to buy. But they don’t really invest in building the customer relationships that could fuel their success for the rest of the coming year – and they let their potential repeat customers slip right through their fingers.
But business owners with foresight know holiday specials aren’t just a way to close out the current year in the black. Instead, this time of year is an opportunity to plant the seeds of the customer relationships they can use to start the next year off on the right foot.
To help you use the coming days to lay the groundwork for new customer relationships and increased sales in 2017, here are three ways you can turn holiday shoppers into year-round customers:
1. Deliver a Personalized Customer Experience
Perhaps the most obvious way to make sure this holiday season is a springboard for next year’s sales is by making sure your customers have such an excellent experience that they’ll want to return and shop from you again. In creating this positive experience, it’s hard to overstate the importance of personalization.
Keep in mind: While sending tailored offers to your customers makes it more likely that they will buy from you, those offers are only one part of a personalized customer experience. The goal is for the shopper to feel like their entire relationship with your business is unique – not to feel like some algorithm is simply analyzing their past purchases and automatically predicting what they’ll want to buy next.
If you do succeed in creating a positive, personalized experience for a new shopper, you’ll increase the chances that that first sale will be just one of many. Once a shopper feels like you see them as an individual, they’re more likely to become a loyal customer in the long run. Fortunately for you, making that happen doesn’t have to be expensive. Simply communicating with your customers in an individualized way can be enough to make a powerful difference.
You can start personalizing the customer experience by collecting and using details about individual shoppers and their purchasing habits. For example, if you know that Jane frequently buys hamburgers from you and you know her date of birth, you can offer her a free side dish when she orders a hamburger anytime during the week of their birthday. That not only gives Jane an enticing offer that she will be tempted to take you up on, but it sends a clear message that you care enough to remember her special day.
2. Make It Official with a Loyalty Club
As its name suggests, a loyalty club is a great way to keep your customers coming back time after time. The very act of signing up creates a connection between the customer and your business, giving them a reason to shop from you again. If you think of every shopper who buys from you this holiday season as a potential repeat customer (and you should!), a loyalty club can help you realize that potential.
At first glance, it seems obvious that during the holiday season the point of your loyalty club is to make sure new shoppers will come back again in 2017. But having an effective loyalty program is about more than offering discounts and rewards to your shoppers. It can be the key to a pleasantly personalized experience for your customers, while giving you valuable insights to help you drive sales, generate repeat business, and even cut costs.
If you don’t take practical steps to make it tempting, easy, and convenient to join your loyalty club, you’re likely missing out on one of the most promising opportunities of the holiday season. It’s important to let shoppers know about your loyalty club’s perks, encourage them to sign up right at your cash register, and make it quick and simple for them to do so. If possible, letting customers join for free can also be a great way to increase your future sales. Better yet, offer each new member a free gift just for joining.
Once a customer joins your loyalty club, you can start getting to know them as an individual. To start, it’s a good idea to ask them for some basic information as part of the signup process. For instance, you can require them to provide their name, phone number, street address, and date of birth. Add to that the details that you now have about their first purchase, and right off the bat you have valuable information that you can use to better serve that customer while boosting your sales. Then, with each subsequent purchase, you can get to know a little more about their preferences and shopping habits.
3. Spread the Word Through Brand Ambassadors
To get an even greater long-term return on your investment in holiday sales, you can amplify their impact by turning some of your most loyal shoppers into brand ambassadors. A brand ambassador is a customer who is so satisfied with your product that they’re willing to tell others how great they think your business (or a specific product) is. Having a strong brand ambassador is like having a great testimonial, except that a brand ambassador will actively speak on your behalf.
Brand ambassadors increase your reach in a cost-effective way. While some are paid for their time, many are not. You simply find the right customers and reach out to them – and if they’re impressed enough with your product that they are willing to speak on your behalf, you’ve gotten a strong advocate to spread the word.
To reach out to prospective brand ambassadors, first identify your best customers. Using data from your loyalty club, you can pick from your most frequent or highest-spending shoppers. Then get in touch with them, expressing your appreciation for their continued business and encouraging them to share that experience with their friends, family, and social media followers. Let them know what they have to gain by being a brand ambassador – and make sure it’s something worthwhile, like special offers or useful information. Treat them like VIP customers, because that’s exactly what they are.
If your effort pays off, your brand ambassador program will empower you to make even more out of the customer relationships you establish during the holiday season. Remember: Your goal is to create such a personalized, positive experience during the holidays that many of your first-time shoppers will not just go on to become loyal customers, but will encourage others to become loyal customers.
Sell More in 2017 – Starting Today
As the holiday shopping season comes to a close, you have a window of opportunity to turn today’s shoppers into tomorrow’s repeat customers. While many businesses will only focus on getting as many sales as possible before ringing in the new year, those that take the long view are already hard at work, encouraging their holiday season shoppers to come back again soon. That approach can involve extra work: planning ahead to create a positive, personalized experience; making it easy, convenient, and tempting to join your loyalty club; and building relationships with brand ambassadors.
For better or for worse, you’re making an impression on your first-time shoppers this time of year. By making the right impression, you can use the holiday season as an opportunity to invest in your business’s future – and to start boosting next year’s sales before 2017 has even begun.
About the Author
Liran Mayost is Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Como, where he leads the company’s innovation, business intelligence, product roadmap and development. Como is the leading cloud-based customer management solution for small and midsize chains, empowering businesses to drive loyalty, engagement, and business growth since 2010. www.como.com
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