How to Get Holiday Shoppers to Come Back in the New Year

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Customers acquired in Q4 provide 40% less lifetime value than online shoppers who come in the rest of the year.

For most online retailers, the holidays are a mad grab for dollars that will make or break their years. But Christmastime can also be a valuable customer-acquisition period. “You find more one-time buyers, people who come in looking for that perfect gift. But we spend a lot of time exploring what to do about this with our retail clients. We want to capture those dollars, but what can we do to extend the lifetime value of these customers?” says Corey Pierson, CEO of Custora, a lifecycle marketing company.

In an analysis of its customer base over the last three holiday seasons, AgilOne, another predictive marketing provider, found that customers acquired in Q4 project a 40% lower lifetime value (LTV) than those acquired over the rest of the year. Like Pierson, AgilOne CEO Omer Artun brainstorms with clients about ways to nurture these first-time visitors. “You have to put a number on the value of these customers,” he says. “You can say, ‘Well, they're still providing 60% of the value of regular customers,' but the question is what are you spending to acquire them.”

One of those clients, Julian Chu, feels that, when it comes to Q4 customers, marketers have to continue to be marketers and attempt to build long-term relationships. Chu, the partner in charge of digital marketing and e-commerce at Castanea Partners, finds email the best way to do this in efforts with consumer brands such as Thymes fragrances, Essentia water, and Donald J Pliner footwear.

“You have to think about how you can drive demand from these customers in the most efficient way and that's why email is so important,” Chu says. “It's not the time of the year to put money into costly acquisition channels where you're paying 10 to 15 percent commissions.”

Some ideas from Artun, Chu, and Pierson on how to increase the LTV of holiday shoppers:

  • Send them credits or cash-back offers that can be redeemed in the next quarter.
  • Develop a different series of welcome emails for them that are heavier on brand education and that detail product categories outside of the ones they shopped.
  • Segment them as gift-givers and be sure to return to them on other gifting occasions such as Valentines Day, Fathers Day, and Mothers Day.

Holiday buyers made purchases and shared personal information. That's worth some follow-up, even if at a low level of investment. “They came to your site and purchased something, so you're starting from a place where you already know something about them,” says Pierson.

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