Retaining Your 2012 Holiday Customers in 2013 and Beyond

Our recent Twitter Chat, hosted by ExactTarget, saw a frenzy of Twitter activity as retailers, email marketing professionals, and eCommerce service providers added their answers to the questions, "How do you Retain your Holiday Customers?"

All year long, retailers have been building their subscriber list, their followers and fans, and working to convert 2011 holiday shoppers into repeat buyers.  And since September or earlier, many online retailers have spent a lot of time, money, and effort to drive traffic to their websites during the 2012 holiday season. Hopefully a decent portion of this traffic has converted into a first time buyer, or at the very least, a subscriber. 

The results from the first major holiday period, Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, are in, and the numbers are exciting.  Checkout questions and answers from our #ETCafe below:

Q1 How were Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday sales for retailers this year compared to 2011?

  • Overall, online sales were fantastic. Up at least 16-20%. Here’s a breakdown according to comScore:
  • Black Friday topped $1B, up 26% from 2011. Thanksgiving Day rose 17%
  • Nov 1 to Cyber Monday '12 sales rose 16% to more than $16B
  • Cyber Monday sales up 20%+ from 2011 to $1.5B+
  • Our clients grew revenue 73.7% from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday ‘11 to ‘12
  • Check out holiday retail graphs, charts & insights at 
  • @gina_mueller Spending increased 17% from 2011- here is cool inforgraphic I found around Cyber Monday
  • @gina_mueller And apparently mobile traffic grew 70% from 2011!!#CyberMonday

We're got some in-depth coverage of holiday stats on our 2012 Holiday Retail Report. Some key insights that have emerged from analysis of our clients' data relate to the differences between one-time and repeat buyers.

Q2 How many purchases came from first-time visitors versus repeat customers?  

  • Overall growth in eCommerce was tide that lifted all ships.
  • Large growth in one-time buyers, esp Cyber Monday, strongest for acquisition marketing
  • Our clients saw 49.5% growth in revenue from repeat buyers and 104% for first time buyers, from 2011 to 2012l
  • In terms of revenue, it’s a 48/52% split in favor of one time buyers. For most retailers, this means a higher AOV for repeat buyers
  • Also, the LTV of a repeat buyer is 5x higher than the LTV of a one-time buyer
  • Importantly, Black Friday saw highest % growth of repeat buyers in these 5 days, beating Cyber Monday.

Revenue Growth from One-Time, Repeat, and All Customers for Online Retailers during 5-Day Period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, 2011 to 2012

But when you factor in the costs of acquisition - from free shipping, to discounts, to PPC, to the new costs associated with Google Product Shopping - many retailers only just break even on each new holiday customer.  Most retailers unlock the real customer value by converting them from a one-time to a repeat buyer, which requires a solid retention marketing strategy that goes into effect right after the holidays.  Our data shows a near 5 times increase in Customer Lifetime Value of a repeat customer.  We asked retailers how they were managing their retention marketing thus, and what their plans were for 2013:

Q3 What kind of retention email campaigns or offers performed really well - or poorly - this season? 

  • Among our clients, Black Friday was the 1 day where majority of revenue came from repeat buyers. Acquisition dominated rest
  • “First Purchase” & “Win Back” Series performed well. Open, Click and Conversion rates higher than average.
  • #Retailers who “Warmed up their subscriber list” in 2 mo's before #Thanksgiving w/ teasers, brand-builders saw higher conversions
  • Use of automated, triggered emails (like 30 days after first purchase; product recs; helped lay the groundwork for revenue growth.  
  • Deep discounts and free shipping offers got big traction - but kept margins low for one-time holiday buyers. 
  • Big challenge is to convert to repeat buyers where Margins and LTV are higher. 
  • @helloitsjess my client rejigged their loyalty scheme and offered discounts and exclusive events, supporting with Social and email
  • @coreybaur Additionaly sometimes offering "purchaser only discounts" to people who bought will get them to buy again

Q4 Now, what’s your plan to retain your holiday shoppers after Dec 26th?

  • Enroll all first time buyers in a Welcome Series. 3 emails over 15 days inviting them to treat themselves
  • People have holiday gift money to spend! Offer promotions to ensure that money is spent with you. Gift cards rock.
  • Remind customers of your great return policies (if you have good ones), but only send to holiday buyers
  • Consider sending a special thank you gift to your top 100 (500?) holiday spenders. Wow them, and you’ll keep them coming back....
  • will send 200 hand written thank you notes to for $2.50 each. This would WOW your top customers
  • We guide many clients to suppress recent holiday purchasers from final holiday campaigns, esp in week leading up to x-mass. 
  • @sciencePlusSoul You have to figure out who your high- and low-risk customers are ... and appropriate mrktg spend 4 each
  • @aerosly I still believe "Content is King." Hope to provide useful information, tips and solid offers that ppl want in 2013.
  • @coreybaur Discuss satisfaction with purchase, links to product returns and customer service numbers. Happy Customer = Repeat Customer
  • @MktVue For some of our clients we plan to wish a Happy New Year and remind them that they have 24/7 emergency services if needed.

Beyond holiday customer retention, we asked retailers about other key strategies for 2013: growing subscriber lists, up-selling and cross-selling, and social engagement:

Q5 What are you doing this holiday season to grow your subscriber list?

  • Put up a lightbox! 250-300% increase in signups. Case studies on the effectiveness of the lightbox
  • “Subscribe” checkbox at checkout. It’s surprising how many miss this. Even if you think it’s there, double check it!
  • Put links to email signup forms in your transactional emails. Receipts and shipping notifications have great open rates
  • If LTV of subscriber > cost of ad, run social ads/posts inviting subscription. Link to your website

Q6 What upsell/cross-sell offers do you have planned for post-holiday gifts?

  • Set up replenishment emails for consumables. Even if it’s gift, the recipient will appreciate the giver’s attn to detail
  • Use receipts/notifications to embed product recs. It’s legal and effective
  • Consider an email back to the buyer: “Did you buy this as a gift? Want one too? Treat yourself.”
  • Use dynamic content to embed a pic/link to the item most recently purchased

Q7 How is your Social team or strategy ready to react to holiday themes, and how will you leverage Social as part of a retention/engagement story next year? 

  • Marry social and order data to find loyal fans, then reward them for sharing. (we can help you connect #Social to #Email)
  • Use social community to recommend gift ideas to each other. Everyone struggles with this. 
  • Run surveys in advance of holidays to inform merchandising mix and choice of promotions 
  • Use @SpringMetrics for instant pop-out discounts for Likes and Follows. (we integrate their web analytics data to #Email)
  • @Pinterest is blowing up for many #Retailers. Up the quality of your product photos for max ROI on Pins.
  • Use #Social to talk about the Heart and Soul of your business - share fun stories, great product reviews, photos and videos of products in action.
  • @aerosly Immediately after purchase (especially 1st purchase) is best time to ask for social recommendations.
  • @coreybaur Social is an important customer service tool during holidays - customers want to talk to you how they want / not how you want

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