How To Engage Past Customers To Grow Your Holiday Retail Sales

By Bob Phibbs


how to grow retail holiday salesIt’s been said it costs seven times as much to attract a new customer as it costs to retain an old one. This post will give you five ideas for how to use email to talk to your customers - those who have purchased from you  - and four others to get them to return more often.

In my work as a retail consultant, I continually find stores that fail to send emails, or that use email only to offer a discount or sadly, store owners who say, “We don’t have an email list, and I don’t think we don’t need one.”

And those three attitudes keep many stores’ sales small.

And for many when it comes to the holidays, it is easy to let your email marketing become one of those to dos that just don’t get done.

Don’t let that happen to you.  Not this year and here’s why...

This holiday season has the potential to be the best in years due to a confluence of factors: the Presidential election will be over; Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve and both of them are on the same Saturday; and third-quarter GDP, a broad measure of goods and services, has grown the fastest in two years.

Add to that the NRF announced that American consumers plan to spend an average of nearly a $1000 during the season this year. But it gets better…

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers plan to buy for themselves and spend an average $139.61, marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history.

How To Make Sure Your Holiday Retail Sales Are Up

Once someone says yes to the obligation of buying for others, they naturally will turn in greater numbers to the freedom of buying for themselves. I call it binge buying as the shopper rarely is conscious of a budget for themselves.

To get your clients to return more often, let’s begin with the most basic rule, you have to have an exceptional experience. You want to focus on the lifetime value of them and not on a single transaction.

It only makes sense that those who’ve had a good experience with your store will be open to your marketing messages.

Now before you blow off email marketing, according to Outbound Engine, email is the preferred source of communication for 72% of consumers. Think Millennials can’t be reached? Consider this: nearly 68% of teens and 73% of twentysomethings prefer communications from businesses to come via email. Blue Hornet found 34% of Americans check their email throughout the day. You want to be found where your customers spend their time...and that’s on email.

Since you have their email addresses because they have purchased from you before, you know they have an inbox that they are checking regularly, so don’t be afraid to email them on a regular basis to engage them.

While repeat purchases are your ultimate goal in marketing, it’s important to remember that your customer probably doesn’t want or need a hard-sell.

You just want to keep them engaged and interested in your brand. That old saying is still true, out of sight, out of mind.

A great email doesn’t seem like an ad, it seems like a favor.

That said, you need to provide value. No one wants clutter in their inbox. Before you hit send ask yourself, If I was receiving this, would I click on it? If yes, then proceed.

Here are 5 types of emails to get you started:

The replenishment email. Is there something that you carry that runs out and needs replenishment towards he end of the year? Could be as simple as shoe polish, as necessary as dog food, or as complicated as a vintage wine.

great email examples for businessThe joint event email. I had a client who co-hosted an event, The Secrets Every Smart Woman Should Know About How To Dress A Room.  She invited her clients to come to a one-hour presentation early in December. She teamed up with a woman’s apparel store to show the similarities between getting dressed – the appropriate foundations, the choice of color, the look you were trying to achieve, the appropriate fabric choices and accessories – and showed how those same decisions she already made daily applied to creating a great room. With holiday entertaining right around the corner, she got more business and the apparel retailer got more business too. All in a fun event that made both types of customers feel smarter.

The weather email.
Being local has its advantages. Look at how the Poncho email ties into the local weather. You could use similar product tie-ins in a similar format if you are a hair salon, a home center, a sporting goods store...pretty much you name it...and the humor is a bonus.

The informational email.
Take a common problem or topic of your customer – not drinking enough water, stuck wearing the same old thing, etc. email marketing for storesThen give them some reasons why it happens and strategies to help. Ideally this is a blog post you link to your website. See how the email above answers a pet owner’s concern, How To Understand What Your Dog Is Telling You.

Make them aware it’s time for an upgrade. Admittedly, this seems more geared to electronics but could be adapted to shoes, place settings, jewelry, clothing, you name it. Taking a page from BuzzFeed’s and Facebook’s popular list posts, and tell your customers how to know when a specific item needs replacing like in the example below.

marketing with email

Of course you can do this only if you have an email list, and you must religiously try to grow that list with every customer it if you take holding onto your customers seriously.

Every single person on your list gave you their permission to be contacted and because of this, your email should end up in their inbox. That’s a very different outcome than with Facebook where only 1-2% of your fans will see a post unless you boost it.  And boosting costs money and email is free.

Don’t get me wrong, social media is great for getting exposure, but email is a better sales predictor because it is direct contact with your own list of people who have actually spent money with you.

You must have a strategy of getting customers to sign up to your list. Imagine how big your email list could be if you had been actively nurturing it for five or more years.

Four bonus ideas to get your customers back in your retail store:

One of the easiest ways to get customers to return is to have great window displays. Nothing reminds people of the feeling they had at a store as much as a display window that creates a sense of wonder.

Take out a Google ad in your local area. Customers start searching for items online first; it’s just a fact of life.  Ideally, you would have a killer website that would organically rise to the top of local search results. Even if you have a poor website, your Google profile can be robust enough to feature directions, hours, and compelling photos so you can show up higher in search results in your local market to remind customers you have what they are searching for.

Do a Facebook LIVE video. Yes, I’m pushing this a lot. If you are a dress store, show how to accessorize that little black dress three different ways. If you are a toy store, show three ways to hide gifts away from prying eyes. If you are a men’s apparel store, show how to use a suit coat to make three different outfits – as a sport coat, over a hoodie and with a t-shirt. You get the idea. Because customers already trust you, they’ll be interested in whatever tips you share. You can also use this idea in your emails as well.

Show them before leaving. When a customer has decided to buy the gift for someone else, make sure to show them something specific for themselves based on your conversation with them.  This assumes of course, that you have built rapport during the process.

See also, How To Visual Merchandising Your Retail Holiday Store Windows

In Sum

Again, the point is out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t stay in front of your customers, they’ll forget you.

And then you’ll be spending a lot of money to try to attract strangers to shop with you. That’s expensive in both time and money and won't do much to grow your holiday retail sales.

You have to constantly be thinking of new ways to speak to your tribe of clients that isn’t based around Come in! We have a SALE!!!

Greater and greater discounts effectively transform your once loyal customers into discount shoppers willing to shop anywhere. Look no further than Gap and Abercrombie; they can’t seem to go a weekend without a 40% off sale.

While you can attract customers and retain them with loss-leaders, you make money on profitable customers.

Use these email tips and ideas to get your brick and mortar customers to return again and again.

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