We’ve all done it. Picked up a holiday gift that’s a product or brand unfamiliar to us. Then, whether we delighted the person we gave it to or not, that’s it. We never go back. 

Therein lie the opportunities for brands wishing to scoop up the millions of shoppers who likely fit into this category and make them adoring fans.

Though consumers are starting to be more cautious with their spending than they have been in the last couple of years, the holiday season remains a time when many are looking to discover new products and brands. While these initial purchases benefit retailers, repeat purchases are even more valuable.

Sarah Cascone, vice president of marketing at Bluecore, noted, "With an abundance of promotions and deals offered over the holiday shopping season, it’s typically a time that shoppers will set out to try new products and brands.” She added that while the first purchase is an achievement, retailers should not only focus on acquiring new customers through their acquisition programs, but also on retaining them after the first purchase — as it is equally or even more important. 

Bluecore research shows that repeat customers become increasingly valuable over time. For example, customers who make two purchases are 101% more valuable than customers who make only one purchase.

Below are five strategies for converting those one-time buyers into repeat customers:

1. Offer Value to Build Customer Loyalty

Struggling with inflation and economic uncertainty, 56% of shoppers in a Verint study indicated “value for the money” as one of the two most important factors influencing their loyalty to mass-market retailers.

Retailers that delight first-time shoppers can also benefit greatly. According to the Verint study, 88% of those customers are likely to make a repeat purchase, 82% are likely to recommend the store to friends or family, 68% are likely to join a loyalty program and 63% are likely to write a positive review,.

As Jenni Palocsik, Verint’s vice president of marketing insights, experience and enablement stated, “At a time when global inflation has become one of the biggest issues facing consumers, leaving them with less disposable income, maintaining ‘share of wallet’ is critical for retailers.”

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2. Personalize Post-Purchase Messages to Win Customers

According to Ryan Turner, founder of the Ecommerce Intelligence Email Marketing Agency, one of the most effective ways online retailers can turn one-time holiday shoppers into loyal repeat customers is to design highly personalized post-purchase sequences. “Ideally the customer will feel like the campaigns were designed specifically for them,” Turner said.

To maximize customer lifetime value and increase repeat purchase rates, brands should go beyond generic follow-up messaging and discounts and design specific post-purchase paths for customers that are relevant to the items they have just purchased, he added. Too often when making an online purchase customers receive generic follow-up messaging simply offering a discount on future orders, but brands need to go far beyond this to maximize customer lifetime value and increase repeat purchase rates as much as possible.

Brands should design specific post-purchase paths for customers so that each buyer will receive a personalized marketing sequence after they make a purchase that's relevant to the item or items they've just bought, Turner added. “One of the most effective ways to do this is with targeted cross-sells and up-sells, which are informed by a brand's own business intelligence, along with a customer's purchase history. Ideally these campaigns will be cross-channel efforts,” he said.

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3. Reel ‘em in With Loyalty Rewards

Jay Jaffin, CMO at Blackhawk Network, said company research indicated that 60% of holiday shoppers were planning to seek offers such as coupons, promotions, brand/retailer discounts and loyalty point offers this past holiday season.

But those shoppers may only be interested in the discounts, meaning their return is iffy at best. Instead of relying on one-time discounts and similar promotions, marketers should focus their holiday marketing efforts on loyalty points and other rewards-based promotions, Jaffin suggested. “They are more sustainable long-term solutions that can drive 58% more revenue and offer an 8% greater return on marketing investment than instant discounts via ongoing customer engagement and sales opportunities.”

Related Article: How to Optimize Customer Acquisition and Retention

4. Secure Customers With an Always-on Approach

While many brands focus their holiday marketing strategies on customers who buy on Black Friday or the weeks following, many consumers are planning their holiday purchases much earlier in the year, according to Gartner. This means holiday and other purchases can be secured via a focus on the “always-shopping” customer, rather than just on the “hot” Black Friday-Christmas holiday shopping season. Such an effort will also help boost sales for other special days/events, like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

Kassi Socha, director analyst at Gartner, suggested, “Consider launching an online category dedicated to gifting that lives year-round. This creates a destination for shoppers to use whenever they want and builds long-term SEO value for gifting-related keywords.” Additionally, prior to fall, brands should evaluate how to promote this category on their websites, apps and in stores, and drive traffic through both digital performance channels and in-store efforts, she explained.

5. Convert Customers With AI-Powered Ads

David Ly, Iveda Solutions CEO, said, Brands looking to build next-level customer loyalty and successfully turn holiday shoppers into repeat customers should look to AI-powered ads to provide an elevated customer experience.

“Whether it’s companies bringing their mascots to life, or avatars engaging with users via AI-powered billboards and signage, AI will enable advertisers to take their efforts up a notch. Soon, instead of a person handing out flyers, individuals will get specific, targeted solicitations as they’re waiting for the street light to change, walking toward an ATM, or refueling their car at a gas station."

Additionally, smart online shopping with AI assistants is right around the corner, Ly added. “These AI-enabled aides will have the ability to suggest items that customers will love, all while making unique recommendations based on the person being shopped for. This type of automation will not only simplify the lives of customers, it’ll keep them coming back for more,” he said.

Final Thoughts on Converting One-Time Holiday Shoppers

Many economists expect a recession in 2023, but even in the absence of a recession, sales tend to fall off after the holiday shopping rush. While some decline is natural, the brands that will be the most successful will be able to drive repeat purchases from customers throughout the year from first-time holiday customers.