Tips for Online Retailers to Gain and Retain Customers over the Holidays

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From free shipping to sneak peeks, Retention Science’s tips can help improve e-commerce conversions.

How Much Are Your Existing Customers Contributing to Your Current Sales?

Infographic: How Much Are Your Existing Customers Contributing to Your Current Sales?

Customer retention is king in the competitive retail industry and should be a part of every company’s strategic marketing planning process

E-commerce holiday season sales are projected to tally around $62 billion this year. There's an enormous opportunity for online retailers to capitalize on this prime shopping time, not only to generate sales immediately, but also to set up repeat business for the future.

Retention Science, a leader and innovator in retention marketing, offers the following tips to help retail marketers beat the competition and keep the new customers that they earn over the holiday season.

Offer free shipping – Consumers do not like to pay for shipping and, according to new ecommerce research, they're twice as likely to make a purchase if offered free shipping than if offered a percentage-off price. With Amazon raising its free-shipping minimum to $35 this year, there’s an opportunity for smaller retailers to compete with even better shipping deals.

Don’t overlook the subject lines – Don’t underestimate the value of a good subject line in an email marketing campaign. It’s nearly as important as the offer itself. Pick a subject line that’s creative, yet professional. Don’t include an obvious sales pitch and stay away from words like ‘buy’ and ‘free.’ Make sure it doesn’t contain any words that would be considered spam. Do an A/B split campaign to test the effectiveness of a subject line before using it broadly.

Give shoppers a sneak peek – Reward existing customers by giving them a sneak peek of a sale or promotion ahead of time. This will make them feel valued, while also planting a seed in their mind for future sales. Send a sneak peek three to seven days before the sale and consider including a promo code or special offer to move it over the goal line.

Include Gmail Promotions tab reminders – Gmail recently launched a new tabbed interface that funnels emails into various folders depending on their content. Marketing emails are automatically sent to a Promotions folder where they can be easily overlooked. Online retailers should remind customers to regularly check their Promotions tab to ensure they don’t miss any killer offers. It could mean the difference between a missed email and a sale.

Start with simple segmentation – One-size-fits-all offers are ineffective and usually wasteful. To drive sales, retailers must personalize, which calls for understanding their customers and behavior. Retailers lacking the resources to determine real-time purchasing intent can use less sophisticated measures to establish their offer strategy. Online retailers can segment customers simply by analyzing their past purchase history (amount spent, if they bought based on a certain offer, etc.), and use that data to identify the level of discount needed to convert.

Gather the “right” data – Not all customer data is good data. Some just serves to clutter the process. Online retailers need to make sure they are culling the “right” data that helps them customize future messaging, deals and product promotions. Focus mainly on behavioral data like frequency of site visits, product page views and length of time on site. Google Analytics and Tag Manager are good inexpensive tools to gather data, and Retention Science can leverage the data to create personalized campaigns.

Plan post-holiday campaigns – It costs less to retain than to acquire customers, and repeat customers tend to spend more. All too often, marketers fall short in their marketing plan and lose all of the customers they fought to gain over the holidays. Now is the time to start working on a post-holiday campaign strategy. Start creating campaigns early, leveraging the data collected over the holidays to personalize offers for new customers in January.

“Marketers invest a massive amount to acquire new customers in November and December, and then drop the ball in January when it comes to re-engaging the customers that they’ve earned,” said Jerry Jao, CEO of Retention Science. “Customer retention is king in the competitive retail industry and should be a part of every company’s strategic marketing planning process.”

About Retention Science

Retention Science is a leader and innovator in retention marketing. Using big data analytics and predictive algorithms, its retention automation platform helps online retailers re-engage customers by profiling their behavior and creating timely and relevant retention campaigns for each individual, resulting in increased lifetime value. Clients such as CafePress, The Honest Company and Chrome Industries leverage the platform to personalize their retention campaigns and increase customer spending by up to 133 percent. Retention Science has been recognized by Fast Company as an Innovation Agent and by Ernst & Young for Entrepreneur of the Year. The company is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and backed by industry-leading investors such as Baroda Ventures, Forerunner Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. For more information, visit or follow the company on Twitter or on Facebook.

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