Sales statistics often suggest the fourth quarter or holiday season is the busiest time of the year for retailers, and a significant amount of marketing, sales, and discounts arrive in November and December each year. However, business doesn't stop on January 1st unless the company is a seasonal business like a Christmas tree lot or a store full of holiday decorations.
Is the post-holiday slump inevitable, or are there ways to encourage sales activity throughout January and the rest of the cold winter days? Whether your business is a multinational corporation or a mom and pop store on Main Street, you have several ways to lure customers through your door even if they just spent all of December shopping.
Here are some excellent ideas for getting customers to return for more shopping after the end of the holiday season.
Encourage People to Spend their Gift Cards
The ease of giving people gift cards for the holidays has made them a popular part of the holiday season. Post-holiday marketing geared toward people who have gift cards to spend may help your business take advantage of the billions of dollars worth of gift cards people buy each year.
According to Market Watch, not only do holiday shoppers buy more than $100 billion on gift cards each year, but an extraordinary amount of that gift card money is never spent. They have also started spending more money each year on gift cards because of their convenience.
"Sales of gift cards have risen from $80 billion in 2007 to a forecasted $118 billion this year, a 47% increase in five years, according to a  report by advisory company CEB TowerGroup."
You may want to offer gift cards for your business, which may encourage customers to return after the hustle of the holiday season is over and they can shop in peace. Some people actively avoid the holiday season, and encouraging their return with gift card sales can help increase shopping throughout the winter.
Offer Incentives and Get Creative with Store Credit & Returns
Most retailers must brace for returns after the holiday season, but there are some simple ways to encourage your customers to shop for something new even though they return something when they reach the store.
For example, you may want to place the returns desk in the back of the store. Customers will need to stroll by merchandise to reach the return counter, and they might notice something they want to buy along the way.
Further, it's essential to create a returns process that's as easy for the customer as possible, particularly if they've received a gift during the holidays from your business. Printing gift receipts during the holiday season is essential.
Time also shares:
"…retailers have found that it’s wise to be especially accommodating with returns. Shoe and clothing e-seller Zappos offers free shipping on deliveries and returns, as well as a return policy that’s as hassle-free as they come. They’ve built a wildly popular business, in part, on the philosophy that frequent returners are also frequent buyers."
Additionally, you may offer a bonus for customers who make a return for store credit. A customer who returns a shirt would receive $20 for its full value in cash but would receive $22 in store credit with a percentage-based bonus.
Create a Loyalty Program
Many businesses today create customer loyalty programs, and they're a cost-effective method of encouraging repeat sales. They're popular with large, multinational corporations, and they're also a frequent part of Main Street USA with punch cards and loyalty discounts.
"Today, customers are accustomed to seeing rewards in myriad forms at businesses large and small. Popular examples include special coupon discounts from grocery stores, Amazon's Prime program, Zappos VIP membership, and numerous discount cards at retailers like Aeropostale and Barnes and Noble. Your credit card also probably offers you some payback the more you spend."
You can leverage your customer loyalty program for a boost in winter spending by creating extra loyalty discounts that run throughout January and into February. For example, perhaps your loyalty program offers a free item after a certain number of purchases.
Drop that purchase requirement down by one or two during January and you may encourage extra sales from customers who want to take advantage of the loyalty bonus before it goes away. Perhaps your loyalty program offers a $5 gift certificate after $100 in purchases. You might modify that requirement to $90 in January after the holidays.
Hold a Post-Holiday Contest
Shoppers love contests and will enter even if they have a better chance of being struck by lightning at the same time they're being attacked by a shark than winning most contests. The best price for any customer is always "free," and a contest offers an excellent way to encourage customers to come into your store even if they don't have any initial intention of buying something.
Retailer Signs shares:
"Contests are a great way to help drive your sales because people love winning and getting free things. And if for some reason someone doesn’t win, they may decide they need whatever prize you were offering and buy it after the contest is over."
Your customers might want to stay bundled up in their homes in January and February rather than venturing out to your business, but a contest can encourage those customers to put on their jackets and hats and come to your store to enter the contest, where it's very likely those customers will do a little shopping.
Market a Post-Holiday Sale
Sales are one of the simplest and easiest options for encouraging customers to return to your business after the madness of the holidays is over.
In fact, savvy shoppers know that shopping in January and beyond is one of the best ways to get great deals on items where the prices sometimes dip even lower than they were during the holidays. Did you know that the day after Christmas in Canada is like Black Friday in the United States?
"In Canada, the day after Christmas is a national holiday on par with Black Friday. Retailers draw lines on Boxing Day with door buster deals. Take their cue, recommends retail consultant Bob Phibbs. Put items on deep discount and create buzz on social media. Move merchandise with buy-two-get-one-free deals. These shoppers are excited to find something random at a bargain basement cost."
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