The holiday season is known as “the most wonderful time of the year” to some. For small-business owners, this season is often the most profitable — marked by a flurry of activity and an influx of orders from people who’ve never purchased their products before.
With a little effort, savvy entrepreneurs can convert these first-time buyers into loyal, repeat customers. Here’s how two of our 2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest winners leverage the holiday season for long-term gains.
Build an Emotional Connection with your Customers
Boston-based ArtLifting is a for-profit, for-purpose company that empowers artists experiencing homelessness and disabilities through the sale of their original artwork, prints and products.
“Building the connection between the customer and artist is very important,” explained Amira Abedallah, director of marketing for ArtLifting. “We ship the artwork with information about the artist who created it. Then, we send emails with artist updates throughout the year to keep that connection strong.”
Many ArtLifting customers like to support local artists. A segmented customer list enables ArtLifting to quickly introduce new artists to existing customers in the same states, to more quickly generate interest in their work. To increase awareness during the busiest shopping time of the year, ArtLifting is opening a pop-up store at a popular shopping area in Boston in November and December.
“A pop-up store is a great opportunity to get in front of people who don’t know our brand. It’s an opportunity to show our products in person and share the powerful stories behind them,” Abedallah said. “We believe that customers who buy from our pop-up will become our e-commerce customers in the new year.”
Make It All About Them
Michigan-based CatastrophiCreations designs, builds and sells unconventional cat furniture to feline-loving customers worldwide. Even during the annual holiday rush, company co-founders Mike Wilson and Megan Hanneman still make sure every customer feels connected with their brand. When someone makes a purchase through CatatrophiCreations’ e-commerce site or Etsy, the order comes packaged with cards that tell the company’s backstory, along with installation instructions. For purchases made through websites where the company is trying to grow its presence, the insert offers a discount code for a subsequent purchase, if the customer posts a review on that site.
Two weeks after the package is delivered, each buyer receives a “customer check-in” email from Hanneman, that’s friendly, engaging and makes it obvious that she’s a real person, and a real cat-lover, too. “We ask if the cats are adjusting to their new furniture, and offer to help if things aren’t going right. That way, we can intervene if the customer has hung the piece too high or the cat isn’t interacting,” Hanneman said. “Happy customers are repeat customers. It’s important that we let them know that we care, and that we want them, and their cats, to be happy.” If “all is well,” Hanneman’s email also asks for a review, “so we know how cats and owners are enjoying our furniture, and where we can improve.”
She also explains how to post a review, as some customers are less technically inclined than others. “I think any time we send an email, a card or talk to a customer on the phone, we ask them to send us a picture of their cat, which cat people love to do,” Hanneman said. “We showcase these photos on our website and Instagram — really, all through our social media. This really makes our customers happy and when they share the posts, it makes other cat lovers aware of our company. That’s one way we continue to grow.”
Making a personal connection and focusing on your customer’s passion are two ways which small businesses can help make a connection and turn a first-time buyer into a long-term customer. Now, what about you?
Use your data
- Your e-commerce platform captures customer contact and purchase information. Use this data to continue the conversation or make relevant offers based on customer preferences.
- When you choose an email solution, find one that integrates with your e-commerce platform for automatic information
- Segment your customer list by preferences, location or other factors that help you personalize your messaging.
Engage your customers immediately after their first purchase
- Use package enclosures to connect buyers with your brand story.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews on your website or the site where they purchased your product.
- Offer next-purchase discounts to encourage repeat visits.
- Invite new customers to connect with social media, and acknowledge them when they follow your channels.
- Ask for their feedback and photos or their story. Learn more about your customer and show you’re truly interested in their satisfaction with your product. Make it all about them.
- Communicate regularly with relevant information, previews of new products or feedback requests. It’s all about creating a two-way dialogue, not just “telling” customers about you.
Source: FedEx Small Business Center, https://smallbusiness.fedex.com/holiday-buyers.html