Simple steps to addressing your one-time buyer problem

While you're focused on bringing in new customers this holiday shopping season, be sure you lay the foundation for a long-term relationship. Contributor Jordan Elkind shares tips for retaining those shoppers over the coming year.

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After months of planning your marketing strategy for Black Friday and beyond, the holiday shopping season is finally here in full swing.

Breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t get too comfortable — now it’s time to tackle the next challenge: what to do with all of those shiny new holiday shoppers. Some of your new customers might join the ranks of your most loyal shoppers, but without a tailored marketing strategy, you’re likely to end up with a stocking full of folks you’ll never see again.

Why do one-time shoppers represent such an opportunity cost to retailers? Take a look at the numbers: Two-time buyers are up to nine times more likely to repeat than first-time shoppers (source: research by my company, Custora). In addition, it will cost you anywhere from two to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to simply retain an existing one. With those figures in mind, making an investment in your new holiday customers is a tactic that’s sure to pay off into the new year and beyond.

Start with a welcome series

Finding a silver bullet to understand and address your one-time buyer problem is understandably overwhelming. We recommend starting simply and layering in more complex personalization later. If you don’t have one already, a welcome series is a great place to start. The welcome series is a (simple and relatively easy to set up) succession of automated emails that introduce a new customer to your brand after their first purchase.

Most marketing teams create a single sequence of emails designed to help new shoppers learn about the brand and product portfolio. Teams set up the series within their Email Service Provider (ESP) so that all new customers will have the same “introductory experience.”

Layer in personalization

The ideal next step would be to start personalizing the series. In theory, the team would craft a special sequence for each unique shopper. Each sequence would show the right categories of products, hit the right creative vibe, contain the right language and be sent when most likely to be opened.

However, personally tailoring each welcome series is challenging for two main reasons:

  1. Limited data (only one purchase)
  2. Creative constraints

Without the ability to handcraft a unique experience for every single customer, most marketing teams create a generic welcome series — and in some cases, they’ll layer in a little product personalization.

Product personalization is obviously an important component in creating a relevant message, but it’s far from the only one. Simply personalizing the SKUs displayed in an email helps, but the impact is marginal. Fortunately, more can be done.

Going deeper with segmentation

It might sound old-school in this age of 1-to-1-single-view-of-the-customer buzzwords, but our trusted friend, segmentation, can take us closer to truly personalized communications while striking the right balance of creative effort.

Let’s say there’s two types of shoppers within a customer base: “athletes” and “trendsetters.”

While it’s not realistic to have the creative team design an email for every single customer, it’s not as far-fetched to create two versions of each email in the welcome series — one for the athlete and one for the trendsetter.

The narratives for each series could leverage different creative assets, language and tone. While there’s a cost to investing in these creatives, the relevance of the email can improve so much that the return on investment makes it more than worth it.

Closing thoughts

With the holiday shopping season upon us already, there’s no better time to take proactive action to build a comprehensive one-time buyer program. While truly 1:1 communications may still be the “golden goose” of customer marketing, taking simple steps towards personalization can make all the difference in your customer engagement (and revenue) this year.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Jordan Elkind
Jordan Elkind heads the product team at Custora, an advanced customer analytics platform for ecommerce retailers. Prior to joining Custora, he earned an MBA from Wharton and worked in marketing analytics at Citi Cards.

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