From Holidays to All the Days: How to Make BFCM Shoppers into Repeat Buyers
Reading Time: 10 minutes
The North Pole’s got nothin’ on ecomm this holiday season.
While Santa’s elves are busy making gifts for about 526 million children, online shoppers are projected to spend $207 billion—yes, that’s billion with a “B”—in the U.S. alone this November and December. Globally, ecommerce sales are expected to reach $910 billion—an 11% increase over 2020. And even though more Americans plan to shop for gifts in person this year compared to last year (43% versus 39%), overall sales still skew in favor of ecommerce, with 57% of U.S. shoppers planning to buy online versus 43% in person.
While online shopping’s biggest weekend is behind us, there’s still plenty of opportunity ahead to build on your brand’s BFCM momentum—and your resulting SMS list growth—through the remainder of the holiday season and beyond.
Why It Pays to Stay in Touch Post-BFCM
The benefit of the holiday buying boom doesn’t end when the decorations come down—nor do shoppers stop shopping. Sure, Q4 is the undisputed purchasing peak, but there are plenty more mini-peaks during the “off” months. (Cue the January bargain-hunters!) For those savvy merchants who capitalized on the golden opportunity to collect phone numbers during BFCM, holiday list growth can be the gift that keeps on giving all year long.
But how should you treat those new SMS subscribers? After all, a good chunk of them were shopping for someone else. Is it possible to keep them engaged after all the packages have been unwrapped and all the thank-you notes written?
In a word, yes—but before we talk strategy, let’s dig a little deeper into the psyche of the average holiday shopper.
People tend to buy gifts that they would like to receive.
Remember that old Jimmy Fallon song about the guy who buys his girlfriend a beard trimmer? No? Okay, maybe that’s too much of a deep cut. All jokes aside, there is some truth in Jimmy’s selfish gifting. As this New York Post article reveals, in a poll of 2,000 American shoppers, “nearly three out of four have purchased a gift that not only benefited the recipient but themselves as well.” Additionally, 59% “tend to give gifts for people that they also would want.”
So, as return and exchange season gets into full swing, give your holiday shoppers a nudge to buy themselves the stuff they really wanted.
Many gift-buyers end up getting a little something for themselves, too.
According to research cited in this Retail Dive article, more than 53% of holiday shoppers also purchase gifts for themselves.
Translation: Even if they were shopping for someone else, your holiday buyers chose your store—and your products—for a reason. And often, that reason is that they themselves liked your brand and your goods. They may have even picked up a little something for themselves while shopping for a loved one. So, why wouldn’t you want to keep in touch with them?
There are multiple opportunities to buy gifts for friends and family throughout the year.
People tend to buy gifts for the same set of people multiple times throughout the year—for occasions like birthdays, graduations, promotions, anniversaries, and the like. And if the recipient liked what they got, sometimes the easiest gifting option is returning for more of the same.
As you plan out your SMS strategy for the upcoming year, remember to incorporate gift-focused campaigns during other seasons or holidays that make sense for your store (more on this below).
It’s getting harder to reach shoppers via traditional marketing and advertising channels.
Running year-round promotions via an owned channel—particularly one as effective as SMS—is much easier and cheaper than competing with other brands for Google and social ad clicks during the busiest times of year (like the aforementioned gift-giving seasons). This is especially true heading into 2022 considering how developments like the iOS 15 update will continue to challenge the efficacy of email and third-party advertising.
How to Use SMS to Keep BFCM Shoppers Engaged All Year Long
The point is, your holiday subscribers are ripe for retention and repeat transactions. So, let’s talk through some ideas for engaging and delighting them—and hopefully turning them into FFLs (fans for life).
Set up post-purchase campaigns targeted to holiday shoppers.
First things first: Make sure your holiday customers receive relevant messages from your brand soon after they buy. If you expect shipping delays—and with this year’s labor shortages and supply chain issues, many stores are—get ahead of them by firing off a post-purchase message to level-set customer expectations. You could even temporarily update your order confirmation automation for the duration of the holiday season. Ideally, you’ll clearly state this information on your website and at checkout, but it doesn’t hurt to text it as well.
For example, you might send something like, “Thanks again for your order, [Name]. Our elves are hustling to get it to you ASAP, but please note that we’re currently experiencing shipping delays on many products. We expect most orders to arrive within 7–10 days, and you’ll automatically receive a tracking link once your items ship. We appreciate your patience and understanding. Happy holidays!”
This could also be an opportunity for a timely SMS campaign to help you segment out those above-mentioned self-shoppers—something along the lines of, “Thanks again for your purchase of [Product Name]! We’re curious: did you buy it for yourself or gift it to someone special? (Be honest! We won’t tell 🤫) Reply ME if you snagged it for yourself and GIFT if you gave it to someone else.”
Collect reviews from your gifters.
You may already have product review automations running, but if you decide to segment out gift-buyers (as suggested in the previous section), consider creating a separate, more targeted review collection message. Gift-focused reviews can be super helpful to other gift buyers, and amassing an arsenal of positive ones could help give your brand an edge over other stores a gift-seeker may be considering.
This message might read something like, “Was your gift a hit? Let us know what the lucky recipient thought about [Product Name], and we’ll give you 10% off your next purchase!”
Postscript offers a variety of integrations with review and customer loyalty platforms. If you haven’t set up review request automations yet, go here to learn more.
Create winback automations for shoppers who go awhile without purchasing from you again.
You should have winback automations running for all of your subscribers, but they can be especially effective for holiday shoppers who stumbled upon your store while searching for the perfect gift. They might not think about you again for weeks or months—unless you remind them!
Winback automations fire off when a past customer hasn’t purchased from you again after a specified period of time—commonly 60 or 90 days. They often mention new products that have launched since the customer’s last purchase and offer a discount to incentivize another purchase.
Here’s a simple example from clothing boutique Prep Obsessed:
Keep gifting in mind when creating campaigns throughout the year.
You’ll build a lot of campaigns on the assumption that your recipients are primarily interested in purchasing for themselves—and that’s perfectly okay (great, even!). But don’t forget to pepper in some general gift-focused messages throughout the year—in the lead-up to a gifting holiday (e.g., Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day) or following a gift-appropriate product drop, for instance.
Here’s an example from fine jewelry brand Linjer. The great thing about this message is that it’s applicable regardless of whether the recipient’s last purchase was a gift—but it’ll nevertheless keep Linjer top-of-mind for future gifting occasions:
Here’s another one from dog gear company Ripley & Rue, which spun up a creative take on Mother’s Day:
Offer more product suggestions based on the purchased item.
Customers who totally nailed it with their holiday gifts are likely to do more gift-shopping in your store at some point down the line. Or if they’re one of those “what would I want” gift-buyers, they may even return to grab something for themselves. Either way, sending a quick message highlighting products similar or complementary to those a customer has purchased in the past is a great way to drive additional purchases. And of course, a nice discount never hurts, either.
In marketing speak, these would be categorized as cross-sells and upsells—that is, promotions that use a customer’s purchase history to suggest a related product or a more expensive or premium product, respectively. For example, if a customer purchased a scarf from your shop, you might send a cross-sell follow-up promoting hats or gloves—or an upsell message with a discount offer on a winter coat.
Here’s a simple example from accessories brand Kitsch:
Postscript makes it ridiculously easy to automatically send cross-sell and upsell messages based on a subscriber’s past purchases. Learn how to create an upsell automation here and a cross-sell automation here.
Ask for fan photos or videos.
One of the biggest drivers of brand loyalty is the sense of community and belonging people feel when supporting their favorite brands—whether that support comes in the form of actual purchases or public expressions of fandom (e.g., recommendations, reviews, and social media shout-outs).
When brands then share those expressions with the rest of their followers, it creates a community snowball effect and further strengthens feelings of brand loyalty. In fact, 51% of consumers are “more likely to engage with and/or purchase from a brand if it shared their social posts in its marketing.” The audience on the other side of those posts favors user-generated content (UGC) as well. As explained here, “according to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report, 92 percent of consumers say they trust UGC, or ‘earned media’, over all other forms of advertising.”
The only problem is that customers often don’t know how to go about this, which is why about 50% of consumers “wish that brands would tell them what type of content to create and share.” That’s where you—and your SMS strategy—come in for the win. Craft a message asking past purchasers to share their personal photos or videos—anything that showcases them (or their gift recipients!) proudly and happily using or enjoying your products—for a chance to be featured on your social channels and/or receive a free item or special discount.
Here’s a great example from soap brand Skinsational Creations:
Offer value beyond your products.
It could be months before a holiday gifter returns to purchase another gift, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer something valuable to them in the meantime. Many brands wrongly assume that promotions and discounts are the only things subscribers care to receive—and that constantly doling them out is the only way to keep those subscribers, well, subscribed.
The best brands find ways to deliver value beyond their products and the deals they use to sell them. That value could come in the form of advice, information, or entertainment. For example, a food or cookware brand could offer up a favorite recipe. The aforementioned golf brand might send out a list of the top destination golf courses—or perhaps a video with a quick tip to improve your swing. A fitness brand could link to an article on meal-prepping strategies or provide an exercise fun fact. (Did you know people who don’t exercise regularly may lose up to 80% of their muscle strength by age 65?)
In this example, Hydrant—which makes hydration and electrolyte mixes—links to an article dispelling myths about seltzer water:
Here, hot sauce company Fly By Jing serves up a 5-minute noodle recipe:
JUDY, which makes and sells emergency preparedness kits, sent this informative message to subscribers (notice that it doesn’t even mention any of the company’s products):
The possibilities are endless! The key is to get in the minds of your audience and think about what they might find interesting or useful.
Make them smile or laugh.
Speaking of entertainment, one thing most humans have in common is that we love a good chuckle. (Why else would we spend so much time on TikTok?) The science of smiling is fascinating, and it explains why sparking joy in your subscriber list will naturally endear them to your brand. As Psychology Today explains, “feel-good neurotransmitters—dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin—are all released when a smile flashes across your face.”
So, give your audience a rush of warm fuzzies by firing off a joke, meme, or parody. Bonus points if it’s something they can share with their own friends and family to keep the positive vibes flowing forward. Super bonus points if you use humor and fun to entice subscriber responses or engagement, like The Try Guys—a YouTube channel that also sells branded merchandise—did with this example:
Keep in mind that using established memes for marketing purposes is still somewhat of a legal gray area—but there are tons of free tools you can use to easily create your own (like this one from Canva).
Appeal to their philanthropic interests.
Even if someone doesn’t personally connect with your products, they can absolutely connect with your mission. And once they do, it’s gonna be a whole lot harder for them to complete that unsubscribe action.
Plus, shared values build trust at a deeper level than quantitative signals like average star rating, percentage of positive reviews, and number of social media followers. That’s why 92% of consumers are “more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues.” Along that same vein, “88% will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues.”
Shopify makes it really easy to promote and participate in charitable giving. In fact, if you’re using Shop Pay, your store is already contributing to this effort to plant and protect trees. You can also use Shopify’s tipping functionality to collect donations for a particular cause at checkout. Or, you can install one of many Shopify apps to streamline the giving process.
Once you’ve set up a collection, make sure your SMS subscribers know about it! In this example, Piper Lou—known for their sarcastic and customizable drinkware designs—promotes a product supporting a wildlife charity:
Here’s another example from Bones Coffee Company, which offers a discount and promises a donation to hospital workers (talk about a twofer!):
So, whether your brand is built on the foundation of a particular social cause—or you periodically organize or participate in charitable initiatives—be sure to loop in your list!
Ecommerce merchants can reap the rewards of their BFCM marketing efforts long after Old Saint Nick puts the reindeer back in the barn. The key is thinking long-term and building relationships—not just chasing another sales transaction.
Brooke Andrus is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Postscript. A journalist by trade, Brooke now uses her nose for news to keep ecommerce merchants informed on industry trends and business best practices.