The most wonderful time of the year for online merchants is the holiday shopping season. With it comes a plethora of new customers who are experiencing your brand or business for the first time. How you interact with them, as well as how you interact with returning customers, will dictate how the holiday shopping season sets up success for the coming year(s). There are three crucial steps to turning potentially one-time holiday customers into repeat customers following the onslaught of the holiday rush.

Start Collecting and Segmenting Now

Every online seller, as well as brick and mortar stores, needs to be using signup forms on their website or on a storefront tablet. Give your customers, as well as those shopping around, the ability to opt in for special offers and the latest products. Email is still one of the highest converting marketing channels, particularly when you are doing it right — which means segmenting audiences and personalizing emails, as opposed to single-send batch and blast campaigns.

When people opt in or make their first purchase with you, send a welcome email to thank them and further introduce them to your company. This email could be a straightforward message or include a coupon to encourage a purchase. It could also include a request for them to share more about themselves (birthday, how they found you, etc.) so you can set up further segmentation and personalized automation down the line. Regardless, remember it’s your first touchpoint in their inbox, so make it count.

The more information you have on customers, the more you can personalize their experiences with your brand in their inbox through segmentation. When customers feel like you “get them,” they stick around longer.

Build Rapport with Personalization

The statistics clearly indicate that customers not only want personalization from brands, they expect it. Many businesses are not living up to this expectation, which gives you an opportunity to stand out.

Personalization goes beyond a simple “Hello, [first name]!” That approach is a table stake at this point in email marketing, and customers hardly even register it as personalization anymore. In a recent eMarketer survey, only 17% of consumers who were polled said they found it appealing when their name is used. They simply expect more. Fortunately, with the customer data, order data, and shipping data e-commerce businesses have on their customers, better personalization is completely attainable.

In the same survey mentioned above, 50% of consumers polled find it appealing when a brand suggests products based on their interest, while 43% find it appealing when brands suggest products the customer has purchased or searched for previously. Businesses have this data, yet less than half of the consumers in the survey said they are receiving either of the above recommendations from brands. The competitive bar is low, and businesses who take these small steps can earn customer loyalty while increasing sales and revenue per customer.

Encourage Feedback and Put It to Use

Customers want to share their feedback with businesses and other customers. Many of them are just not compelled enough to do it without prompting. According to BrightLocal, 70% of consumers polled said they would leave a review or share their experience on social if asked. More businesses need to actively send requests for feedback, a task that can be easily automated with the right email marketing platform to yield great results.

There is apprehension, however. Businesses fear the potential for negative reviews when asking customers to leave feedback, but they shouldn’t. Negative reviews are going to happen. As it turns out, customers actually prefer to see a mix of negative and positive reviews because it adds a level of legitimacy to reviews and gives a full-spectrum perspective. A more important aspect for business owners to direct their focus is responding to reviews.

According to ReviewTrackers, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews. There are also studies that show a good response from a business to a negative review can actually overturn the negative perception from that review.

Reviews and social posts don’t just have to live on review platforms and customers’ timelines. This word-of-mouth content can help legitimize your business. Ask customers for permission to share their positive reviews or great social posts of them using your product. Put that content on your own social timelines and in email campaigns to provide social proof to other customers. This can both encourage sales and more sharing/reviewing.

Not only that, Reevoo reports that 61% of people say that user-generated content actually encourages them to interact with a brand. Sharing this feedback also endears your brand more to those customers, who get the spotlight in front of your entire audience, which can turn them from customers to advocates. So, featuring your customers’ word-of-mouth content can have a doubling effect on brand endearment and loyalty.

Customer data, order data, and shipping data are keys to winning not just the 2019 holiday season. They are keys to 2020 and beyond to keep your business thriving.

Christopher Vaughn is VP of Marketing at ShippingEasy, the only complete solution for e-commerce merchants to automate order imports and shipping, manage inventory, and increase sales through customer email marketing and online reviews. Powerful integrations with leading online channels such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce and many others allow merchants to manage orders, products, and customers from everywhere they sell—all in one place.