Adam WhatlingAdam WhatlingDecember 5, 2017


Figures from John Lewis indicate that last year online sales grew by 11.8 percent year-on-year in the Christmas period – the six weeks leading up to the end of December.

UK Christmas spending was predicted to hit record £77.56bn in 2016. Seasonal spending has a huge impact on profits, but could greater value be extracted from Christmas shoppers?

Many retailers experience peak sales during quite small windows of time within the pre-Christmas period. Games console Nintendo Wii sees a peak for controllers between November 28 and December  1 according to Summit Data.

School bags, sewing machines, baking equipment, and coffee machines peak then too while shoulder bags, Disney games, and bunk beds peak between November 16 and 20. Increasingly, the Black Friday sales event in November plays a major part in Xmas run-up sales totals.

Businesses can do much more to encourage these customers to become sources of revenue throughout the year and even transform one-off seasonal shoppers into proactive brand advocates. It is key to approach the initial customer sale as just the start in a customer life-cycle relationship.

Continuous relevant communication with individual consumers in January and throughout the rest of the next year must build on that and create deeper customer engagement. This must go much further than the usual email offering a discount off the next purchase.

Customer service managers can learn from marketers when it comes to using all the available customer data – from demographic data through to purchasing habits – to communicate more effectively with seasonal shoppers. Armed with this data it is easier to offer them targeted incentives to initially become repeat customers and online followers that ultimately progress to become proactive advocates for your brand, willing to post positive reviews, refer a friend, and support your brand on social media.

There are a number of steps businesses can take to reward and recognise customer loyalty and drive sales beyond Christmas:

1. Formalise a lifecycle approach to the customer experience

A one-off seasonal shopper should appear in the CRM system as a customer at the beginning of a life-cycle. Then look to improve the lifetime value of customers by using incremental loyalty rewards.

Low, medium, and high levels of rewards can incentivise customers as appropriate. A lower value reward might entice a one-off customer to become a repeat purchaser, whereas a high-value reward might convert a regular customer into a brand advocate.

Offering customers a choice of loyalty rewards is vital to building revenue streams through post-Christmas new customer ‘on-boarding’ campaigns and, crucially, this reward should not be directly related to your products and services.

Customers have almost come to expect ‘20 percent off’ offers, but they are likely to be surprised and pleased by a £10 e-code that may be spent with a variety of retailers or service providers.

2. Work with colleagues on connecting the dots between customer services and marketing

Marketers have spent time segmenting customer communications very effectively and are knowledgeable about tracking customers through the buying process and communicating with them at the optimum time.

Customer service managers can tap into that internal knowledge base, profiling individual customers or personas and aligning suitable rewards to encourage repeat spending patterns.

3. Design the customer experience, online and in-store, with seamless data collection in mind

Detailed data on each individual customer, ranging from demographic data such as gender, age, and location through to browsing and purchasing history, is foundational to effective personalisation in future.

Many organisations are reviewing their data collection procedures in the light of the upcoming GDPR regulations and this is a good opportunity to make sure data collection activities not only comply with the regulations but also add maximum value to the business.

4. Personalise customer service communications

Communications should reflect the interests of the person receiving that communication as far as possible. Personalisation does not simply apply to the content of the communication – it also applies to the method of communication. It may work best to communicate with certain demographic groups of customers in one way, by email or SMS, while others will respond best to social media-based communications.

5. Empower customer service employees to provide a timely response to complaints

If for any reason the customer’s single experience with you does not go well, this presents an opportunity. When complaining customers are converted to satisfied from dissatisfied, their loyalty increases by at least 25 percent and possibly as much as 60 percent, writes John Goodman in his book Strategic Customer Service.

In addition, if you authorise customer services representatives to issue small on-the-spot incentives, such as £10 shopping gift cards, the impact on customer satisfaction is immediate.

The return on investment from this small incentive can be considerable – not only do you retain that customer, but they may well convert into a valuable brand advocate. This positive impact on customer sentiment tends to apply whether or not the customer actually goes on to redeem the gift card. The good experience and the emotional engagement with the brand are equally important.

If organisations integrate customer reward experience across all the various customer touchpoints and focus on the user experience, just as they would on an effective e-commerce journey, then they will see seasonal shoppers become lifetime brand advocates.

Adam WhatlingAdam WhatlingMarch 15, 2017


In a world where an alternative retail outlet or utility supplier is just one click away, businesses in every sector need to raise their game urgently. As many as 89% of businesses expect to compete on customer experience, yet 95% of businesses consistently fail to exceed customer expectations1.

The main customer experience challenge businesses face lies in creating an emotional connection – making the customer feel he or she has a more than a transactional relationship with the business. Increased personalisation is the key to fostering this emotional connection but businesses in many sectors are failing to personalise their communications with customers effectively. Investment in retaining customers through the likes of loyalty schemes, for example, is not maximised because generic rewards are not hitting their mark.

Organisations are also failing to make best use of the touch points they have with the customer to offer personalised add-on products or services.

It is no good a retailer offering the latest in their range of toys to someone who normally buys electrical items – unless of course they have expressed an interest in that range. Some large retailers are doing this particularly well and that creates high customer expectations that businesses operating in other sectors must meet if they wish to deliver a positive customer experience.

Sophisticated Expectations

As well as having more sophisticated expectations when it comes to personalisation, consumers can now interact with brand representatives publicly through interactive social media channels.

Businesses in many sectors are becoming much more effective at monitoring and responding to customers venting frustrations and difficulties on Twitter or forums such as Money Saving Expert. In one example, a customer who popped out of work at lunchtime to purchase from a local Tesco experienced poor customer service. He tweeted a grumble about it, only to receive a phone call from Tesco within seven minutes with the offer of a £50 voucher by way of an apology for poor service.

This level of responsiveness can actually convert a complainant into a brand advocate and it is vital that companies empower individual employees to be able to recognise failure and counter it with a positive experience, taking action in a timely manner. Although there is an overhead of employee time, there is no need for organisations to have a large budget for this, as small rewards can be very effective if they are delivered in a responsive and personalised manner. Fred Reichheld2 defines ‘frugal wows’ as low cost gestures that build “a huge reservoir of goodwill and positive word of mouth at very little expense”.

Here are seven top tips for building an emotional connection with your customers:

  1. Start by Defining Your Employee Engagement Strategy. Without happy, engaged employees it will not be possible to create the best customer experience. Employees must be the number one advocates of your brand but if they are not enthusiastic about your product or service, it will show in their interaction with customers.
  2. Communication Is Key. Spend time researching how customers like to be communicated with, before designing communications for them. Identify and use the right channels to engage with customers, so if they are mainly on Instagram, make sure you are there too.
  1. Ask the Audience. Make sure you have actually asked your audience (whether that is your customer or your employees), what they want from the rewards or recognition you offer, rather than imposing this on them. Enable customers to opt in to elements of the loyalty scheme, so that they can express a preference for the types of rewards they might receive and the organisation does not fall into the trap of bombarding customers with irrelevant messages and offers.
  1. Keep it Fresh and Relevant. Put in place a mechanism for revisiting preferences. It is one thing to capture the preferences of a new customer, quite another to adapt to changing requirements as the relationship with the customer progresses over time. This can be done by occasional pulse questions and surveys that will keep customer profiles up-to-date, fresh and relevant.
  1. Break Down Departmental Barriers. Foster social and peer-to-peer recognition by creating communication channels that allow the internal sharing of best practice that then reflects corporate values and the organisation’s strategy. Ideally these should break down departmental barriers so that frontline sales staff or back-office support staff, customer service staff or field engineers can all recognise each other’s achievements when it comes to providing great customer service.
  1. Tailor Internal Rewards Delivery. Businesses such as retailers who interact face-to-face with customers on the shop floor will need a different technique to enable staff to recognise each other, compared with organisations who are mainly office and Internet-based. The latter can easily use an entirely desktop-based electronic rewards and recognition platform, whereas retailers might implement a smartphone-based social recognition app, allowing staff to instantly send a like or a tweet recognising performance reflecting a core value or service objective such as, creating an emotional connection with the customer.
  1. Don’t Forget the Channel. Third-party sales staff are commonly bombarded with messages from the variety of brands they are reselling. Extending employee loyalty schemes to them can help make sure that your brand stands out and that these people, who are not your direct employees, provide great customer experiences relating to your brand USP.

Prepare to Go Global

Organisations are increasingly operating on a global scale. Rolling out rewards and recognition to customers and employees in different countries is a whole new challenge. Companies that have implemented a robust and responsive strategy to build strong emotional ties with their customers in one country will be best placed to develop this effectively across borders. A deep understanding of how to tailor personalised rewards will pay dividends when it comes to competing on customer experience on the world stage.


1 Satmetrix infographics


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