Retail Trends Snapshot: Post-Holiday Marketing Strategies - Turn Gift Returns Into Customer Loyalty

February 26, 2016

Holiday returns

As the holiday shopping season comes to a close, many retailers are happy to see black ink back on their balance sheets. However, the holiday shopping spree comes with a caveat – many of the gifts and festive impulse buys end up as store returns. 

In fact, the highest days for returns were Dec 29, the day after Christmas, the day after New Year's, Black Friday and Cyber Monday!

Returns were a whopping 162% higher than average on December 29 (the Monday after Christmas last year), based on analysis of 1,000,000+ transactions across a range of AgilOne clients.

The list below shows how far returns exceeded the annual average during the top ten return days of the year -% above daily average:

  1. Dec 29: 162% higher
  2. Dec 30: 104% higher
  3. Dec 26: 82% higher
  4. Jan 2: 67% higher
  5. Nov 28: 65% higher
  6. Dec 28: 63% higher
  7. Dec 1: 48% higher
  8. Dec 10: 42% higher
  9. Dec 31: 41% higher
  10. Jan 3: 35% higher



So how should retailers react to this less-than-joyous holiday data?

There are several ways to do this, but first it’s useful to understand more about the shoppers are that are making returns. Based on our analysis across a variety of retail verticals, the majority of returners are repeat buyers. In many cases more than 90 percent are regular customers:


Not only does this mean the shoppers are more likely to provide future value (acquiring a new customer costs 4-10x more than retaining a current buyer, according to expert estimates) it also means that you probably already have a fair amount of data about the customer. This can help you adopt several strategies to turn return headaches into long-term value, with these top post-holiday marketing strategies:

1. Convert gift recipients into repeat customers:

The best way to add value to your customer portfolio is to make sure that gift recipients bringing in returns after the holidays come back to buy more. For customers that have never shopped in your store, add them to your email list (you can do this by offering to add them to your mailing list or sending an e-receipt), and then up-sell them on products related to the original purchase. For existing customers, go back to the customer profile data and make sure to send follow-up product recommendations that fit their preferences. This is especially useful if they just received store credit for their return.

2. Rather than blanket discounts, develop tiered rewards and special promotions based on spend levels

To ensure customer value isn’t sapped by high return rates, implement a progressive discounting formula based on lifetime spend, such as 5 percent off for the first $50, 10 percent after $100, and so on. You can also attach promotional gifts to greater spending levels. Applying discounts to future purchases only will also encourage customers to return to the store.

3. Finally, use the interaction to gain a better understanding of repeat buyers

You can ensure you drive capture rates of email by adding repeat in-store shoppers to your mailing list or sending an e-receipt. Make sure you’re keeping consolidated, clean data so you have a complete record of these returners to use for future up-selling, either in-store or through special targeted post-holiday campaigns. Finally, take the time after the holidays to understand what campaigns and channels your high returners came from, so that you don’t invest as much in those sources the following year.

These strategies can help you make the most out of one unfortunate aspect of holiday shopping. Hope you have a wonderful New Year and best wishes for generating value in 2016 no matter the season!

Here is a helpful info-graphic on how to retain customers after the holidays and you can download it here. Enjoy!