4 Strategies to Retain Customers this eCommerce Peak Season

Discover how to retain customers this Peak Season thanks to innovative post-purchase strategies.

Joseph Thurston
Published on:
November 17, 2023
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eCommerce peak season is among the most profitable times of the year: the three-month period accounts for 30% or more of all retail sales.

But a spike in sales isn’t necessarily good news for online retailers’ bottom line. Why?

Enter: the one-time customer. Shaken by the pandemic, shoppers— particularly Gen Z– are less loyal to online brands than ever before:

  • 80% of Gen Z are more willing to try new brands online since the pandemic. 
  • 57% of Gen Z less loyal now to brands than before the pandemic

And this lack of customer retention inevitably affects online retailer’s revenue. Case in point: despite a 45% surge in sales during Black Friday, a key date in the peak season calendar, UK retailer Argos saw sales growth of just 0.1% in the 18 weeks to 3 January. But there is hope yet.

This eCommerce peak season, e-tailers from Sephora to Specsavers are doubling down on post-purchase– a historically underleveraged stage customer journey– to turn first-time buyers into lifelong customers. And when it comes to customer retention, there is no better stage of the customer journey than post-purchase: our recent study found that 80% of UK respondents say a good or excellent post-purchase experience would make them inclined to shop with the brand again. This loyalty pays off: boosting customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.
Read on to discover 4 strategies to learn more about eCommerce peak season and how you can use it to post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What is eCommerce Peak Season? 

eCommerce Peak Season is the period of time when online retailers are at their busiest as they handle high volumes of orders during key holidays during the end of the year, leading to peaks in sales.

When is eCommerce Peak Season?

eCommerce Peak Season takes place from October 31st through January, during the fall season in the Northern hemisphere and spring in the Southern hemisphere. Spike in online sales can be witnessed due to key holidays, including: 

  • Halloween - October 31, 2023
    The first sales peak of the peak season
  • Black Friday - November 24, 2023
    Major peak, with the entire week (‘Black Week) seeing significant sales
  • Cyber Monday - November 27
    Almost equally high sales as Black Friday
  • Monday before Christmas - December 18
    Typically a high-sales day of the peak season
  • Super Saturday - December 23
    Important day in the lead-up to Christmas, with huge sales
  • Days leading up to Christmas - December 24
    Last-minute Christmas shoppers
  • January
    Month with high number of returns from Christmas period.

Now that you're familiarised with peak season, let's delve into the question: how can online retailers retain customers after eCommerce Peak Season?

1. Leverage personalised product recommendations post-purchase

Personalised product recommendations are a powerful way to retain customers: 78% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that personalises their experience. They’re often harnessed before a customer makes a purchase, incentivising customers to buy additional items based on their browsing history. Buy a pair of sneakers on Nike’s online store, and you’ll find tailored sneaker suggestions under a  ‘You Might Also Like’ section. Retailers from Asos to Uniqlo even offer customised styling ideas to complete your look: the perfect sweater to wear under a jacket, or a suave leather belt to match their corduroy trousers.

Boxing sportswear and equipment e-tailer BOXRAW harnesses personalised product recommendations on their post-purchase tracking page to drive customer retention

Yet, many online retailers fail to realise that these recommendations are even more effective when leveraged after a customer makes a purchase: existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products compared to new clients. Why? As they excitedly anticipate their order, customers are more engaged than ever during this stage of the customer journey, making it a golden opportunity to boost retention. With post-purchase tools like Shipup, merchants are increasingly taking to new channels to recommend items: via delivery email notifications, but also personalised tracking pages hosted directly on a company’s website.

Our recent study found that 85% of customers read post-purchase emails from online retailers – that’s 3X the average for eCommerce– and customers visit the tracking page 1.7 times on average.

With integrations such as Nosto, online retailers can personalise recommendations within delivery email notifications and tracking pages based on behaviour such as past purchases, as well as predicted interests and affinities. Set up for these sort of integrations is easy as post-purchase solutions like Shipup support their product recommendation templates, and email widgets within these post-purchase tools can be created in minutes.

2. Give customers complete visibility over order status with proactive and unique notifications ‍

Black Friday can quickly become a logistical nightmare. According to LateShipment.com, over 12% of ground shipments were delayed during the 2022 holiday season. With the volume of shipments skyrocketing by 40% compared to a normal period, it’s no surprise that carrier hiccups– from late deliveries to lost packages– will multiply.

But here’s the dilemna: your customers still have the same expectations as they would any other time of the year. And in the age of social media, one poor delivery experience could mean losing out on thousands of potential long-term clients due to negative reviews. So, although you can’t control issues with your delivery company, it’s vital that you master your communication surrounding their shipment during the sales season: our recent study found that 80% of customers expect to receive timely alerts on the status of their order, and 57% expect instant heads-up on any delays.

How can you keep customers reassured about their delivery? The short and simple answer is you must keep them up-to-date every. step. of. the. way. Shipup, a leading post-purchase solution, gives online retailers’ customers complete visibility over the status of their package: merchants have a choice of 80+ types of delivery email notifications, from ones based on shipping location (‘Package shipped to physical store’) to smart notifications that are automatically triggered when something goes awry (‘Package not delivered due to absence’).

Bags and Camera accessories brand Peak Design achieved an outstanding NPS of 79, boosting retention by keeping customers informed about their delivery with the most specific updates all throughout delivery

The solution even offers emails for the most specific events, such as  ‘Custom Clearance Complete’ and ‘Waiting at pickup point’. These unique notifications make all the difference in terms of offering their clients– particularly international– a seamless and reassuring customer experience on Black Friday that will make them want to return again and again. In turn, improving the customer experience increases sales revenue by 2-7% and profitability by 1-2%

3. Ask for customer feedback

OK, so we’ve established delivery issues are bound to increase during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And while offering customers visibility over their order is a great first step in retaining them, the fact remains that if something goes awry– say a parcel is delivered late– customers will rightly want to voice their opinion about it. That’s why, if customer retention is the goal, it’s essential that you also offer clients the possibility to give feedback about their experience upon delivery.

Think about it: if you don’t give your customer the opportunity to voice their opinion, not only are you telling them that it doesn’t matter to you – which can significantly impact the chances of them shopping with you again (need I remind you that 77% of customers have a more favorable view of brands that ask for and accept feedback) – but you’re also drastically increasing the chances of them leaving a negative review on a public platform such Trustpilot or Google Reviews. In turn, you’ll lose out on existing, but also potential long-term clients that will be dissuaded from shopping with you: 94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business.

Leading French shoe retailer Courir boosts customer retention by offering over opportunity to voice their feedback directly upon delivery

Post-purchase tools like Shipup allow online retailers to automatically send satisfaction surveys via email upon delivery. They makes it easy for customers to be heard with the option to:
- rate the delivery experience
- add comments
- and even attach photos of damaged products directly on the platform.

To date, French shoe retailer Courir– a client of Shipup’s– has gathered over 40,000 client feedback forms via the software. After completion, clients who responded to the survey are automatically sent back to the brand’s website prompting them to continue shopping with them.

But actively seeking feedback isn’t just about retaining customers who had a negative experience. Rather, it’s also about giving a voice to those that have a good experience and encouraging them to share it with others. Case in point: after completion of their feedback form, French stationery boutique Atelier Rosemood redirects customers who give positive feedback directly to a dedicated review page on their website, encouraging them to write a public review of the product.

The benefits are twofold: happy customers are retained thanks to brands listening to and celebrating their feedback, and these ambassadors’ comments also act as a virtuous circle, increasing brand credibility that will in turn bring in other long-term customers.

French stationery boutique Atelier Rosemood drives customer retention by offering customers the opportunity to leave a public review after voicing their feedback via Shipup

4. Build community in the post-purchase stage

Community is integral to building long-lasting relationships with customers: nearly 64% of consumers cite shared values as a primary reason they have a relationship with a brand in the first place. Yet, fashion retailers often fail to promote these shared values that are so integral to their customers feeling an emotional connection to them.

Instead, customers must withstand lonesome, transactional post-purchase communication from third-party carriers void of any engagement. It’s no wonder that Black Friday sees so many one-time shoppers: if they don’t feel an attachment to a brand beyond a discounted monetary transaction, why would they want to shop there again?

Brands are missing out on a retention opportunity by failing to build a community post-purchase considering:

  • customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have a three times higher lifetime value.
  • 79% of consumers say that community-driven UGC ‘highly impacts’ their purchase decisions, including repurchase.

ZOX, an apparel and accessories brand, leverages its tracking page to highlight its VIP Facebook group of shared values with 35K members, boosting retention as customers are only able to join after their second purchase

On your branded tracking page and email notifications following your customer’s order, implement:

  • UGC from your communities on social media, notably Instagram, such as customers sporting your latest seasonal wear.
  • TikTok and YouTube videos published by your community, such as try-on hauls, styling inspiration & GRWMs.
  • Also consider promoting community-driven platforms, such as Facebook Groups and newer platforms such as Discord.
  •  ZOX, an apparel and accessories brand using Shipup, leverages its tracking page to highlight its VIP Facebook group of shared values. Customers are only able to access after their second purchase, encouraging retention. In the past 30 days, the tracking page linking back to the 35K+ member Facebook group has generated over 600 additional sales. 
  • Meanwhile, French sports and footwear brand Courir saw an average conversion rate– that is the share of email notifications that generated a repurchase from customers– of 2.89% on its notifications, which include customised icons leading to its Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages. That’s over 2X the average conversion rate for e-commerce emails.
Health supplement brand CocoaVia displays its VIP loyalty programme directly on its post-purchase tracking page to drive customer retention

You can even one step further and harness post-purchase solution integrations such as Yotpo that allow you to display your loyalty and referral programs directly on your tracking page, like CocoaVia.

So, what would we like you to take away from this article?

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate significant traffic and sales, the key to sustainable growth lies in converting one-time buyers into loyal customers. These aforementioned strategies are paramount to boosting customer retention this Peak Season:

  • leverage personalised product recommendations
  • provide comprehensive order status updates
  • actively seek and respond to customer feedback
  • build a community post-purchase