Guest Column | November 21, 2017

How To Use The Holiday Shopping Season To Bond With Your Customers

Retail Loyalty Program Use By Hispanics

By Deb Gabor, founder, Sol Marketing

Black Friday isn’t the be-all, end-all retail event it used to be. Many consumers might prefer enjoying breakfast in bed this Friday morning over rushing out for doorbuster deals at their favorite stores. As a rough retail year comes to an end and retailers rush the start of holiday shopping with pre-Thanksgiving discounts and promotions, it’s easier than ever for consumers to get Black Friday-like deals, anywhere, anytime and anyplace without braving the crowds.

The National Retail Federation estimates 164 million Americans will do some kind of shopping between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, both online and in stores. NRF’s research also estimates that, for the first time ever, a significant majority of consumers (59 percent) plan to do their holiday shopping online. However, online isn’t the only way consumers plan to shop this year; more than half of consumers say they plan to shop at department and discount stores.

While ecommerce is on the rise, the holiday season is still a time when shoppers come out en masse with open hearts, minds, and pocketbooks. Retailers with physical locations should seize this unique opportunity to capture customers’ attention and create important bonds that last well beyond that final store visit to their store to return that ugly sweater from Aunt Ida.

Whether they’re department stores, specialty chains, boutiques or discount stores, physical stores are brands with the power to create deep emotional connections with their customers. A brand is like a magnet that attracts customers who share beliefs and values similar to itself. The holidays are a time for retail brands to proactively demonstrate their brand values to their customers set the tone for a lasting relationship that could last a lifetime. The best brands in the world help their customers elevate their own self-concepts and help them become the heroes in the stories they create about their lives. That’s why where consumers shop is as important as what they shop for during the holidays — and all year round.

Unlike websites, stores can inspire their customers into loyalty with a single shopping experience. Great store brands capitalize on the holiday shopping season to build brand bonds with the power to extend well beyond January. Retail brands that will win this holiday season — and the rest of the year — employ many of the following strategies.

  1. They give shoppers a reason more than just a discount or a promotion to come into their stores. Retail brands poised to succeed during the holiday season create new reasons for customers to come into their stores, with exclusive in-store merchandise, gifts with purchase, branded pop-ups, and even engaging customer social and shopping events. These brands think of retail as more than a channel for customers to procure products. These retailers view a store as a holistic experience and a relationship their brand can create with their customers. Even beleaguered department store brand Macy’s is getting into the holiday action by hosting in-store events such as radio station remote broadcasts and concert ticket giveaways, free makeovers, fashion shows, and the ever-present Santa’s Workshop visits to draw more shoppers into their stores and engulf them in a flavor of holiday cheer they just can’t access online.
  1. They embrace omni-shopping. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Online retail is here to stay. NRF’s data demonstrate online shopping is the new normal. Smart retailers embrace omni-shoppers and introduce programs that use data and experiences to connect online and offline activities among their customers. For many retailers, that enables them to have more control over inventory and build on opportunities to increase sales by appealing to customers’ impulses in a way that online retail can’t. For instance, many retailers across the spectrum — from Nordstrom to GAP — offer customers the ability to research and reserve products online and pick them up in stores. Not only does this practice remove some of the perceived barriers to holiday shopping in physical stores, such as availability and ease of returns, it brings customers face-to-face with products and sales people which adds to a retailer brand’s ability to show customers something they otherwise wouldn’t have seen and form indelible emotional bonds.
  1. They become indispensable to customers. Online shopping gives customers access to a seemingly endless universe of products, offers, and discounts they perceive they can’t get anywhere else in retail. That’s why brick-and-mortar retailers should capitalize on what only brick-and-mortar retail can do to win over customers during this crucial shopping season. In-store retail delivers benefits that can’t be found anywhere online: knowledgeable, engaging sales people and 360-degree immersive experiences. Retailers like Seattle’s Eddie Bauer get it. The outdoor gear manufacturer plans to take advantage of increased in-store traffic, capturing customers’ imagination with an ice box chilled to 16 degrees, so customers can try out their cold-weather gear in real time. You can’t do that on

About The Author

Deb Gabor is the author of Branding is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything. She is the founder of Sol Marketing which has led brand strategy engagements for organizations ranging from international household names like Dell, Microsoft, and NBC Universal, to digital winners like Allrecipes, Cheezburger, HomeAway and RetailMeNot, and dozens of early-stage tech and digital media titans. For more information, please visit and connect with Deb on Twitter, @deb_sol.