Right now, increasing customer retention and navigating through COVID-19 is your main focus with the holiday season around the corner.

In other years, this would be the time that holiday shoppers would be starting to fill stores and restaurants as they check off their shopping list. But, customer shopping behaviour has changed along with customer retention tactics. And understandably so. 

So we wanted to help you navigate your loyalty program through COVID-19 and the holidays. Here are our six tips for customer retention, while adapting to this new world:

  1. Offer physical and digital gift cards
  2. Implement Customer Loyalty Program
  3. Utilize digital tools like social media and email marketing to communicate with customers
  4. Offer customers promotions that are buy now, use later
  5. Tie your business to a community initiative
  6. Exercise patience and flexibility with customers


Offer physical and digital gift cards

Increase customer retention through the holidays during COVID-19 by offering one of the most sought after gifts each holiday season: gift cards.

Both gift cards and digital gift cards are still expected to rank high during this holiday season, despite the different shopping trends. Analysts predict that the 2020 holiday season will still likely record a high consumer demand for gift cards as well. 

Bringing your business online has been key for customer retention during COVID-19. This change should go for your gift cards too. Offer digital gift cards to help ensure you are able to increase sales even if there isn’t as much foot traffic in your physical business.

And of course, digital gift cards are a great solution for those last-minute shoppers or for those who aren’t comfortable with going out to shop.

Physical gift cards and digital gift cards are also great customer retention tools for post-holiday. Many will be shopping in-store or online after the holidays, which means you receive more traffic during a time that sales may start to slow.

Ackroo eGift

Digital gift cards are a great tool for customer retention, especially during the holidays. PRO TIP: change up the digital card to reflect holidays, current promotions, initiatives, branding changes, and more!

Implement a Customer Loyalty Program

Did you know that 79% say that loyalty programs make them more likely to visit a business? Customer loyalty programs are an important tool when it comes to customer retention, because you are giving the customer a reason to return to your business whether it be in-store or online.

As well, you are collecting important customer data information when customers register for your loyalty program. This information will allow you to make that customer’s visit even more personalized with specific rewards in return. For example, once a customer registers you will receive their birthdate. You can set up a specific promotion that will trigger a special reward to be sent to the customer on their actual birthday. 

Check out these 5 ideas to make your customer loyalty program a winner

If your business is mainly running online right now, a great customer retention tactic is to encourage loyalty sign-ups online. Tie an incentive to the sign-up to help encourage customer participation and run specific loyalty promotions on your website where customers can earn points or dollars back to their account. Customers can redeem those points either in-store or online, and continue the shopping cycle within your business.

And remember, starting up a loyalty program doesn’t have to be expensive, so this makes this customer retention tactic a solution for businesses of all sizes.

J. Foster Email Example

Here is an easy email marketing campaign example from J. Foster Ice Cream, who is a client of Ackroo.


Utilize digital tools like social media and email marketing

In order to increase customer retention during a time that you may not have as much face-to-face interaction, it’s extra important to find ways to keep the conversation going with customers.

Take advantage of your social media presence and utilizing tools like email marketing to talk to current and potential customers and boost brand loyalty during COVID-19.

Social media is, for the most part, a free tool. Increase that brand awareness and customer retention by engaging followers. 

Conduct polls, put out thought leadership posts, or run fast, easy promotions. For example, encourage followers to like and share your most recent page and they have a chance to win a free $25 gift card! 

Email marketing is becoming one of the most popular forms of communicating with customers and a low-cost customer retention tool. 

In order to use email marketing, you will need to have a database of your customer’s information (like the data collected in a loyalty program). As well, you will need their consent to communicate with them.

New to email marketing? Check out these 10 best practices to help you get started.

What can you email your customers about? Talk to your customers about store updates, website updates or upcoming promotions and events. Think about what would pique your customer’s interest to keep them locked into your business.


Offer customers promotions that are buy now, use later

Increase customer retention during COVID-19 and the holidays by offering “buy now, use later” promotions. 

These types of promotions bring dollars into your business immediately, but also encourages customers returning to your business. For example, if you are a retail type business, a simple promotion would be to purchase a gift card or digital gift card now and receive a $15 promo card to use in the new year.

The customer returns to your business (whether it be in-store or online) when it would be the new year lull and is also most likely to check out with an even greater basket size then that $15. 

Restaurants can also use this promotion as a customer retention tactic, except count the bonus dollars towards a dining visit in the new year (where again, their receipt at the end of their meal is likely to be greater than the bonus dollars they were given). 


Tie your business to a community initiative

During the time of COVID-19, now more than ever, people want to give back to the community. Increase brand awareness and customer retention by tying your business to a local community initiative while helping the local economy grow.

If you’re not sure where to start, think about aligning with others in the community who share the same values as you. This will help you reach a bigger audience and maximize your marketing efforts. 

Customers are more likely to spend money with your business, when they know that their dollars are also being put towards doing good within the community.

And don’t forget to promote your initiative whether it be through your social channels or through email marketing!

TotesTogether - co-marketing to reach bigger audiences together

TotesTogether was an initiative created in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Small restaurants and cafés in Hamilton, Ontario joined forces to launch this initiative.

Exercise Patience and Flexibility with Customers

Last but not least, remember to exercise patience and flexibility with customers. This may be the important customer retention tactic. 

Think about it. You’re more likely to return to a business where you had a great, meaningful customer experience, right? So it’s important to keep that in mind when interacting with customers this holiday season.

Additionally, find ways you can be flexible with your customers. For example, offer curbside pick-up for customers if either:

a. Customers are not comfortable entering stores at this time


b. You are not able to have customers inside your business yet

COVID-19 has brought on unprecedented times for both businesses and consumers, so we all need to work together to help build each other up and help each other thrive. 


If you’re looking for ways to increase customer retention through this (different) holiday season, we’re here to help.

Fill out the form below to get in touch with a team member at Ackroo.