A small business owner working on customer retention

7 Customer Retention Strategies for the Post-Holiday Winter Months

Try these customer retention strategies for when foot traffic dwindles during shorter days and darker nighttime commutes.

The winter doldrums are here. Holiday crowds and post-holiday bargain hunters have all come and gone, and — in the northern parts of the U.S., at least — cold and snow are convincing a lot of would-be customers to stay at home.

The post-holiday winter months call for their own customer retention strategies. After the excitement of the holidays has died down, consider these ideas to help keep business strong in the early months of the year:

1. Host a Special Event

Plan a fun event that you know will interest your customer base. Your customers might welcome an excuse for an outing during the winter months, so creating a special occasion could benefit you both. A hardware store might hold hands-on learning sessions that teach first-time homeowners how to do basic household maintenance and repair, for example. Or, a restaurant could have a special sampler night where customers can enjoy a modified menu of small plates.

Bring in experts to speak, artists to demonstrate, instructors to teach or vendors to provide product samples, and spread the word to make sure all your customers are aware.

2. Offer a Gift With Purchase

Many cosmetics brands offer a bonus gift during select weeks of the year to customers who spend a certain dollar amount. Shoppers come out in droves when the bonus is desirable.

Consider putting together a swag bag of small product samples, a limited-edition version of your best-selling product or even a product that complements your biggest seller. Some companies produce logo-emblazed items as a special giveaway.

3. Host a Contest

Holding a contest can provide excellent motivation for customers. You could ask shoppers to post a selfie on social media of themselves and their favorite product in your store, for instance, and then select winners. A restaurant might have a competition to name a new dish or signature cocktail on the menu, or a coffee shop might have a "mixtape" competition where patrons create playlists — the winner's compilation would be played during business hours.

4. Create a Frequent-Buyer Program

Even if you already have a frequent-shopper or loyalty program of some kind, you could introduce double-points days (depending on how you distribute credits) each month, or give triple credits on purchases of certain items. Earned credits could then be converted into a big discount or a free product.

5. Partner With Another Local Business

Freshen up your inventory by offering popular products from another local business, while it shares a selection of your products as well. This kind of limited-time partnership can benefit not only both businesses, but also generates interest among customers who already know and like local offerings. If you sell cheese, for example, consider partnering with a local wine vendor. An outerwear clothing retailer could sell shovels and ice melt from a small hardware store.

6. Provide Free Valet Parking

If parking is a pain for customers, offer a valet service so they don't have to struggle to find a spot or make a treacherous trek back to their vehicle. Offering valet service may require some extra homework on your part, so look into valet insurance and any local regulatory requirements before you offer it.

7. Improve Your e-Commerce Site

Another option? Forget about trying to get customers to the store and focus on online sales. If you have an e-commerce site, now may be the best time to improve those efforts and drive sales online. Can you revamp your product pages and images, for example? Offer discounts for online purchases? You might also look to improve your online marketing efforts or paid advertisements so you can help generate more sales.

Your goal for customer retention strategies should be to find an idea that works with your business's offerings and resonates with your market. Brainstorm ideas with your team, come up with a plan, and keep your business lively — even in the dreary winter months."