All I Want for the Holidays

A Wish List to My Favorite Retailers and Etailers

December 15, 2011

There are many ways to personalize the holiday shopping experience that will delight customers and bring in extra sales from those of us who avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Start by leveraging the wish lists that customers have already set up with you. Don’t waste that valuable information or the customers’ efforts.

Merchants have been counting on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to bring in banner sales. Although there are people who thrive on the chaos of these shop-till-you-drop days, I avoid the crowds and poor online performance whenever possible. I did a lot of thinking about how I would want to get great holiday deals that would also be profitable for the merchants. My top suggestions to retailers/etailers/service providers/daily dealers:

  • Offer items at Black Friday Prices in advance to your best customers by invitation only
  • Leverage the wish lists and shopping history that your etail customers have left with you by reminding customers what they thought they might want and by offering to share that information with their select list.
  • Offer repeat daily deals to those that purchased them, or, if you are the merchant who provided the merchandise/service, reach out to the redeemers with offers of your own.


Did you survive Black Friday— the day every physical store puts (a few) of everything on sale, and the country goes shopping at 2 a.m.? Did you get the deals you hoped for on Cyber Monday—the day all etailers promote savings on what they consider hot ticket items?

Well, good for you if you did. I, however, did not. The crowds on Friday, the slow performance on Monday— both keep me from shopping with the masses. I contend that there are better ways to get our country buying again, and delighting customers in the process—by personalizing the shopping experience for existing customers based on what you know about them. Here is how I want to be able to shop for the holidays—and beyond.


Let Me Reserve Items at Black Friday Prices

Most of us have our favorite retailers that we frequent—from department stores to supermarkets to toy stores to specialty shops. They (should) know who I am based on purchase history, loyalty cards, etc. What I want is to be able to reserve items at Black Friday prices and then pick them up the next week or have them shipped to me. I’m willing to pay reasonable shipping (although free shipping is even better).

Advice to Merchants: Compile a list of highly valued customers—or formerly high-value customers that have fallen off the radar. Send them an invitation (by email or snail mail) the week (or two) before Black Friday inviting them to reserve items at Black Friday prices by phone or via a web site with a special coupon code. Items must be reserved by Tuesday before Thanksgiving, with credit card or equivalent payment, giving you a day before the holiday to process the transaction. This way, you know which items you have already sold and can take off store inventory. These purchases can be picked up at the store beginning the next Monday (after the weekend rush). And offer reasonable shipping fees that decrease the more the customer buys, creating extra revenue in shipping and up-sell incentive.

Of course, you have to be judicious about how many invitations you send out. Spend the next 10 months figuring out how to compile this list. If, for example, the list is based on year-long purchase levels, promote that perk! “If you spend $X with us over the year, you will receive the elite Holiday Shopping Invitation—reserving Black Friday Prices by phone or online!” This will encourage shoppers to go to your location first in order to get one of the elusive invitations.

Send “Wish List” Notices to My Friends and Family (with Discounts) for Me

Unlike some online stores, physical retailers don’t maintain wish lists. I would like my friends and family to know the items that I want from your establishment without the request coming directly from me. Let me tell you what I want and provide a list of email addresses for the people I want to get it from. And if you can give them a discount, terrific! This is a great strategy for service providers with physical locations, such as restaurants or hair salons. I know I love to receive a gift certificate for a favorite meal.

Advice to Merchants: Make the offer in store and via email—“Create a wish list of items, and we will send it to the email list you provide and maintain it here in the store.” Encourage people who have items on layaway to add those to the wish list. You might not get tons of customers willing to give up the emails of others, but you will get some. And you’ll find out what customers are craving from your inventory. Maintaining the wish lists in the store also provides a benefit to gift shoppers who are clueless about what to get. They know that I shop there, but don’t know what I like. It’s like a wedding registry before those were all online.

Make sure you maintain the lists—when something is purchased, it is indicated so gifts aren’t duplicated. Then, after the holidays, send offers to the “wisher” for the items that are still on the list. I know that I have given gift ideas to people in the past that weren’t taken. And, a few weeks after New Years, I realize how much I really wanted that item. You can realize after-season sales based on holiday wishes unfulfilled.

For services, besides offering gift certificates, offer to email a gift certificate offer on ...

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