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5 ways to turn one-time gift shoppers into repeat customers

When you think of Christmas, what comes to mind? Turkey, crackers and presents probably all feature. But how often do you think about what lies behind them? For ecommerce marketers it should be a common thought, as with any good Christmas present comes a path to purchase, either in-store or online, with each one representing a significant opportunity.

In 2017, it was estimated that in the UK alone, more than £19 billion would be spent on Christmas presents, equating to £378.50 spent per person. From November onwards, shopping motivations shift from primarily personal to purchasing for others, as 60% of shoppers start their Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving while 20% plan to buy gifts during the Black Friday sales. While naturally this brings increased opportunity for sales, it also brings new audiences: gift buyers.

Gift buyers often fall into a category known as ‘one-time shoppers’. They may come to a website with a goal in mind, such as a list of presents that a recipient is interested in or a desire to purchase a gift card, or they may be searching for the perfect present. They also have no intention to visit the site after the initial need. However, not every gift-searcher needs to become a one-time shopper.

Here are 5 ways brand can turn one-time gift shoppers into repeat customers this holiday season:

1. Respond to their preferred behaviour

One-time shoppers have their own unique set of behaviours, which often include paying with or purchasing gift cards, yet they will also exhibit the behaviours of another of the ecommerce shopping modes. At the point at which one-time shoppers are in either browser, researcher or product focused mode, brands can capitalise by building experiences driven by the behaviours associated to each mode.

  • Browsers are looking for inspiration and have no products in mind. Although it’s more difficult to know what first-time visitors to your site may be interested in, you can deliver messages driven by their browsing behaviour, tailoring their experience with relevant content.
  • Researchers are gathering information about different products, having decided that they plan to make a purchase. Make it easy for them to compare products to give them a quick, seamless and enjoyable experience.
  • Product focused shoppers know what they want to buy and are visiting purely to make that purchase. With this in mind, make it easy for visitors to navigate to and search for specific products, and then checkout.

2. Understand what motivates them

The clue is in the title; gift shoppers. These one-time shoppers aren’t visiting your website for their own need. Your messaging, both offsite and onsite, must reflect this, showing that you understand their current motivations for shopping aren’t personal.

One-time shoppers do not want to sign up to your website, so look for guest checkout where possible. While you might be tempted to ask them to sign up in the hope that they will shop again, this goes against their preferences, therefore creating a negative experience and having the opposite effect. Yes, we want to try and turn one-time shoppers into returning customers, but the best way to do this is to build the best possible experience for them in their current mode. This is particularly apparent when we consider that 55% of UK customers feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their priorities.

3. Be helpful

One of the best ways to encourage one-time gift buyers to return to your website in future is by giving them a truly assistive experience during their first visit. Think about how much time you personally spend searching for presents, with absolutely no idea what you want to purchase. How much more appreciation would you have for a brand if they actively helped you along the way?

Contextual messaging and product recommendations are just two tactics you can deploy to achieve this. By displaying assistive and relatable messaging aligned with their intent, helping gift-buyers to navigate to suitable products on your website, you will guide them through their path from browsing, to research to purchase. Combine messaging such as ‘Give the perfect gift this Christmas’, with product recommendations of popular items on your website or items that people with similar intent have purchased. You may even inspire them to buy more items than they ever intended to, if you get the recommendations right. You should also ensure your gift card options are easy to navigate to.

4. Build trust

One-time shoppers are likely to be unfamiliar with your brand and the products you carry. Not only that, but they want to ensure they can trust your brand with their personal information. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure your website responds with clear site navigation (to help them discover your product offering) and complete product descriptions (to help them to evaluate options).

To help build trust, consider surfacing prominent and visible reviews of your brand and products, to help them assess product quality, brand reputation and service levels. This transparency will help to nurture that all important trust. At the checkout stage, you can expand on this further by showing recognisable ecommerce trust marks to highlight your credibility.

5. Don't wait too long to re-engage them

Once you’ve successfully converted a sale from a gift-buying customer, then turn your attention to their personal shopping intent. Start trying to build up a picture of what it is they are personally interested in. You can do this by analysing their profile (e.g. demographic information) as well as their behaviours (e.g. browsing history and purchasing history).

As a one-time shopper, they will have no real desire or intention to revisit your website, however by capturing their attention early on and keeping your brand front of mind, you may inspire them to browse again for their own needs. Use promotional offers to encourage them back to your site and once they are there, track their journey to build up a fuller-picture of their unique user profile. You can use this to target them with more relevant and personal messages in future, through a range of channels including digital advertising and remarketing.


While not every one-time gift shopper that visits your site will be relevant in the future, there will be a high percentage of visitors with potential to become returning customers. As tempting as it may be to start targeting them with personal messaging on their first visit, it’s important to hold back and focus first and foremost on their experience in that moment. Concentrate on building experiences this holiday season that are relevant to their behaviours and motivations as a gift-buyer, to ensure you leave a positive lasting impression of your brand. Only then will you inspire them to return.

One-time shoppers represent just one of the five modes of shopper that we recognise exist across ecommerce. Discover all five ecommerce modes that you should be targeting online in our eBook.

Personalisation, Ecommerce

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5 ways to turn one-time gift shoppers into repeat customers

Find out how you can build long term relationships with gift shoppers past the holiday season.

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5 ways to turn one-time gift shoppers into repeat customers

Posted by Emily Atkinson