What do 2023 Trends in Holiday Shopping Mean for your Loyalty Strategy?

Jan 2, 2024

According to a recent New York Times article, 2023 Holiday spending increased despite doubts due to lingering inflation.

The Times reported a 3.1% increase in sales from 2022 per early data, with spending increasing across multiple categories including restaurant, apparel and grocery. A potential influence on these positive trends was the return of discounts to pre-pandemic proportions, with brands offering 30-50% off to targeted consumers. Off-price retailers including Burlington, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls also saw comparable store sales increase by 6%.

So what does this mean for your loyalty strategy? While Kobie weighed in with Loyalty360 at the end of 2022 on the topic of retaining customer loyalty beyond the holiday season, we know even more now about the mindset of last year’s holiday shoppers. We also know that holiday discounts are not enough to continue fueling positive purchase trends when current economic factors, such as increased price-consciousness and rising credit card rates, will continue to confront consumers. Brands must think outside the box to create holiday campaigns that not only drive sales but also establish a foundation for sustained loyalty.

Kobie’s VP of Strategic Consulting, Chris Barnett, has given us insights into the Price of Discounts, and recently provided Loyalty360 with a list of more innovative ways to foster loyalty beyond the holiday season.

1. What are the latest trends in customer loyalty and rewards programs for the holiday season?

This season, many programs are evolving from generic rewards to tailored experiences and incentives, powered by data insights and delivered in engaging ways like gamification that tap into emotional motivations. There’s also heightened focus on financial outcomes, with tighter holiday campaign budgets being carefully aligned to audience insights and solid metrics to make investments work harder.


2. What types of rewards or incentives tend to resonate most with customers during the holidays?

Customers generally gravitate towards rewards that offer immediate value or create memorable experiences. It could also include rewards that can be shared with others. We also see greater customer engagement with socially conscious program elements or rewards tied to charitable contributions and sustainability during the holidays.


3. What are some creative ways to engage and reward loyal customers beyond the traditional points-based system during the holidays?

The holidays are a perfect time to engage members in fun and unconventional ways. Consider things like virtual holiday event invites, personalized gifts for VIPs, holiday-themed user content campaigns, exclusive holiday product access, or rallying members around charitable challenges. It’s about captivating members during a time when competition for their attention is fierce.


4. How can technology, such as mobile apps or AI, be leveraged to enhance holiday loyalty programs?

Mobile apps position loyalty programs beside holiday shoppers – before, during, and after purchases. That makes them the perfect platform for tactics like gamified holiday experiences, where challenges keep members engaged. Coupled with AI, these apps can deliver tailored push notifications and dynamic content, shaped by past behavior. It cuts through the holiday noise with what members really want.


5. What strategies can help Brands retain customers beyond the holiday season once the loyalty program ends?

While the holidays may be the year’s climax, it shouldn’t signal a halt to member engagement – particularly for those newly acquired during the holiday peak. Programs should plan for sustained momentum and enrich member profiles to fuel year-round initiatives. Creating a continuity of communication, paired with showcasing year-long member value through focused onboarding campaigns, should create a seamless transition into the new year.