Retailers spend a lot of time and effort catering to their “best” customers – those that buy products as many as five or ten times a year. But the truth is that for most retailers these customers are actually pretty rare, typically representing less than 10-20% of a retailers’ active customer base. Instead, the more common shopper buys only once or twice a year.

These ‘one and done’ customers are a retailers’ biggest opportunity.

With the peak shopping period now in full swing, it’s the perfect time to capitalize on this opportunity, as many ‘one and dones’ start (and end) their online shopping during this period. Here are some specific strategies to try to convert them to regulars:

Open a channel of communication.

What’s the best, most effective, and cheapest way to speak to your customer? Email! Customers receive one for every online order but they should also get them for in-store activity. The most effective way is with e-receipts. If you’re not offering them already, you need to put it at the top of your list for next year.

If you are shipping to your customer, you already have a built-in communications channel – the box! How about including a great post-holiday offer, or free return labels as a “new customer courtesy.” The point is that you’ve got to use treat every touchpoint with these customers as a rare and valuable chance to impress them.

Encourage engagement – any engagement.

You want your ‘one and done’ to buy again, but short of that if you can get them to interact with your brand again you stand a better chance of being top of mind and getting to that all-important second purchase. Try including a “rate your product” email or an Instagram contest featuring the item they bought. Offer a discount or gift on future purchases if they refer a friend or write a review.

Even if the holiday purchase was a gift, you can still try to get them to come back to you. Just one more browsing session can make you a lot smarter about the shopper. So you definitely have to follow up on that purchase with a series of emails suggesting other items they might like. But be careful; showing them more jeans because they bought jeans isn’t compelling. But showing compliments to jeans can work. And you may not need to add in an additional coupon if you leverage post-holiday deals you are already planning.

Don’t demonize returns.

Too often, retailers treat returns as a necessary, expensive evil. But that’s a missed opportunity to impress a ‘one and done’ customer. For example, if they return online, they may need to come to your site to print a shipping label. Why not personalize the page to suggest alternatives to what they are returning? If you have to include an inducement to make that more compelling – so be it.

Another idea is to follow up a return from a new customer with a letter – yes a snail-mail letter – saying, “Sorry our stuff didn’t work out this time. Here’s a little something to convince you to let us try again.” It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture to make your point and have an impact. Free expedited shipping, enrollment in your next exclusive friends and family sales, etc. Imagine if you returned something in a store and at the end of the transaction, the clerk handed you a coupon for a free coffee at a nearby shop. If that were me, I’d be both shocked and delighted. And it would only cost the retailer about $1.50. Are your store managers empowered to make that happen?

The point behind all these strategies is that “one and dones” don’t have to be that way. They can become your best customers, if you can build upon the initial interactions.  Your long-term success depends on it!