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8 Cost-Effective Customer Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season

October 30, 2020
Written by Sam O'Brien
October 30, 2020 | Written by Sam O'Brien

Updated on November 11, 2021

This article was contributed by Sam O'Brien, Director of Digital and Growth for EMEA at RingCentral.

No matter the size or type of business, it’s good practice to let your customers know you appreciate them. This customer appreciation drives loyalty, and loyalty drives business. According to Accenture, 57% of customers spend more money on brands they're loyal to.

Even beyond this tangible benefit, it's worth remembering that your customers are the reason for your success. Customer appreciation is a great way to celebrate milestones or a special occasion while also helping with customer retention. Below we’ve created a complete list of some of our favorite customer appreciation ideas to try out this holiday season.

Understand what your customers want

Before you sit down and plan out a customer appreciation strategy, it’s helpful to understand what your customers want, relevant to your small business. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which of my customers do I want to target? 
  • What is my budget? 
  • Can I offer something they might not have?
  • What are my competitors doing?
  • Do my customers expect me to be eco-friendly?
  • Can this help me achieve my customer experience goals?

When you’ve answered the questions above, you’re ready to come up with a plan. Read on for eight, cost-effective ways to show your appreciation.

#1 Free service or upgrades

Who can say no to free stuff? Depending on what your business offers, there are a few ways to offer a free service or upgrade to show your gratitude.

A free month in a subscription plan

If you provide a service with a subscription plan, offer a free month or some type of special discount. Many customers will find January to be a financial squeeze, so why not ease that burden by giving them the first month of the year for free?

Many businesses have a great range of incentives for new sign-ups but don't offer anything special for their loyal customers. Rather than offering a free month for new customers, make it exclusive for existing ones. This shows your appreciation for their ongoing business and makes it clear they matter just as much - if not more - than a new customer. Providing this small gift to your existing customer base shows that you are going the extra mile to show your appreciation.

Free upgrades or discounts

If you offer a service with multiple tiers, why not offer a free upgrade to the next tier for your most loyal customers? Make sure it's for a reasonable amount of time, otherwise it can come across as a bit of a sales tactic.

For instance, if you provide call recording in the US or call recording for business in the UK, why not increase the amount of storage space they have available to them?

If you can't quite commit to a free upgrade, it's worth considering if you can provide a loyalty discount to your existing customer base. If a loyal customer has been with you for a couple of years,  offer upgraded service at a lower price than you might offer a new customer. Combine this with a free month of the upgrade as a trial.

If you’re in real estate, try showing appreciation to your loyal customers by discounting or waiving a fee from your office. This price reduction can help them towards their goal of buying or selling a house more than a gift card to a restaurant would. Or, you could come up with a loyalty agreement if customers stay with you for a prolonged period of time. This way, they can get a percentage off your services.

Free/upgraded delivery plans

Many businesses offer delivery plans like free delivery for a set cost per year. Providing free access to this plan for a set amount of time is an excellent way to show your appreciation. This customer appreciation gift has benefits for you. According to a global survey by BigCommerce, 84% of shoppers have specifically made a purchase because shipping was free.

If you want to reward customers who have already opted into a delivery plan, you could upgrade it. Faster delivery is always desirable, so providing next-day delivery for a set amount of time can be a great upgrade.

#2 Small gifts with purchases

If there's one thing people love about the holiday season, it's a holiday gift. Remember the phrase: it's the thought that counts? These gifts don't need to be big or expensive to make an impact. The act of giving one is enough to show a valued customer your gratitude. Whether you give branded swag, a gift card, or another type of holiday gift, customers will love the added detail. 

If you're an e-commerce business, it's easy to package a small bonus with anything shipped out during the holiday season. Some smaller businesses include branded swag like a mini chocolate bar, stickers, or a sample of one of their more expensive products. Businesses that provide expensive, high-tier products might send along a bottle of wine or a gift basket with gourmet treats.

If you run a brick-and-mortar store, offer a small token of gratitude like a candy cane at checkout. Small touches like this can go a long way, and it's easy for staff to stay on top of.

Just remember, you shouldn't advertise this. When you do, it stops being a token of appreciation and starts to feel like a sales method - "free gift with every purchase." Keep it a surprise and your customers will be delighted.

#3 Greetings cards

You don't need to spend a lot of money to make an impact. If gifts and upgrades are out of your budget, consider greetings cards. These are particularly well suited for businesses that have a lot of direct contact with customers.

Greeting cards are a great way of getting in touch and maintaining a pre-existing relationship. Consider getting custom printed cards that have a personal touch but still reflect your brand.

Depending on your clientele, you may want to consider e-cards as an alternative. They're particularly useful for eco-friendly businesses or those with contacts in other countries. E-cards are a good budget option as well. They express the same message but without the additional cost of postage.

#4 Branded products

Branded products are another way to use physical items to show appreciation.

Try to think of products that have actual use but are still relevant to your business. Branded swag has two purposes here - first, as a gift. Second, as a reminder that your brand exists.

Some ideas of branded products you can send out are:

  • USB Sticks - especially if you're a technology firm
  • Umbrellas - after all, how often do people get caught without one?
  • Mugs - you can never have too many.
  • Tote bags - especially if you fill the bag with other gifts
  • Reusable water bottles

#5 Personalized products

If branded products aren't your cup of tea, you can also send personalized products to your top customers. Unlike branded goods, you want the product itself to remind the customer of your brand. Extra points if you can personalize a product you sell.

While we've listed personalized products as a separate category, you can combine it with the option of free upgrades. For instance, if you sell notebooks or other stationery, you can't offer free personalization to your repeat customers.

Personalized products are a great way of showing your appreciation for that specific customer. For example, if a customer receives a greeting card from a company, they could assume the cards have been sent out in bulk. But if they get a USB stick personalized with their name - that shows you thought about them as an individual.

#6 Customer-focused countdown

Not every token of gratitude needs to be physical. Whether you're eco-conscious, short on budget, or simply rushed for time, there are digital ways to highlight how much you appreciate your customers.

One effective tactic is a customer-focused countdown. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, why not do 12 days of giveaways? Roll out a contest where customers can win a surprise gift for 12 days. These can be anything from newly released goodies or coupons for future use. If you've been building your email list, you can also send out an email at the beginning and end of the 12 days. This will capture customers who don't regularly check your site, without overwhelming their inbox.

#7 Coupons and offers

Another option that doesn't require a physical gift is coupons. Coupons are a great option if you have a lot of customers you want to contact, as they don't require postage or purchase of gifts. Some coupon examples you could use are:

  • Buy one get one free
  • 25% off any purchases
  • $10 off when you spend $30+
  • Free gift when you spend over $40
  • $20 gift card when you spend over $50
  • Free click-and-collect if you order before a certain date

You could send these special discount offers out as part of an email marketing campaign. Alternatively, you could make these exclusive promotions time-sensitive and integrate them into your website, perhaps in an advent calendar or similar format. This can be especially effective if they're added automatically to your website shopping cart.

#8 Gift cards

If you want to send out something more tangible than a coupon code, but less specific than particular products, gift cards are an option. Depending on your intent, there are two ways you can use them.

Gift cards for other businesses

Firstly, you can provide gift cards to other businesses. For example, if you’re a real estate agent, you can give your clients gift cards to local coffee shops and restaurants. This not only shows that you care about your clients but the local businesses in the area as well.

Small businesses could look into working with other small businesses on an exchange. Many people wonder how to support small businesses and this is a great way to do that. Rather than spending part of your budget on gift cards, see if you could trade equal value cards with a local business. For instance, if company A is a small greetings card shop, and company B is a local bakery, they might have a lot of crossover in clientele. Company A gifts its top customers gift cards to company B, while B provides gift cards to company A.

A solution like this allows you to provide interesting gifts, support other local businesses, and build relationships with customers.

Gift cards for your own business

Rather than sending out mass emails with a voucher code, you can send nicely packaged gift cards to your top customers. Not only does this act as a token of appreciation, but it's also a great marketing tool.

Customers will be more likely to remember your business for their next purchase if they know they have available credit to use. They're also likely to spend in excess of the amount on the gift card.

Get Creative

These eight ideas can be great starting points for your customer appreciation strategy, but don't be afraid to go beyond them - all year long. There are tons of interesting, creative tactics you can use to promote customer loyalty, and the holiday season is a great time to test them out.


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