Now that the last holiday shoppers have exited your store and your promotions are winding down, showing customer appreciation might not be top of mind, but building customer loyalty should never go out of style.

Luckily, we have a few inexpensive customer appreciation tricks up our sleeve that can assist you in making your loyal (and soon-to-be loyal) customers feel like the valued patrons they are. After all, happy customers make for even happier cash drawers. So for those ready to start the New Year off with an appreciative bang, here are 26 budget-friendly customer appreciation day ideas you can leverage all year round.

1. Choose A Customer Of The Day

Who doesn’t like surprises, especially when they save you money? Choose a customer of the day and take this opportunity to drive in-store traffic by announcing the promotion via your social channels. Then, post a picture of the lucky winner to encourage future visits. Since it’s so easy to keep track of sales with your POS system, why not reward the customer of your 50th transaction with a discount? Even if it’s as little as 10% off a cup of coffee, it’s really the thought that counts. Ultimately, you want your customers to know that they’re just as appreciated during a busy holiday season as they are during the slushy days of March.

2. Give Special Attention to Loyal Customers

This next approach requires a little more legwork, but will definitely keep your most loyal customers returning to your store (while keeping your costs down). You’re probably already keeping track of what your customers are buying, so this might seem like a big ‘ol obvious, but it’s all about what you are doing with this information. Your POS system does a great job of tracking your inventory and monitoring sales, but did you ever think of taking that data and using it to improve customer loyalty and appreciation? It’s time to for you to use this info for all it’s worth! Every three to six months, take a look at what your most loyal customers are purchasing and mark that information in their profile in your POS. The next time these customers are checking out, reference what they most frequently buy and ask them if they’d like to make a purchase at a discount. For example: If loyal customer Janet regularly purchases the same bottle of wine, offer her a discount on a bottle of her favorite. Even if it wasn’t on her shopping list, she might jump at the offer. If she doesn’t, she’ll definitely still appreciate the gesture.

Women with dog talking to merchant in a pet store.

3. Give Special Attention to your Not-So-Loyal Customers

There are always going to be customers who stop by your store a few times and then seem to drop off the face of the earth. Most likely, it’s nothing you’ve done, but you still want their business, right? So how do you get those customers back into your store? Try sending customers a “We Miss You” card with a discount code. If they plan on returning, they’ll come running! Just make sure your code has an expiration date to help create a sense of urgency.

4. A Simple Gesture Goes a Long Way

Sometimes it’s the smallest gestures that make the biggest difference. The most inexpensive way to show customers appreciation — and keep your brand popular — is to always practice excellent customer service. Make sure you don’t overlook the little day-to-day gestures. Actions such as greeting customers when they walk in, and walk out (even if empty-handed), create an inviting atmosphere that customers will notice. Also, don’t forget the art of conversation! You probably became a merchant partially due to your love of people. So don’t forget to take time out of your busy day, slow down, and make small talk with you patrons. You might be surprised by what you learn about your customers and the expectations they have. This kind of information can be invaluable to your business and will provide you with ideas on how to best manage your store going forward. In retail, it’s the little things that are going to set you apart.

Waving woman behind a counter at a coffee shop.

Bonus Tip:

Use your POS system to take notes of customer information that will help you provide them with a personalized experience every time they walk through your door. For example, you can surprise your customers the next time they check out by asking how they enjoyed their last purchase of a certain bottle of wine or if they’ve worn that special blue dress they picked up at your store last month.

Use your POS system to take notes of customer information that will help you provide them with a personalized experience every time they walk through your door.

5. Speaking of Personalizing…

Even if you aren’t one of those people that celebrates their birthday all month long, most people appreciate the acknowledgment of their special day. So reward your customers for getting older! This can come in the form of discounts, cool swag that helps further brand your business, or (based on sales information from your POS) your customers’ favorite products. If you want to get a little creative, you can offer your rewards in the form of experiences. If you’re a coffee shop owner, reward loyal customers with a coffee tasting. If you’re a boutique owner, provide your customer with a personalized wardrobe consultation. As mentioned before, make sure to add an expiration date to create a sense of urgency — within one or two months of their birthday is typical. By far the best part about rewarding customers with an experience is that it will get them back into your store. Who knows, they might even spend a little more money thanks to that free sample or consultation you just provided!

6. All Customers Deserve a Little TLC

Everyone needs a little TLC once in awhile, and customers are no exception. To let your customers know that you appreciate all that they do for your business, slip pre-written thank you cards into their shopping bags. Not only will your customers appreciate the warm gesture, you can use this as an opportunity to include your business’ contact information, social accounts, and an invitation for them to visit you again. This is one of those times you should let your personality shine through. So, if it’s relevant to your business, make the card funny or sweet. It’s really up to you!

Everyone needs a little TLC once in awhile, and customers are no exception.

7. Give Them A Rain Check

Though this concept might sound a little outdated, but here’s how to give it new life! Traditionally a rain check is a ticket given for later use when a sports or outdoor event is interrupted or postponed due to rain. But it can also be a great way to convince customers — who walked out empty handed because you were out of their desired item — to give your stores a second try. There’s a few ways you can go about this. If a customer didn’t find what they were looking for, request their email (if you don’t already have it) and offer to email them when the product is back in your store, or even ship it to them directly. The important thing is to not let an issue with your inventory prevent you from making a sale. If the customer is not interested in either of these options, this is where a coupon comes in handy. The coupon will provide them with a discount for that specific item or a similar item of their choice. It’s a way of saying “we’re sorry you were disappointed”. The coupon incentivizes them to come back and purchase their favorite item from you. That is, instead of visiting a competitor.

8. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Everyone, including your uncle (and maybe even your grandmother), is on social media these days. So why not indulge a few customers in their fantasies of being famous! Encourage customers to post about your business or products on their social channels for a chance to be featured on yours. You can regram, retweet, and repost your favorite customer posts to show them your appreciation. Because doesn’t everyone — in one way or another — want to be Instagram famous?

Coffee shop owner on instagram post.

9. Expert Tips and Advice are Priceless

Knowledge is power and some of the best pearls of wisdom are free. So reward your customers with emails that provide them with expert advice that they can really use. Are you a shoe store? Share tips on how to best take care of your shoes. A clothing store? Give tips on how to remove stains from delicate fabrics. Or maybe you’re a coffee shop owner? Offer advice on how to store coffee beans to keep them fresh longer. The key is to personalize your tips and tricks so your customers feel engaged and more invested in your store.

10. Call Me, Maybe

Nothing says we appreciate you like a good old-fashioned phone call. But don’t just call to say “hi”. Like all of our other suggestions, you need to be able to add value. Combined with some of the customer appreciation ideas above, this can be a great tactic for birthdays and anniversaries if a customer has been with you for a while. Call them up to congratulate them and let them know you have a little reward waiting for them at the store, in the mail, or sitting in their inbox.

Nothing says we appreciate you like a good old-fashioned phone call. But don’t just call to say “hi”. Like all of our other suggestions, you need to be able to add value.

11. Create a Thank You Video

Now don’t get intimidated too quickly. This video doesn’t have to be high-tech or scary to make. A simple smartphone video will do the trick. If you have the tech know-how and can edit in your store’s graphic, even better! But if you don’t, that’s ok too. Email your thank you video to new customers after they shop at your business, thanking them for their purchase. Yes, this might sound a little corny. But guess what? It will set you apart from the competition.

12. Share Local Goods

This next customer appreciation tip is good for customers, your wallet, and neighboring businesses. It’s a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” opportunity. Maybe you’re a doggie daycare that doesn’t offer dog grooming, but you know that The Posh Poodle down the street does. Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in sharing a special code or certificate with you. Next time customers pick up their pooches, let them know you are partnering with Posh to bring them the best service possible. Either hand them the code directly or attach it to their next receipt when they pay. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Just make sure you aren’t promoting any of your competitors!

Couple eating pastries at a table

13. Share Local Wisdom

Similar to #9, you’re giving your customers the gift of knowledge. But rather than sharing tips and advice that highlight your specific trade, here you are providing your customers with insider advice about the neighborhood. Chances are if you own your own business, you know all the hot spots and who’s who in the area. If you’re the owner of a women’s boutique that targets young female millennials, create an email or a physical insert to slip into their shopping bag that tells them the best places to grab a drink, get their nails polished, or the best blowout bars in the area. Using free online tools such as Canva and PicMonkey make it easy for you to create physical flyers or inserts. Just make sure you vet the businesses you recommend and that they are relevant to the demographic you serve.

14. Bad Weather Appreciation

For some businesses more than others, bad weather means bad sales. If your business is likely to take a hit because of a rainy day, show customers that brave the foul weather how much you appreciate their business by providing a reward or incentive for them to visit you during less-than-ideal conditions. For example, an ice cream shop in our neighborhood offers customers 10% off all cones when it’s either raining or snowing. This can be applied to any business, because no one likes going out in the rain! >Show customers that brave bad weather how much you appreciate their business by providing them with a reward or incentive.

15. A Little Something Sweet

As we mentioned earlier, customer appreciation doesn’t always have to come in the form of discounts and promos. Sometimes, sweetening the day of a cranky child with a piece of candy is all you need to do (or an adult with a sweet tooth for that matter). Providing lollipops at your counter can help put a smile on the faces of small children, as well as their parents. We recommend that you go with allergy-free candy, because a healthy child is a happy child! We recommend checking out the candy aisle at your local health food store.

16. It’s All About The Package

We admit, the tab for packaging (depending on how customized your orders get) can hit your wallet pretty hard. This is the time, however, to snag a page out of the big box playbook. There is a reason that stores such as Victoria’s Secret and Sephora make it a point to package your purchases as beautifully as they do; it makes it feel more like a gift than just an everyday lipstick or bra. Creating your own custom packaging will not only delight your customers’ senses, but will also build your brand.

Couple paying the check at a restaurant.

17. Throw An Appreciation Party

Nothing says thank you like a celebratory bash dedicated to your customers. Invite both new and loyal customers. Throwing a party for your patrons is a great way to show your appreciation to customers who have been with you the longest and also a perfect tactic for acquiring new ones. If the price tag of throwing a party scares you, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Here are some ideas to help you get started on a small budget.

18. Start a Loyalty Program

Allowing your customers to use a loyalty rewards program such as AppCard allows patrons to earn rewards points by shopping at your store and other participating retailers. Customers can then redeem these points for future purchases. What we love about AppCard is that it integrates with your POS data to allow you to collect valuable information on your customers. You’ll know exactly what your most loyal customers purchase, precisely how much they spend, and how often they return.

19. Reward Social Behavior

Like it or not, It is very likely that your customers are already talking about you on social media. So why not reward that behavior (both good and bad)? Yes, it seems obvious to reward positive feedback you receive on social. You can Tweet at a customer that gives you a positive review and tell them to stop in for a discounted coffee or a free wine tasting. We admit though that rewarding negative social feedback can seem counter-intuitive. Take a step back however and try and approach any negative behavior as a learning experience. If someone is complaining about your business, take it as an opportunity to learn from what went wrong in his or her experience and invite the individual back for the opportunity to make it up to them, maybe with a bonus offer. You’ll not only show others on social media that you take feedback seriously and look to keep your customers happy, but will also prevent yourself from losing business.

SEE ALSO: Small Business Guide to Social Media

Employee talking with coffee shop customer.

20. Donate To Charity On Your Customer’s Behalf

Make shoppers feel good about spending money in your store by donating a percentage of your sales on their behalf. This is a great idea around the holidays or the national holiday or month dedicated to your cause (e.g. October if you are donating to a breast cancer awareness charity). Ultimately, this tactic makes shoppers feel good about frequenting your store and might urge them to spend slightly more at their next checkout. Just make sure to advertise in your store or business that you are planning on donating, also how much or what percentage of your sales. If this sounds expensive, don’t fear! Remember, it’s a tax write-off. Just stay away from any charities that might be controversial. For example, we wouldn’t go donating to a presidential candidate.

21. Throw in a Free Gift

Move excess inventory and delight customers by repurposing unsold items as free gifts. You know that edible puppy shampoo that never sold in your Paw Shop? We know you don’t like to mention inventory orders that might not have gone as planned, but the fact is that you ordered it and you need to move it! So why not move excess inventory and boost sales all while delighting customers? Include these bottles of shampoo in the shopping bag of customers who spend over a certain amount. Even if it’s something they might not have purchased themselves, they’ll appreciate the gesture and might discover a new product they actually love!

SEE ALSO: 5 Inventory Management Techniques to Adopt in 2016

Coffee shop employee behind a counter.

22. Show Them You Listen

Have a sizable amount of customers been complaining about the lighting in your dressing room? The packaging of your donuts? Or the syrup in your coffee? Rather than let this irritate you, take it as an opportunity to use their feedback to show customers how much you appreciate them and really truly listen. Send your customers an email highlighting the changes you’ve made based on their comments and thank them for helping you improve your business. This will position you as a store owner that truly cares and listens to customers, which is liquid gold when it comes to marketing. If you want to learn more about email marketing, check out our blog post here.

23. Have a Customer Appreciation Day Sale

Flash sales are a great way to increase revenue during your slow season, so why not make it a customer appreciation day sale? Invite your entire customer base to a sale in their honor. You can sweeten the pot by incentivizing them with an additional bonus if they bring a friend to the event. Send customers an email thanking them for their loyalty and inviting them to the sale. Make sure the email (or snail mail postcard) lists when the sale is, what the discount will be, and how much of an additional percentage they will receive when they bring a guest.

Aerial view of a customer and employee at a pet store.

24. Start Your Own Secret Society

Well, maybe not exactly secret, but everyone loves feeling like they’re special or privy to a secret. Start by putting loyal customers on an “exclusive” mailing list that will give them first dibs on special events, discounts, and promotions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are creating additional discounts or holding additional promotions for loyal customers, it might just mean that your loyal customers are alerted first to when your sales will be. Want to go a step further? For larger sales, open your doors an hour early for these customers. Provide a treat like donuts and coffee and your patrons will come flocking!

25. Celebrate Their Accomplishments With Them

Remember how we mentioned earlier the importance of getting to know your customers? We can’t emphasize its importance enough. If you do this successfully, the customers you build solid relationships with will become like family and start sharing their special news with you. Is Sally having a baby? Or maybe Lisa just graduated from college? Take this opportunity to send either an email or note in the mail congratulating them on their special milestone. Include a discount code to show your appreciation and an expiration date to create a sense of urgency. Because you don’t want them redeeming their discount on Little Johnny’s third birthday! >Get to know your customers and help them celebrate their milestones with a special discount or gift.

26 SMS Messaging (Texting)

We’ve talked a lot about email marketing in this post, but Americans are texting more than ever these days. On average we are sending/receiving 32 texts per day! That is a lot of time on our phones. So take advantage of the current texting frenzy and get your customers’ attention by sending them a little text reminder that your business is still here and misses them. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, SMS messaging is a great low-cost way to revive “dead” relationships with customers. Remember, this works best when you give them a reason to return, such as a promo code or an invite to a special event.

Need more customer appreciation day ideas to help build customer loyalty? Check out our post on how to create the customer loyalty your business needs.

About the Author

Sara Sugar is ShopKeep point of sale’s in-house Content Marketing Specialist. Sara uses her distinguished journalism background to boil down topics like POS system technology, payments, and payment security for small business owners.