We are witnessing some of the most unprecedented and stressful times in recent history. As Australians continue to settle into a more socially distant lifestyle, uncertainty around almost every aspect of life remains a constant burden on the minds of the population. Whilst somewhat comical, the great toilet-paper spending saga was just one example of how uncertain times can alter the way individuals go about their everyday tasks – such as shopping. As this pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that consumers are in fact spending their money, however, there has been a drastic shift in consumer sentiment and spending habits.

However, even with most of the world in some form of isolation, payments are still being made between businesses and individuals. As such, it is imperative that merchants create an online, stress-free journey for the modern-day COVID-19 consumer.

Here are my top tips for retailers and merchants to do so:

Broaden your payment offering

As retailers transition their offerings online it is important to understand that every consumer has a different level of ability and digital literacy, meaning consumers need to have an easy to use ecommerce channel, in which products can be found and paid for effortlessly. To cater to all types of consumers online ability, retailers should consider offering alternative payment methods. Flexible credit options such as buy-now-pay-later schemes can also help to alleviate financial pressures during these tough times or provide the impetus to invest in items that make staying at home easier.

Build Trust

As retailers and merchants drive their traffic online, Australian consumers are more engaged in ecommerce than ever before, with new data from Criteo revealing that 50 percent are planning to purchase more goods online compared to usual. Retailers need to ensure they are prepared for this increased demand on their digital platforms and that their online infrastructure can withstand this heightened traffic. While teething problems for many new to ecommerce retailers may happen, it is crucial that you always ensure the customer knows what to expect. Communicating clearly on stock levels, delivery times, payment schedules, returns and offers is an opportunity to build trust and loyalty creating a happy and stress-free customer.

Cultivate Community

It is important that retailers keep their ear close to the ground on consumer sentiment and where their customers are spending most of their time. Naturally, in times of struggle people come together and yearn for a sense of community. Merchants must cultivate a sense of community to drive customer retention. Engaging with consumers via social media platforms can help to build a lasting connection with your brand – and offering social selling  is another way to take new orders and payments, and a  great way of creating a stress free and effortless environment for the consumer.

Give Rewards

It is not the time for being opportunistic. The customer will see right through ingenuine marketing pushes and be turned off your brand. A great way to ensure that your attracting and retaining customers during a competitive ecommerce period, is to offer rewards and incentives. This both benefits the consumer as well as increases your business traffic. Being strategic about this is key! Offering reward incentives for customers to use the payment methods that can best help your cash flow, drives new consumers to adopt your most suited payment methods, all the while, creating a pleasant experience in testing times.

The pandemic continues to test citizens all around the world. While our standard attitudes and practices, which have remained unchanged in recent history, are adjusted, we must understand how to limit stress and concern where we can. Retailers and merchants should adopt the aforementioned strategies in order to offer consumers a positive, stress free experience which will convert to more business and sales both immediately and in the long run.

Phil Pomford is general manager for APAC at Worldpay Merchant Solutions, FIS