Many Australian stores and shopping strips are currently experiencing something drastically different to their usual vibrant, bustling states. With many physical shops forced to shut their doors in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible that every sale, lead and interaction could have an impact on a retailers’ ability to tackle this current challenge, both now and into the future. Therefore, building customer loyalty and encouraging repeat business is imperative, and for many retailers, an online presence could be the tool to help them do so.

Demonstrating to your customers that you are there for them, can be trusted, and will go that extra mile to deliver what they need can go a long way to help build a sense of loyalty. Because, even in the most challenging times, your customers will want to know whether there might be a delay in receiving your product or when your business might return to normal. Here are some tips to help you take your exceptional in-store customer experience online.

Encourage open, honest communication

In this time of uncertainty, many customers may be looking for answers and will appreciate open and prompt communication. So, it’s important to be honest with them about the situation at hand, and how it could impact not only your business, but how they interact with it. Don’t fret if you don’t have time to answer every call or reply to every customer email – consider using a virtual assistant to help you ease the load by automating as many processes as possible. Make your contact information easily accessible and encourage customers to share feedback so others can see how your business is endeavouring to listen to, and subsequently help people.

Provide outstanding customer service

Many retailers already recognise the importance of providing effective and memorable customer service. But in today’s environment especially, where you can’t actually provide it in-store, why not let your online presence act as the welcoming face of your retail business? For example, consider making your returns policy more lenient considering people don’t have the option to try on in-store. You may also want to send personalised emails or make phone calls to your customers to discuss orders, offer suggestions and ask how your business can assist. Providing outstanding customer service isn’t necessarily about big, bold strategies, but about doing the little things well, which could make a world of difference when customers are feeling uncertain.

Engage via social media

When you can’t greet customers in person, one of the next best things is social media. With lots of us now working from home, many people will be relying on social media to stay connected with family and friends, or even fulfil their need for a little retail therapy! Posting engaging content – such as photos, videos or blogs about your latest range or newest products – or launching social media question and answer sessions could help customers stay connected with your business. Use social media as a platform to develop or deepen a sense of community among your customers – community spirit, after all, has rarely been more important.

Consider a loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs can be a great way to help businesses strengthen their bond with customers. They allow you to offer perks or rewards based on, for example, products purchased or amount spent, to incentivise repeat custom. When every sale matters, it’s important to provide customers with as many reasons as possible to come back and shop with your business.

While this is an uncertain time for everyone, human-to-human connection, even from a distance, could help you build long-term relationships, loyalty and support. So even if there’s a closed sign hanging in your shopfront, an effective online presence could help your retail business respond, recover and prepare for a return, hopefully soon, to a vibrant retail high street.

Jill Schoolenberg is the Regional President for Australia, Canada and Latin America at GoDaddy.