While shopping peaks were once tied to Boxing Day or Black Friday sales, online promotions and discount codes have now become the rule rather than the exception. These deals often come with personalised product suggestions or promises of extra discounts on future purchases, but do these online touchpoints really connect with customers in the same way face-to-face interactions do?

The competition between e-commerce sellers and brick-and-mortar retailers is stepping up and fighting for customers can be tough when you’re up against an algorithm that works to attract shoppers 24/7.

However, in-person retailers have an opportunity to attract (and keep) customers that online sellers simply can’t replicate. Retail merchants that can play to their strengths by upping the face-to-face customer experience game will triumph in the cash flow and loyalty stakes.

The below tips will explain everything you need to know to cut a competitive edge.

Set your staff up for success

Regardless of how good your product is, if you don’t have confident and informed staff, the customer experience will fall short. Talk to your team to understand any pain points, and use this information to identify tools that will ease friction in these areas.

As a business owner, tools such as employee management or staff rostering software might not be top of your list — but they could be of great importance to your store manager. These days there is a software solution for almost every business problem; Xero for accounting, Zeller for card payments, and Slack for team communication to name a few. These tools allow your staff to spend more time cultivating authentic relationships with your customers.

Get the backend in order

If your backend processes are siloed and messy, it will show through the frontend. Consider implementing an integrated point of sale , with an intuitive EFTPOS solution like ZellerTerminal, which will help keep you organised even when you’re at your busiest.

A solution like this will calculate your sell rates and progress towards sales targets, keep track of inventory, and measure the gross margin return on investment to help you optimise your cash flow. Imagine never again disappointing your customer by understocking and selling out of their shoe size, or having the ability to track and manage refunds without double handling. This alone has been shown to save businesses 1-2 hours per week, or around 2 work weeks every year.

While online retailers are at the mercy of Australia Post, brick-and-mortar sellers can leverage their inventory software to ensure every customer walks out the door with their desired product, on the same day they need it. No doubt, stock issues will continue to plague the retail industry for many months to come.

If your business can establish a reputation for always having in-stock products, you’re going to win customers. It’s a simple matter of convenience.

Reward your regulars

Loyalty programs exist online, but scarcely feel truly personal. This is where brick-and-mortar retailers can differentiate themselves. Keep your locals coming back for more with loyalty cards and rewards that show them you appreciate their continued support. Consider rewards that are tailored to how they shop by using sales insights from your EFTPOS dashboard.

You can also look at introducing reactive rewards like an ad-hoc gift or discount at the point-of-sale to surprise and delight loyal customers, which will leave a lasting impression that sticks in their mind long after the transaction is complete. This reinforces the human aspect of brick-and-mortar shopping, and encourages loyalty over e-commerce.

Stay connected

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than sending a customer to an ATM to collect cash for their purchase when the connection is down, so make sure you’re equipped with the right payment solution to facilitate smooth transactions. Having a mobile EFTPOS machine like Zeller Terminal means that if you need to go mobile, you can still take payments and complete transactions without having to worry about connectivity. You can even insert a SIM card, to help business continue running smoothly in the event your shop Wi-Fi is affected.

EFTPOS terminals connected to big banks can leave you high and dry if their systems crash, and can interrupt or ruin sales in the same way that lost connectivity can. This isn’t just about collecting money, but also ensuring the customer is happy, so don’t let a bad connection ruin the relationship you’ve worked so hard to cultivate with your customer.

Get to know your customers

The opportunity to interact with real humans is what sets brick-and-mortar retailers apart from e-commerce giants. It leaves room for intuition, and allows you to provide your customer with the best experience possible. It’s also an opportunity to authentically up-sell in a way that simply can’t be replicated with a pop-up ad in the online checkout flow.

A customer might want advice on which foundation works best for their skin, or which jacket would be best suited for their hiking trip to New Zealand. Their requests may be niche, but you’re the expert — and that’s why they’ve made the effort to visit you in person. Capitalise on that by remembering or noting down stand-out interactions and calling them out next time they come in. After all, asking your returning customer how their hiking trip went is a simple task for you, but it will leave a lasting impression that will keep them coming back to your store.

There will always be a level of competition between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retailers, but when all is said and done, we are built to thrive off human connection. Once you’ve implemented the tools that tackle your staff’s pain points, mitigate connectivity issues, and organise chaotic backend systems, you’re already halfway there.

Then it’s a case of rewarding your regulars for their ongoing custom and getting to know their wants and preferences on a deeper level. This is what will set you apart from the e-commerce crowd. You entered the brick-and-mortar world to provide a service that is inherently inaccessible online, and by following these five tips you’ll see you can deliver a more bespoke customer experience than even the biggest e-commerce giant.

Ben Pfisterer is CEO and co-founder of Zeller.