With gift purchasing season underway and December just around the corner, it’s time for retailers to consider how they can improve their in-store and online customer experience during the holiday period.

Let’s face it: Christmas shopping can be stressful. In fact, a Relationships Australia study found that more than 60 per cent of people find Christmas shopping a difficult and unpleasant experience.

Despite this, there are many things retailers can do to vastly improve their customers’ online and offline shopping experience, and increase their own bottom line while they’re at it. It’s a win-win.

Make it easy

During the Christmas period, it’s especially important to be able to serve your customers at the times that suit them. If you’re an online store, this means perfecting your delivery processes to make them as fast as possible – so customers can get their orders delivered well before December 24th. Next day delivery and ‘click and collect’ are fantastic ways to show your customers that you’re doing everything you possibly can to minimise the added complexities of online ordering.

For in-store retailers, this will mean extending your store’s hours, so anyone on a 9-5 schedule can still make it to your store before it closes. At this time of year, it’s almost always worth keeping your store open for those extra few hours, thanks to the added foot traffic.

Communicate your strengths

Are you a physical-only bricks-and-mortar store? Promote the benefits of zero shipping times and the ability to see your products before you buy! Physical stores also provide the added benefit of in-store displays and activations, which can help your customers find the perfect gifts – which can often be items they wouldn’t even have thought of before entering the store.

If you’re great at in-store displays, use that to your advantage. Try grouping complementary products together, to make multiple purchases easy. For example, try putting the accessories that go with an appliance all together on display, to provide your customer with everything they need for Christmas entertaining.

For online stores, make the most of your site’s categorisation options by grouping gift selections by age, gender or interest. This allows your customers to find their gifts faster, resulting in quicker sales and happy customers.

Make paying painless

Christmas can be a financially taxing time for customers, but it doesn’t have to be. Pre-order services can be a great way for customers to keep track of their spending, and avoid a nasty surprise when it comes time to pay.

Buy Now, Pay Later services are another increasingly popular way to help customers afford their holiday gifts. Some BNPL services have different offers depending on how expensive the item being purchased is. For example, humm has a BNPL option for purchases up to $2,000 and another BNPL option for purchases greater than $2,000 – up to $30,000. For retailers it is a real value-add to customers that makes it easy for them to get the bulk of their Christmas shopping done all at once while spreading the payment slices out over time – especially if your products are at a higher price point.

So make sure you highlight your buy now, pay later option to customers by promoting it on your website, shop front, point of sale, and other marketing. And be sure to communicate its benefits to your customer in an informative, responsible way.

Make sure your checkout process flows smoothly – whether it’s online or offline. If you’re a bricks and mortar retailer, ensure you’ve got enough staff assisting with sales to leave customers with a good impression. After all, there’s nothing worse than a long checkout line to add to the stress of Christmas shopping.

Seal it with a bow

Special touches and thoughtful moments will take your customers’ experience from transactional to invaluable. Make gift wrap, stocking fillers and decorative items easily accessible at the checkout and dotted throughout the store, so customers can cross off every item on their shopping checklist with ease.

Complimentary or by-donation gift-wrapping services can simplify an often stressful step of the present-buying process. Touches like this really show your customers that you care, and could be the one thing that keeps them coming back to your store, year after year.

Libby Minogue is chief revenue officer at flexigroup.