As cost-of-living pressures and rate rises put the squeeze on consumer spending, the upcoming peak shopping season takes on even greater significance for Australian retailers. Consumers are still willing to spend, capitalising on the excitement of deals and discounts, but competition is high and loyalty is hard to earn and easy to lose. When competition is fierce, it’s difficult to compete on product or price, but through stellar customer experience, retailers can meet and exceed shopper expectations before, during and long after peak season.

Consistent customer service across all channels

Consistency is crucial, and the foundation for everything that follows. The customer journey today is far more sophisticated than simply visiting a store and buying a product. Shoppers globally use multiple channels throughout discovery, engagement and purchase. It’s likely your customers are too, so it’s essential to provide consistent customer service and a unified feel across your physical store, online shop, social channels, emails and any other touchpoints.

A consistent brand and customer experience ensures your business is recognisable, establishes trust, communicates with a central personality and message. Ultimately, that enables you to turn casual shoppers into loyal customers; whichever channels they frequent.

Talk to your customers on a regular basis

Connection is everything, especially today. The closer the connection and communication, the easier it is to drive loyalty. Whether you’re informing visitors of new opening hours and services offered at your store, or letting them know of upcoming deals on your website, communicate on a regular basis. The best way to ensure a great experience, is to proactively inform customers of any changes in the way you operate, and ahead of time – not reactively.

For example, if you decide to offer appointment shopping, email customers and display information prominently on your website. And if you’re running a flash sale, give them plenty of warning, rather than relying on them to stumble upon your store or website on the right day. Regularly ask for feedback, too, so you can demonstrate their opinion and experience matters to you, and put yourself in their shoes to better understand and appreciate what is and isn’t working for them.

Personalise the customer experience

Personalisation is essential today. Consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that offer a personalised experience or customer service. If you’re working with customers, an effective way to create long-lasting relationships is to get to know them. Tailored experiences win against one-size-fits-all approaches.

Many consumers expect personalised offers based on their habits, preferences and previous purchases. A great way to keep track of this is through an omnichannel loyalty program, which enables you to track your customers’ buying habits, brand and product preferences and offer them relevant rewards. It’s easier to incentivise them to spend if you’re offering them things you know they want, after all.

Seamless checkouts

Nobody likes waiting in line, and nor should they. There are many ways to make your checkout process as painless as possible, whether in-store or online. From scheduling customers for appointment shopping to ensuring you’ve adequately rostered your team for every shift, the way you handle check out says a lot about your store.

Clearly mark your check-out line, have enough registers open to handle any type of shift and and if you have a cloud-based POS, equip staff members with iPads so they can help customers check out wherever they are. If you don’t have a cloud-based POS, consider investing in one, as it not only streamlines this crucial part of the journey, but also sits at the heart of all good customer experience.

The same goes for your online checkout. Keep the checkout process from their online cart to confirmation email short and sweet. Allowing customers to finalise their shopping as a guest without having to make an account is an effective way of minimising cart abandonment. And ensure important information regarding shipping, payment information and other FAQs is prominent so your customers can easily have  any questions answered, without having to call or, worse still, abandon their purchase.

And treat it not as the final step in a transaction, but the first step in their next purchase, and an opportunity to drive loyalty. The checkout process is a great opportunity to collect actionable data. Through a POS system like Lightspeed, it’s easy to capture  information and use it to further enhance and personalise the customer shopping experience.

There is no one single tactic that improves customer experience. Instead, it’s a collection of tactics that become a strategy, and an unwavering commitment to your customers and their experience with your business. However, through consistency and connection, personalisation and convenience, your business will be better placed to thrive whether it’s the height of peak season or a slow Wednesday in winter.

Andrew Fraser is managing director of APAC at Lightspeed.