Remember in late 2021, when much of Australia was coming out of an extended period of lockdown, infection rates were down, and there was a sense of optimism in the air? Back in those glorious pre-omicron days, Australian retail sales jumped 7.3 per cent in November, which was the fourth-strongest monthly rise on record according to data from the ABS.

Just a little over three months ago, consumers were busy engaging in ‘revenge spending’ – the act of spending big as we slowly emerge from such a huge period of uncertainty. It’s a mindset which Vogue editor Anna Wintour compared to the spending boom of the Roaring Twenties, when the economy bounced back after the uncertainty of the first world war. 

Things were looking good, then… omicron hit. A recent ANZ-Roy Morgan survey has revealed how Australia’s consumer sentiment has taken a nosedive in January 2022, with consumer confidence falling by 7.6% – its lowest rate since October 2020. 

So now that omicron has put a dampener on the ‘revenge spending’ party, what strategies should retailers be using to fight back?

Communicate confidence 

 Retailers must do their utmost to ensure that messaging is right during uncertain times and over communicate where possible. Get clear on your customer service times, delays, product availability and anything else that may be impacted as a result of the latest outbreak.

With consumer confidence down, retailers should underpromise and over deliver. If your business is currently experiencing delivery delays, make that incredibly clear from the offset. That way, if your products do arrive earlier than stated, your customer will be thrilled – even if the actual delivery time was still a lot longer than in pre-covid times. 

If there is an unexpected delay in delivery or a product shortage, try your best to provide solutions or alternatives. Keep online inventory up to date and automated, so that you’ll never ask a customer to pay for a product that’s completely out of stock. 

In uncertain times, flexibility is key. Payment options including buy now pay later services including Afterpay, Zip, or Humm, are a great way to help customers work payments into their budgets. Be as flexible as you can with returns, especially since increased covid outbreaks mean that many customers are currently sick and unable to return in store. 

Focus on long-term brand building

With almost every store holding a sale at the moment, it’s important that retailers use long-term brand building strategies to help them stand out from the crowd. While discounts and sales are a tried and tested retail strategy, short-term tactics must be backed up by long-term brand building. 

Connect with consumers by not simply listing all the factual information about your products or services, but by stressing the simplicity of your customer experience, how your products will make them feel, or what aspect of their lives they will improve. 

Building a relevant influencer strategy

With increased content consumption and time spent online, a well-aligned influencer strategy could help your brand break through noise and provide the break consumer needs from omicron stressors. However, it’s important to get the balance right between acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, and helping customers find a sense of escape.  

In order to get there, ensure your chosen influencers are aligned and authentic to the brand. Influencers’ followers usually relate and connect around shared values, so choose an influencer who can help integrate your brand into their everyday lives. If the content is covid related, focus on relevant content that can help followers during the pandemic, and does not shy away from the topic.

Ultimately, it’s clear that online retail is going nowhere. Retailers should continue to take a digital-first approach and ensure that their long-term strategy is built with this in mind. While brick-and-mortar stores will always have a place, today’s customer is undoubtedly looking online first – especially for those big-ticket items. 

Zane McIntyre is CEO and co-founder of Commission Factory.