With peak retail season behind us and broader macroeconomic trends putting the squeeze on household spending, retailers could face an end-of-season slowdown – if they aren’t strategic. After two incredibly volatile years, the prospect of winter, increasing petrol prices and ongoing delivery delays, isn’t ideal but can be alleviated.

That’s because over the last two years the retail sector has embraced digital transformation en masse, creating efficiencies, saving money, and providing better products and services for their customers. It is through this digital transformation that Australian retailers can maintain momentum and drive customer loyalty.

An omnichannel approach

Today, retailers have numerous touchpoints when selling to and communicating with shoppers. Bricks-and-mortar and online channels both have numerous benefits individually, but when unified as an omnichannel approach, they create the seamless customer experience that consumers demand.

Regardless of whether they’re shopping with you in-store or online, it’s important to guarantee the same quality experience every time. Consistency, accessibility and reliability across a multichannel approach builds trust between a retailer and its shoppers.

Ensuring that your customers have this when they interact with your business will help build loyalty, drive sales and increase revenues, even during quieter seasons. After all, when you don’t have as many customers you must make every interaction count.

The power of AI and automation

In recent years we’ve seen AI and automation embraced by more retailers, irrespective of their size. These advanced yet highly-accessible and affordable technologies enable retail systems to work to their full potential; streamlining the flow of essential data, freeing up time and enabling your business to make real-time, data-driven decisions. So this slow season, use AI and automation behind the scenes to forecast revenue, manage inventory and send automated campaigns and offers.

Very few retailers and processes can’t be improved through automation. For example, instead of wasting hours sending emails for an end-of-season sale to individual customers, identify regulars, or those who frequently abandon their cart through AI and automate a tailored offer to them. Through automation, you can also segment your customers based on their specific habits and preferences. With those groupings in place, you can focus your time and efforts where they’re most important.

Easy shopping experiences

Customer service is the heart of any business, and providing high-quality service helps you turn potentially one-off visitors into returning customers. In a saturated industry, it’s what sets great retail businesses apart from their competition. There’s no better way to provide this than through the foundations of an integrated ecommerce platform, like Zoho Commerce.

Gone are the days when you had to rely on different platforms to run different functions – from sales and invoicing to CRM. Using multiple systems creates silos that hamper productivity and efficiency. Integrated systems like Zoho Commerce possess all the tools required to run a thriving omnichannel retail business in one. It allows you to keep track of your entire business, so you can spend less time sweating the small stuff and more time turning data into strategies to wow your customers.

Building relationships online

During quieter times, it’s more important than ever to keep building relationships with your customers. After all, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. By thoughtfully engaging them online you can keep your business top of mind. Whether you’re showing off a new range of products or just telling them about your approach to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) don’t underestimate the impact of staying in touch.

Keep the process streamlined, through automated and targeted marketing. Through a CRM platform and the customer segments we discussed, you can identify where, when and how each customer wants to be engaged. A customer-first approach will help you drive better business decisions and demonstrates that you genuinely understand and value their habits and preferences.

In spite of local and global headwinds, through technology and a customer-centric approach, there are ways to maintain the momentum during quieter periods. By prioritising meaningful relationships, deploying an omnichannel approach and understanding how automation and AI can save time you time and unlock new opportunities, you’ll be in a strong position whatever the future holds.

Vijay Sundaram is chief strategy officer at Zoho.