Just because the traditional ‘peak season’ has ended – and the shopping rush for 2024 is six months away – retailers needn’t brace themselves for the proverbial ‘trough’ over the coming months.

If there’s anything the last four years have taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. In fact, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that retail spending actually fell 2.7% from November to December, in another sign that traditional shopping habits and periods are evolving. While that’s not to suggest we anticipate a record surge in March and April, there are still ample opportunities for retailers to acquire shoppers, retain customers and grow. Here are a few things for your business to consider.

Embrace the omnichannel era

For retailers contending with the decade-old question of whether to prioritise bricks-and-mortar or e-commerce, the answer is simple: do both. Your shoppers are engaging with brands on the high street, through their smartphones and everywhere in between. By embracing omnichannel commerce – rather than prioritising one channel – your customers can engage seamlessly across numerous touchpoints, whether it’s your website, social media, mobile app, or high street store.

Consistency across these channels builds trust and loyalty, which enhances brand awareness and customer experience. To master the omnichannel, invest in technology that enables you to exert real-time, strategic control over everything from inventory and pricing to marketing and customer data; providing a unified experience regardless of the channel.

Build a foundation on data

Today, data is essential for any business. In retail, it’s crucial in many ways, including tying together the various elements of omnichannel commerce into one, central, seamless strategy (unified commerce!). Data is what enables retailers to identify and fix underperforming channels or processes. Through data, you can ground your approach in strategic insights, rather than relying on guesswork.

By collecting all available approved customer data, for example from Google Analytics and qualitative insights obtained from customer interactions, you can understand their behaviours and address their pain points. Ultimately, this enables you to offer experiences that incentivise loyalty and alleviate problems that typically contribute to customer churn rates.

AI-powered personalisation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) became the business buzzword in 2023. In 2024, implementing it in your business can drive tangible benefits, not just hype. Take its impact on personalisation – which is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but a necessity – for example.

AI algorithms analyse vast amounts of customer data to understand their preferences, predict their behaviour, and offer personalised product recommendations. By delivering experiences, content and product suggestions that align with individual interests – rather than targeting them with a one-size-fits-all approach – retailers can significantly increase customer engagement and drive retention.

Make sustainability, sustainable for your business

Sustainability is the defining issue for today’s generation. As conscious consumerism grows, shoppers are attracted to retailers who are aligned with their values on a more meaningful level. By investing in sustainability in the short-term your business will be investing in itself in the medium- to long-term. Every action makes a difference, from implementing sustainable packaging to using only green, eco-friendly carriers to deliver parcels. With the government beginning a phased rollout of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions reporting from July, it’s becoming a necessity on a policy front too, not just for building brand and customer relationships.

Loyalty and retention

During times of economic pressure, nothing is more valuable for a retailer than a loyal customer base. Retaining a customer is anywhere from four to eight times more cost-effective than acquiring a new customer, so focus on fostering loyalty in the year ahead.

According to research from Nielsen, 84% of global shoppers are more likely to stick with brands that offer loyalty programs, so build loyalty programs into your unified strategy. Loyalty programs can be as simple as offering an item for free when a customer has reached a certain threshold. But they can be as sophisticated as segmenting customer cohorts based on their shared traits, then targeting them with specific offers and communications – like early access to a new range, or a limited edition item – to reward them for their loyalty.

While the end of peak season and the persistent economic pressures will be weighing heavily on the minds of retailers in the coming months, there are plenty of ways to drive incremental revenue. By embracing omnichannel and tapping data, exploring AI and connecting with your customers on a more meaningful level, you’ll be better placed to overcome the challenges of the so-called ‘slow season’ and seize the opportunity of ‘peak season’.

Jon Levy is country manager for Australia at Shopline, a unified retail platform.