With the festive period a distant memory, summer holidays and back-to-school sales over, Australian retailers have arrived at what is, traditionally, a slow period.
With the festive period a distant memory, summer holidays and back-to-school sales over, Australian retailers have arrived at what is, traditionally, a slow period. It’s a season in which frenzy is replaced by fatigue and sales can stagnate. For retailers, this time is crucial to regroup and find new ways to ensure your customers continue to return throughout the year.
Research shows that improving the customer experience can increase business profitability five times over. The majority of Australians also believe that customer service is the true test of how much a business values them. Providing an engaging and seamless holistic customer experience, however, is something that many retailers talk about but very few actually do well.
Here are a few simple ways that you can ensure your business is providing the best experience for your customers in 2020.
Invest in multiple channels
In a technology-empowered retail industry that is seeing exponential growth in online shopping, it’s challenging for retailers to make themselves the first choice when customers are overwhelmed with choices everywhere they look. The good retailers have identified that existing on one sales channel simply isn’t enough, but the great retailers are implementing integrated strategies that harmonise across the multiple channels their customers are on.
Implementing offline or online sales strategies to target and retain customers is a good start but you don’t want to create a void in the middle where customers who are active across both channels get lost. There are plenty of ways to synchronise the way people shop now, and if you’re not already, you should be taking advantage of this because it can significantly boost your bottom line.
For example, a florist who wants to make the most of the hordes of shoppers purchasing flowers on Valentine’s Day can use a multichannel approach to their advantage to ensure they don’t miss a sale. Flowers are a live, physical and delicate product that will perhaps always be best suited to shopping from a physical location, however, a florist with good multichannel strategy will have their brick-and-mortar location working seamlessly with their online store — even their social media feeds.
Having a system that enables customers to easily view and reserve their bouquets online, and then collect or pay for them in-store creates a convenient experience that customers are likely to remember and reward.
Make sure you use the right tech
While having a seamless multichannel approach requires a well thought-through business strategy, it doesn’t have to cost you a tonne of money. There are now more affordable solutions than ever before to help you integrate your business platforms and customise this customer experience.
Many website builders now have free starter plans, so you can launch an online store and start selling products immediately with no big overheads. Make sure you choose an online platform carefully and get the right one for you that also integrates with a range of business tools. The most useful and robust platforms will advertise their partner platforms and show you exactly how to streamline your business processes.
The most useful integrations for retailers include the ability to sync point-of-sale data — like catalogue items and inventory — with your website, so when sales are made the items are automatically updated across all your channels. This can be a huge time saver and helps you avoid awkward conversations with customers.
Say you’re a fashion retailer, for example, having a seamless inventory integration will mean your in-store stock levels are updated in real-time whenever a purchase is made through your website. So, you’ll never have to worry about manually recording each sale or overselling products that are out of stock.
Online platforms that support additional functions – like Instagram galleries or shipping and in-store pickup options – are also a great bonus for retailers to help streamline your end-to-end customer experience even further.
Reward loyal customers
At the end of the day, shoppers want to feel valued, so providing enriching, convenient customer experiences is a great way to demonstrate their value to your business. The data you capture day-to-day will be one of the most valuable assets to your business to help you do this. Sales and transaction data is the best way to understand your customers on a deeper level and enhance their experience.
A customer loyalty program is a great addition to any retail operation that not only incentivises customers to return to your business, but also provides you with great insights that you can use to your advantage. Over three-quarters of consumers say that they are more likely to engage a business that uses a loyalty program over a business that does not. However, you have to implement the right loyalty program that is going to appeal to your customers and also work seamlessly across your multiple channels.
Research shows that 90 percent of consumers prefer digital rewards over paper cards, which is great for the environment and great for you because digital platforms are easier to scale across multiple channels. Digital loyalty programs create more touchpoints with your customers, are easier to track, and can be applied anywhere your customers want to shop.
You don’t have to spend tonnes of money developing and deploying groundbreaking tactics to compete with the big retailers in 2020. You just need to use the best technology for your business and know your customers’ expectations. Providing a consistently convenient and enjoyable experience is the key to keep them coming back.
Chris Rich is Customer Success Lead at Square Australia. Square provides tools that empower businesses and individuals to participate in the economy. This cohesive ecosystem of managed payments, hardware, point-of-sale software, and other business services helps sellers manage inventory, locations, and employees; engage customers; grow sales; build a website and more.
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