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Keeping Up with Cross-Channel Selling in Retail

March 8, 2017
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Cross-channel selling is one of the hottest topics in clothing retail today for a good reason — consumers have gone cross channel.

According to the annual ForeSee Experience Index, an analysis of behavioral data gathered from a panel of 40,000 shoppers, fully half of shoppers used their phones in-store to help make a purchasing decision in 2016. Of those, 59 percent used their phones to price check and 50 percent used them to comparison shop.

In other words, half of all customers who entered a store in 2016 were showrooming, to one extent or another.

For clothing retailers, news like that can spell doom or it can be taken as a great opportunity to find new ways to sell. It all depends on the reaction.

Just sitting back and hoping that business lands exclusively in brick-and-mortar stores or online or in any other exclusive channel is the route to doom. Using all channels — in-store sales, online sales, smart phone browsing — to get products in front of consumers, and using technological integration to add real time intelligence to the crucial issues of inventory control and customer service is the route to success.

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The Power of a Good POS System To Unite Channels

A great retail POS system can be the key to bringing it all together.

To see why, consider what happens in a decidedly non-apparel retail environment — an Apple store. Potential customers walk in to see a somewhat bewildering array of shiny new technology. They are free to play with it, but when questions arise, there is no need to search for an associate and certainly no need to wait for an associate to go research the question.

Each associate is on the floor and armed with a smart phone that is plugged into the Apple inventory, for that store and beyond. They can use the phone with its powerful POS-generated data to find items that are in-stock in the store, order items online or find it in another store for a client if stock is not present, and answer any pricing questions that might arise. Finally, the associate can complete the sale on their feet. No need for the client to wait in line.

In many ways, the power of the POS system allows the store to showroom the client, rather than the other way around, by seamlessly integrating the mobile with the online with the brick-and-mortar environments. There’s little doubt why Apple was almost alone among retailers in achieving an overall customer experience score of more than 80 — the threshold of excellence — in the FXI survey. Kohl’s, an apparel-heavy department store chain with strong in-store and online channels, landed similar scores.

Applying Cross Channel to Apparel

Real-time inventory control is the key to success in the fast-moving retail apparel industry. A cloud POS system that is properly configured can bend the challenge in the retailer’s favor. By gaining insights into inventory movement, savvy retailers can pinpoint the hottest selling items, down to the size and color, in each of multiple stores. They can shift inventory to make sure the best sellers are in stock in each store, or at the least empower associates in each store to find and possibly even order items for clients who can’t find what they are looking for on the floor.

Finally, the POS system can be the basis for greatly improving the mobile experience that customers increasingly rely upon, and that can create synergies throughout the business. As the FXI survey noted, 50 percent of customers who had a great mobile experience said they would make similar purchases from the store in the future.

Another 54 percent said they would be likely to recommend the store. 64 percent said they would be more likely to purchase from that retailer’s mobile site or app — the gold standard for cross channel selling.