Women’s Apparel Slump Drives Retail Rethink of Cross-Channel Strategies

Retooling cross-channel shopping options could be a key strategy for women’s clothing retailers weathering the economic climate.

Data from PYMNTS’ ConnectedEconomy™ report “The Gender Divide” demonstrates that women are less likely to make transactions than men: 15% less offline and 34% less online. Income and employment trends can partially explain why this gap occurs but do not account for all the drivers behind these shopping habits. Even when earning similar annual incomes, women are 16% less engaged in the ConnectedEconomy™ than their male counterparts. 

As consumers continue to tighten their belts despite easing inflation, women’s apparel retailers and other targeted merchants have felt the pain. Victoria’s Secret announced decreased third-quarter sales last month. H&M’s numbers are falling below analyst expectations, and Lululemon expects gross margin declines. 

One strategy for retailers concerned about these dipping numbers may be found in broadening shopping flexibility and purchasing options to make customer transactions a cross-channel experience. This appeals to consumers’ already growing habit of using multiple channels to make retail purchases. 

Some of these retailers are already paving the way in offering cross-channel approaches to combat the overall trend of sector sales declines. Ulta, for example, is expanding its in-store fulfillment options with buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS). Additionally, luxury department chain Nordstrom has rolled out small format Nordstrom Local stores in New York and California that don’t carry inventory but provide customers with pick-up and returns for online orders and classic features like express alterations. PYMNTS has previously written about how “BOPIS is back and having a moment,” as 25% of online shoppers used the option to acquire their purchases during the past Black Friday.

Other apparel retailers are taking wholly different approaches to the cross-channel experience. Tommy Hilfiger has partnered with reseller ThredUp to allow customers to buy and sell branded clothing, shoes and accessories. The program allows U.S. customers to send certain clothes to ThredUp via prepaid shipping labels in exchange for Tommy Hilfiger shopping credits for any item ThredUp opts to resell. 

Some payments innovators are trying to blur the line between channels completely by offering conveniences such as checkout via mobile device anywhere on a sales floor. This sort of innovation aims to enhance customer shopping experience — and thereby improve sales. In an interview with PYMNTS, Petur Sigurdsson, product director at LS Retail, an Aptos Company, explains how this channel-blurring approach can go beyond point-of-sale innovations. Seamlessly integrating cross-channel strategies such as mobile checkout and digital personalized offers within the physical retail space could provide a unified solution to potential multichannel frictions. Sigurdsson explained that under this strategy, client and product data are both maintained in a centralized data source, putting “proactive disclosure of deals, coupons, what you might be entitled to in the loyalty club and in which loyalty tier you are at the moment” into the hands of sales associates interacting with customers on the sales floor.

Various cross-channel implementation choices exist to assist women’s apparel and other targeted retailers in capturing customer loyalty by catering to consumers’ shifting needs. Keeping customers coming back can be achieved by broadening their shopping options — and, hopefully, without slashing price tags.