Consider, for example, "mobile POS", where the point-of-sale is not the cash register at the front of the store, but any place an employee can carry a small wirelessly-networked hand-held terminal. Apple Stores are celebrated for their "staggering" financial density: on an area basis, sales are a multiple of any competitor, and their supply-chain efficiency is bested only by McDonalds, measured by inventory turnover. One key contributor to this performance is that most Apple Stores eliminate cash registers; in their place, mobile POS terminals equip sales associates to close sales immediately, wherever they are on the floor. This streamlines purchase decisions, transforms customers' attitude about the service they receive, and enables the most advanced real-time supply-chain automations.
An active mobile POS marketplace already boasts rich offerings in plenty of "verticals", including apparel, sporting goods, hardware, food, and more. Another demonstration of the "aggressiveness" MasterCard and its competitors have exhibited in the last year appears in mobile POS: MasterCard is promoting the technique even to the point of relaxing its own security standards.
There's more. Mobile POS also teams naturally with "merged-channel" initiatives. Think for a moment what happens when a customer initiates a conversation on your existing sales floor, along the lines of:
--"I like this one, but I need a size 8 in red. Do you have any in back?"
--"No, everything is out here on the floor. You can ask my supervisor when our next shipment comes in."
--[wait, wait, ...]
--"It's hard to say when we'll get new ones ... Check back on Thursday."
The conversation that should happen is more like this:
--"... Do you have any in back?"
--"No, everything is out here. What I can do, though, is order one for you right now; I'll just punch this up ... You have a choice: we can have it shipped here to the store by Tuesday and hold it for you, or deliver it to your home on Wednesday. Which do you prefer?"
Keep in mind that lost sales due to out-of-stock aren't just the 8-9% of total estimated in the literature; there are also multipliers in the depression of complementary sales, and the impact on customer good-will.
The conclusion: implement mobile POS and merged channels well, and you'll not only shave percentages off your costs, but change customer repulsion to the best kinds of experience for your customers and suppliers.