Retail is an extremely competitive space, and has gotten more so in the age of ecommerce. Customers want everything instantly and are rarely willing to come back to a store if it can’t meet their needs. They would shop with a competitor or an online retailer who have in stock the items they are looking for.
There might be many reasons why your store might not have the goods that a customer wants. But asking the customer to wait for a few days for the item to be back in stock is not viable.
It has become quite necessary to offer customers the maximum product selection that is available. To fight this, retailers are turning towards the concept of endless aisle in retail.
So what is an endless aisle in retail?
An endless aisle allows customers to access inventory and catalog items that are not in stock within that particular physical retail store. It essentially acts as a virtual shelf of the available stock.
Using a kiosk or tablet or a mobile device, customers can view products that the retailer has in warehouses or with an external supplier. They can then choose to have these products delivered to them at home or shipped to the store
The endless aisle technology powers both customers and in-store staff with added inventory visibility and selection.
The Benefits of endless aisle
Increased product selection without increasing floor space
Normally, to provide a larger product catalog within the store, you would need to have additional floor and shelf space to accommodate the stock. Endless aisle completely takes away this need as your catalog is now fully digitized. This means no additional expenses have to be made for store expansion, shelving, and storage space within the store.
Improved customer service and experience
Your customer can choose from your entire product catalog and selection, not just what is available in-store. This reduces the chances that they will go somewhere else and increases the possibility of them making a purchase with you.
The simple act of not returning empty handed is a huge boost to their experience with you. They will also appreciate that you were able to fulfill their shopping needs. They would also be more inclined to shop with you again.
More footfalls and better customer insights
Since a store never really ‘runs out of stock’ with endless aisle in retail, the customers are bound to come to your store more often. And every time a customer returns, that’s shopping dollars spent at your business.
Endless aisles allow you to capture customer data in real-time, as they scroll through and make their purchase. You can determine their buying intent and interest, and gain further insights into their shopping behaviour. With this, you can provide a more improved customer experience to them.
Upselling and cross-selling gets better with endless aisle
More often than not, there are opportunities for retailers to sell additional accessories or items to their main intended purchases. With endless aisles, you can show the customer an array of options and have it shipped to them directly.
Since endless aisles always have full shelves, you don’t have to worry about in-store stock. Customers will surely appreciate the added effort put in to make their lives easier.
The Challenges with endless aisle
Maintaining real time inventory
You need a robust and capable inventory management software to support endless aisle functionality. You will need to know in real time about the stock levels at your warehouse and suppliers. And this needs to reflect on your endless aisle interface.
A system that integrates your inventory and sales across multiple online and physical channels of sale will be key to implementing an endless aisle strategy.
Orders should be centralized for successful execution
Your order list has to be centralized and streamlined to a single view, as you track stock across sales channels. This grants you full visibility of your complete inventory, irrespective where it is and how it will be delivered. Without this, your fulfillment practices are not optimized to their maximum efficiency.
Keeping the customer informed
Helping your customer place and pay for the out of stock item is just the beginning. The next most important step is the order fulfillment and communicating its status to the buyer.
The customer is going to hold the store accountable for the delivery. If there is an issue with the communication or the order itself, the customer will not be kind. Keeping them informed is a key part of the after sales service that you provide and needs to be well planned.
Implementing an Endless Aisle in your store
The most commonly used method of implementing an endless aisle for store visitors is through interactive kiosks (and even smartphones and tablets). The kiosks display the entire product catalog from all sources, and shoppers can search, find, and buy fully on their own. The tablets could be handheld by store reps and distributed across various points in the store.
With these kiosks in place, customers aren’t overtly dependent on in-store associates to help them find what they are looking for. Since they get to view all your available inventory, and not just what is available in-store, the possibility of a purchase is always higher.
What powers these kiosks is usually a powerful point-of-sale (POS) software that allows a consumer to directly browse through the catalog on the screen. Such a technology, like the Primaseller POS module, enables and supports endless aisles by providing insight on the stock available across multiple locations.
The Primaseller POS software is a cloud based technology that allows you to centralize your inventory and can be easily implemented across multiple stores. It has the ability to showcase all available inventory in a single platform. This in turn enables you to implement an endless aisle experience for your customers.
It allows the cashier to see stock in other locations and place and order from that location. The customer receives the order at their home.
It takes the perfect mix of people, processes, and technology to get this off the ground. Just like with any strategy, there is no one size fits all. Consider all the pros and cons, and gauge how you can best make it work for you.
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Sharan is an avid writer with experience writing on different technologies for startups in various domains. He’s a self-professed tech nerd and start-up buff who likes keeping abreast with all the latest news in these areas.