The retail world is growing. It’s also getting more dynamic, technologically. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores can’t cut modern competition, and leading providers are taking notice. Now, successful providers are incorporating an endless aisle or digital storefronts—to make sure their customers always have options.
What is an Endless Aisle?
An endless aisle is a digital storefront. This storefront pulls data from a retail provider’s online store. By digitally loading this stock, a brick-and-mortar store can present goods which aren’t on the shelves. Endless aisles are perfect for showing shoppers:
- Out-of-stock products
- Backorder products
- New products
- Special release products
By making a store’s aisle “endless,” a retail provider can assure customers are never left without options.
Not ready for the endless aisle? Read our blog about starting eCommerce.
How are Endless Aisle Products Bought?
While some stores use digital kiosks to present endless aisle products, a lot of modern store owners are using slimmer, portable store tools—like the iPad. If a shopper can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re given access to the iPad. Then, they can browse the store’s ecommerce portal. Once they’ve found their product, they can purchase it.
How Does the Product Get to the Customer?
Once a customer orders the item, it’s shipped to their doorstep! Endless aisles offer numerous products to shoppers. Each one meshes with a store’s ecommerce platform, tying together a larger selling strategy. In the past, stores had to compete, head-to-head, with online product providers. Now, customers can walk into a store, purchase a product and walk out.
Different Endless Aisle Strategies
Endless aisles can be used in several ways. Many retail providers use them to secure order fulfillment. In this case, sales associates are given access to a business’s third-party suppliers. They’re also given access to the business’s e-commerce product.
As customers shop, sales reps can give them many buying options. Whether a product is in-stock or not, the representatives can order the product. Then, they can have it shipped to the customer.
In other cases, businesses can use endless aisles as interactive platforms. An endless aisle can be accessed via a store-mounted iPad. This virtual shelf is designed for the customer’s use. Interactive touchscreens guide buyers, giving them the ability to browse, locate and purchase their own products.
Some stores might opt to not have physical products at all. By using endless aisles, a store with high-value goods can reduce shoplifting, product management issues, and sales issues. Because customers aren’t dependent on sales associate interactions, the buying process becomes highly streamlined. The easiest way to define an endless aisle strategy is showcasing product catalog data on your retail website. Your website is like your showroom but works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you’ve got a limited space for your brick and mortar showroom, your online endless aisle affords the opportunity to show more product than your 5,000 sq ft showroom.
Starting Your own Omnichannel Retail Strategy
Omnichannel retail strategies use endless aisle technology to help retailers overcome a few challenges. Among these are:
- Infrastructure challenges
- Inventory challenges
- Sales representative challenges
- Location challenges
Because an endless aisle connects mobile devices to online buying store channels, it greatly reduces the need for store fixtures. It also boasts a business’s online sales. If you want to create an omnichannel retail strategy, you need to include access to an endless aisle.
Connect Your Supply Chains
To start your omnichannel journey, you’ll need to connect each of your supply chains. Once more, an endless aisle can help. By aggregating orders from your different supply chains, you can give customers a single access point to all of your products. You can even give them an easy-use, digital dashboard to use.
By giving customers a dashboard view of cross-channel inventory, you can help them auto-route orders. Then, your distribution centers—or stores—can deliver products based on customer needs. If you want to include an endless aisle as a store stock tool, you can! You can auto-route orders to your store depending on these factors:
- Stock location
- Stock inventory amount
- Broken, lost or stolen good replacements
- Online returns
Before long, your customers will be able to return any of your products at your store’s location. You can also meet pre-order needs straight from your brick-and-mortar location.
Offering Product Customization
Because your endless aisle offers every product your business offers, you can use it to enhance the customer’s buying experience. Customers can get a wider product selection. They can also customize their products. Whether you’re a clothing supplier, a home goods supplier or a food provider, customization is always an option.
Your endless aisle strategy gives you the ability to sell products your store doesn’t have. It also lets your customers make their own schedules, buy privately and opt for personalized products. Because an endless aisle logs all purchases, you can study your customers. Discover their favorite products, their favorite customizations, and their favorite discounts. Then, use this information to offer better deals.
Taking Personalized Offers Further
Speaking of personalized offers, you can give customers an incomparable experience by using them. Give your customers shopping tips, custom-tailored offers and product options based on their interests. Because you’re not relying on physical inventory, you can give your customers the offers they’ve always dreamed of—but might not have seen on the store aisles.
Boosting Your Sales
Your omnichannel strategy might keep customers connected, but its real value comes from sales retention. When products are out of stock, customers normally look elsewhere. By using an endless aisle strategy, you can secure these otherwise lost sales. Over time, these customers will boost your business’s sales. They’ll also make it easier to gauge the future success of new omnichannel plans.
Making an omnichannel strategy with an endless aisle takes time, but it’s definitely worth it. If you’re committed to the technology, invest in the digital devices and create personalized offers, the buyers will come.
Make sure your inventory is always available. To do this, integrate your endless aisle with your brick-and-mortar options. Real-time inventory is a great asset—one which can tie together all of your selling channels. If possible, manage your orders in a centralized location. In doing so, you can track—and update—all of your sales channels simultaneously.
Over time, you’ll slowly increase your sales numbers. Remember: The customer always comes first. Check your different channels often, and employ the help of a professional if need be. Prioritize the customer’s time, money and buying options—and you’ll become a leading product provider sooner than you think.