Endless Aisles: An extension of the retail in-store shelf
Given that the retail space is extremely competitive, most retailers are racing first to offer their customers as much product selection as possible. For e-commerce, it’s easier to offer a variety of products, but with brick-and-mortar, it’s far more difficult to stock so many products as compared to its e-commerce counterpart. With a finite amount of shelf space, stores can only stock a limited number of products.
Here is when endless aisles can come into play: Endless aisles help merge the online offerings and the in-store location offerings to bring the best shopping experience for the shopper.
What are endless aisles?
iQmetrix defines it as, “the concept of using in-store kiosks to allow customers to order products that are out of stock or not sold in-store and have them shipped to their homes.”
Alternatively, retailers can choose to ship products that are out of stock directly to the customer’s doorstep. This can be done by partnering with third-party suppliers to fulfill the customer’s order. This leads to a continuous customer experience while not having to deal with suppliers, and also giving the retailers access to endless inventory without the need to warehouse it, benefitting the retailers.
The Endless aisles service acts as a bridge, carrying the products available online into the actual store. This is fundamentally another version of the in-store pick-up (click and collect) option. Leveraging digital portals, retailers can offer these services.
The Benefits of Endless Aisles
Retailers that have their businesses that are both online and in-store, offering endless aisles is a great way to capitalize on the complete product selection without the need to have inventory for each product across different store locations. The extra stock can be stored in warehouses or with third-party supplies that would directly ship to the customers’ doorsteps.
Another benefit is that by offering customers a variety of selection at the brick-and-mortar locations, retailers are decreasing the likelihood of customers going to a competitor store to make a purchase.
Furthermore, Endless aisles help to capitalize on the buyer intent that brought them to the store in the first place, without losing sales due to out of stock items. These customers can subsequently be enticed to move towards shopping online as well.
Retailers can do so by educating the customers about the online offerings, even providing a smooth and memorable user experience right from order to delivery. This way, these customers are more likely to become online shoppers in the future.
Endless aisles also enable retailers to partner with third-party suppliers, in turn, increasing the quantity and variety of products that they can offer, which can impress the customers.
Some of the challenges
There are a few challenges retailers must keep in mind while implementing endless aisles for their businesses -
Inventory management is imperative when it comes to endless aisles, as there should be a perfect sync between the orders displayed online and the inventory.
Keeping track of multiple orders happening across different sales channels requires a centralized system of orders. Orders placed on the various sales channels cannot be managed on the respective platforms as it is inefficient.
Moreover, tracking order status and inventory levels across the various channels also pose a problem when fulfilling in-store orders with drop shippers or via online channels. Hence having a centralized system is important. There are some tools available in the market to enable the centralization such as Zapier to add new orders from the several sales channels and Order desk to streamline all the workflow.
With online retail undergoing a massive revolution, many customers still opt to shop from brick and mortar stores. Endless Aisles represents a literal blend of virtual technology into the physical store to deliver an enhanced and seamless customer experience for the newer generation demographics. Implementing the endless aisle strategy enables retailers in reducing the physical inventory and floor space while, in tandem, enhancing the product assortment and customer experience.