Endless Aisles: How They Can Help Retailers Keep Up
Considering the competitive state of the retail world, retailers want to offer your customers as much product selection as you possible. For the ecommerce portion of your business, it’s a bit easier to carry a variety of products. But for retail, it’s more difficult to stock so much product at a brick-and-mortar location. With a finite amount of shelf space, stores can only stock a limited number of products.
But there are options for retailers that find they run low on stock: Endless aisles. Endless aisles help merge your online offerings with your in-store locations to bring the best shopping experience possible to your customers.
What Are Endless Aisles?
So, what exactly is an endless aisle? It is defined 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.
Rather than using interactive kiosks, retailers can also dropship out-of-stock products directly to a customer’s home. Essentially, you use third-party suppliers to fulfill your customer’s order. The benefit here is a continuous customer experience (they don’t have to deal with suppliers) and retailers have access to endless inventory without having to warehouse it.
Offering endless aisle services in your retail store is like carrying all the products you have available online in your actual store. It’s essentially the other side of the coin to an in-store pickup option (also known as “click and collect”). You can offer these services through a digital portal operated by your customers, or you can have dedicated sales associates that manage the process or aid customers in using the portals.
The Benefits of Endless Aisles
Before we get into the challenges that endless aisles can pose, let’s take a look at some of the benefits to help you make the right decision for your business.
If you operate your retail business both in-store and online, offering endless aisles is a great way to capitalize on your full product selection without having to carry inventory for each item at all store locations. You can keep extra stock in your warehouse, at larger store locations with more shelf space, or with third-party supplies to ship directly to your customers.
By offering your customers more selection at your brick-and-mortar locations, you also decrease the chance that they’ll go elsewhere to spend their money.
Endless aisles help you capitalize on the buyer intent that brought them into the store in the first place without losing sales due to low stock.
In the long term, you may also convert endless aisle customers who to online buyers. By educating your audience about your online offerings (and offering a great user experience from order to delivery), you’re increasing the chance they’ll become online shoppers in the future.
Partnering up with a third-party supplier can also impress customers. Shoppers will see the quantity and variety of products you can offer with a fulfillment supplier.
The Challenges of Endless Aisles
If you’re thinking about implementing endless aisles for your business, there are a few challenges to keep in mind. First, you’ll need an inventory management system, for instance Oscar POS, that keeps all your stock up to date. You don’t want to be selling a product that shows it’s in stock online only to find out that it’s actually not available.
To help you keep track of multiple orders happening across a variety of sales channels, you’ll need to centralize all your orders. With orders being placed across channels, it’s inefficient to manage orders by channel separately. You won’t be able to easily track order status and inventory levels across all your sales channels. This can easily run you into problems when fulfilling in-store orders with drop shippers or via your online channel. To solve this problem, retailers need a single place to manage and track all orders.
Research your partners properly, make sure you do test runs, and have an iron-clad process in place before you launch a partnership — remember that it’s your retail business customers are buying from.They’ll attribute the experience to your brand so it’s important to make a good impression.
Are Endless Aisles Right for your Business?
Not every strategy is right for every retail business, and endless aisles are no different.
If you currently operate large retail stores with tons of shelf space and don’t have issues keeping items in stock, then endless aisles might be redundant for you. But if you’re looking to downsize your retail footprint or cut back on inventory overhead, then endless aisles are worth considering.