Sprawled over 1,450,000 m2— Iran Mall— is the largest shopping mall in the world; however, what are the odds for getting such a large retail shelf for your business?
With customers looking to buy the variety of products from the “single shop destination,” the goalpost for most of the retailers have shifted from “the master of a specific trade” to “excelling all the trade products.”
In short, a customer may step into your shop; howbeit, without the potpourri of products, it’s nearly impossible to glue them to their seats and keep them asking for more.
Even if you drag all your courage to fit in hundreds of products in the business; setting up a warehouse and added cost might require a bulk sale in the channel— which isn’t guaranteed.
And considering retail shop as a point of purchase, other challenges such as “the strategic and operational challenges” nullify the efforts for building inventory.
And here’s the proof— the builders of “New South China Mall” had the vision to provide unfathomable scalability to the brick and mortar retail market in China; however, the mall failed big time and continues to be as one of the largest ghost malls in the world for almost one and a half decades now.
So, the bottom line is— a successful retail business needs “space” and “strategies” at the same time— which, unfortunately— isn’t the case with the world anymore.
“Your business needs space and strategy to win retail customers.”
The retail sale for the gone December month has dipped down by 1.2% in the United States alone, and the situation may further aggravate in the quarters to come with the online sales capturing the market pie-chart.
As Amazon boasts over 11 crore products online, it’s a grueling task to lock horns with it through the traditional business.
Furthermore, Amazon tracks how customers behave throughout the order chain. Are you doing it enough to read your customer behavior for your retail business?
The existing customer behavior in retail.
We’ll take a close look at the existing customer behavior, which fades off the impact of your retail outlet.
Let’s go through an example.
“Suppose a customer enters into your store and asks for something which you don’t have in your inventory. You put a commitment that you will get the product ordered in the next five days for him to pick it up.”
The problems with the above ordering system:
- Your customer mostly remains unsatisfied because of the unavailability of the product.
- You’d have to risk your capital in buying the product inventory which you wouldn’t do otherwise.
- You are at risk when you have ordered and got the product at your inventory space; however, he doesn’t show up to collect it.
- You’ll be in a constant doubt whether he’d collect the product, and you might have to reserve it despite other consumers willing to purchase it. And in the worst case, what if you reserve it only to discover that your customer never arrives.
The user-behavior, as mentioned above is way too common in all retail businesses, and apart from inventory space and strategic approach, it has proved to be one of the drawbacks of the retail industry.
Empowering your store with the Endless Aisle
As we often talk of the latest trends to make the online business “the best purchase point,” Endless Aisle is one of the fewest but trending techniques to rejuvenate and return the glory of retail stores as the purchase point.
It’s a defining trick if you are a retail owner, and if you want to compete with the online portals without having one— endless aisle is the way out.
Let me crack your curiosity by defining the Endless Aisle.
“Endless Aisle enables customers to go through the online-kiosks which virtually allow them to browse and order endless products which are either out of stock or not sold in-store by having them shipped to their homes.”
The methods for executing it.
You can execute endless aisle by a series of methods, and depending on the kind of the model you are looking; you can choose the most optimal method for you.
- Endless aisle as a fulfillment strategy: It’s an approach where you drop ship the products by deploying the sales executives around the customers. These sales executives have access to the third-party products, and when your customer reaches the sales team looking to fill their requirements which are either out of stock or not in the store, they can collect the orders and promise to get them delivered within the specified timeframe.
- Endless aisle as Kiosks: In the given method, Kiosks replace the need of sales executives and order keepers. With these interactive touchscreen machines getting mounted in your place, you can offer your customers the “endless-virtual shelf.” Having them at the counter, you can display your entire product catalog. On top of that, you can empower your customers to browse the product catalog of third-party suppliers. It’ll be simpler for your customers to browse and purchase the products at their merit. However, interactive kiosks are not the only options as you can get your aisle without having these machines.
- Endless aisle portals: Since online Kiosks need a good investment, you can use the functionally-similar portals such as EndlessAisle to give your customers a diversified purchase path. You can get the software installed in your computer behind the counter. The software is user-friendly and works pretty much the same as any kiosk but on your machine.
The benefits of endless aisle
Since endless aisle can pose multitudinous benefits for your retail, you shall revert to this trending course.
- Don’t let them walk out: When you infuse endless aisle to your stores, you will have to make your customers know that you aren’t willing to let them go without any purchase. Endless aisle ensures that if they can’t find it, you will drop ship the items at their doorsteps.
- Pruning the sales team size: With endless aisle kiosks, the customers don’t have to interact with the sales representatives, and you wouldn’t have to train your sales associate to offer the interminable purchasing feature. With this, you and the customers would leap over the dependable entity at the sale depot. Here’s the cherry on the cake— sometimes, the behavior such as “resisting to sell the old stuff” or “preferring to sell the in-stock items” by the sales staff is more daunting for your business. Escorted by online kiosk endless aisle, you’d most probably make the purchasing cycle a seamless one for the customers.
- Endless product display without having e-commerce: Setting up an e-commerce portal is a strenuous task considering the investment and marketing cost associated with it. You’ll have to be quick on your feet to run parallel retail shop with the online business. Furthermore, the worrying statistics such as 37% of the customers prefer online purchase while leaving unsatisfied in the store and 35% of the customers fulfill their requirements through the competitor’s store press the need for an immediate solution for your retail point. Endless aisle is a cost-effective method which displays as many products as any e-commerce portal without having to invest.
- Capitalizing the buyer’s intent: Customers enter the store with buying intent, and out-of-stock or not in-store product disappoints them big time. It’s the best time when you can capitalize their purpose by giving them a chance to choose whatever they want to buy. Endless aisle sees to it that the intention of the buyer remains intact (which attracted them to the store), without losing them as your customers and sales due to unavailability of the stock.
- Going along with the user behavior: As mentioned the problems related to customer behavior, endless aisle plays a significant role by juxtapositioning them and you. The doubt whether the customer would come back to grab the ordered item stops you from practicing “placing the order model,” this virtual aisle confirms that you wouldn’t have to wait for the customers to claim their products a week later. Instead, it ensures that the product gets sold through the endless-kiosk itself, thereby minimizing the risk of dead inventory which you wouldn’t have bought.
- Swapping the orders without managing the third-party inventory: Let’s say you own a haberdashery whereas your friend sells gift articles. You have a mutual understanding with him that the kiosk in your store will display his products while the booths in his store will showcase your products to the customers. It’s a smarter way of conducting a "give and take business" with your friend where the businesses would increase their reach without having to maintain any additional inventory.
- Upselling done with ease: With screens exhibiting the myriad of products, the endless aisle may generate fresh buying intent. A curious customer will get a chance to scroll through this particular sale channel and may end up ordering the things they weren’t looking for initially. In simple words, you can upsell other products at minimal efforts.
The challenges of endless aisle
You may have to answer specific challenges before you implement endless aisle for your store.
The most fundamental problem with endless aisle lies in its concept, and it is— “why endless aisle when a user can shop through the online channel?”
The question is legit considering why a user should invest time on filtering the product catalog when they can do the same through the online channel?
I wouldn’t go to the retail shop only to find the products on the screen and not on the racks as I’d prefer Amazon over any other local endless aisle installer.
Note: Endless Aisle is not the permanent solution for challenging the e-commerce portals. Instead, it’s an immediate and exclusive ordering system which takes care of the users who prefer retail shops. You can make your customers learn what online ordering tastes like. With offering endless aisle regime in your store, there are two possibilities. a) The user may enjoy the kiosk-experience more than the in-store experience, thereby pushing them towards the online store. b) You’d have to convert your retail store into the e-commerce store because users are anyway shifting to the order-screens (whether on mobiles, computers, or kiosks).
Let’s quickly roll through other challenges linked with the endless aisle.
- Need a robust inventory management system: Going with endless aisle is as similar as going with the online store. You can’t reflect those products on the machines which aren’t available in the inventory. So, you don’t want to show the product online when you don’t have it. For that, you need a reliable inventory management system. In addition to that, the inventory has to get managed at real-time, which states the real-time data about the current stock. If you have been selling products through retail, Amazon, drop-shipping with the help of suppliers, and in-store kiosk; it will demand your diligent attention.
- Not all customers love screens: Although the love for online purchase route has grown manifolds, a fair bit of people still look forward to buying from the retail stores, they give them the immersive experience. If you think that replacing all the sales associates with endless shelves will justify your sales by the end of the day, you may be wrong. Besides that, a lot of customers don’t feel comfortable with the “screen-purchase,” thereby compelling the need of sales representatives for explaining the nuances of it.
- Centralizing the inventory and orders: Since you are operating on multiple sale points, tracking the requests from the different stock list can be an intimidating task. Into the bargain, it’ll be very inefficient to trace the order details, status, and SKUs across different sales channels. Adding endless aisle as another sales channel will only prove messier for the existing decentralized inventory. You can get over this problem by centralizing the inventory and placing the order from the same location. By doing it, you will make hassle-free delivery to your customers with confidence.
- Tracking the third-party suppliers: It has to be one of the toughest challenges for the endless aisle. Since you are selling your friend’s artifacts at your store, you don’t have the possession of the product. So, when you look for mounting the third-party drop shipping technique to your store, you will have to keep in check whether the vendors are precisely invoiced for the items, the purchase order by the retailer has the expected rates and the most crucial analytic— whether the customers have received the ordered items. You will have to deploy strong-arm tactics for managing and tracking the order.
- Keeping the customers informed: Although with the endless aisle you capitalize the buying intent of the customers, with all intent and purposes, your users are returning bare hand as the products are to be delivered later. Since they have placed their trust in your method, it’s the time to reward them with the active status. As they seek information regarding the dispatch and delivery report, your software should be able to keep the customers informed. When you tie-up with the third-party suppliers, the entire notification process— from ordering to delivering— should reach the customers as you can’t keep them in the dark for long.
- Empowering admin power to the staff: Not all customers are educated to work on the endless aisle. Some need a sales rep for necessary assistance. The endless ordering system should grant extraordinary power to the sales associates who got to deal with these customers. They should have the ability to access and assess the inventory for providing the optimal customer experience. They should know that they have the product in their hands so that they can put additional leverage for converting. Hence, the current endless aisle system should be informative and flexible enough to display the curated content as per the designation, i.e., sales team have got to have their view, and so do the owner and the customers.
Does endless aisle deserve your attention?
Not all trends work for everyone, and the same stands for endless aisle too.
Walmart has introduced endless aisle in a desperate attempt to upsell products— maybe it wants to answer Amazon; however, it can absorb the shock if it trips as it has less to lose and more to gain with it.
Can you absorb the shock and investment encircling around endless aisle?
If you are operating a large retail store with hundreds and thousands of shelves, and massive warehouses, and if they aren’t bothering you; you don’t really need endless aisle; however, if you want to shrink down your stock level, cut off the inventory load, and downsize the staff; endless aisle could be your good friend.
Before deciding what’s right for your business; skim through the benefits and challenges of the endless aisle, check which one outweighs the other, and stick to the option which suits your requisites.
So, how do you see endless aisle for your retail business? Can you think of any other idea for returning the lost accolades which retail shops once had?