Endless Aisle : Serving the connected customer
26 Sep 2018 Endless Aisle : Serving the connected customer
Endless Aisle is an in-store consumer facing interactive screen that displays a brand’s entire product range. Customers are no longer waiting on sales assistants to become available and now want the power to browse, discover and purchase on their own.
The promise of enabling endless aisle forever shatters the physical, virtual and online divide to unite your merchandising, customer experience and supply chain strategies, and increase customer excitement and conversion.
There is no doubt that endless aisle is a powerful conversion catalyst, as it showcases unlimited product variants with the help of innovative technologies. Often, endless aisle is used to equip sales staff with access to other stock points including other store and warehouse inventory. Sales associates can present these options to consumers and provide a better customer experience when items are out of stock.
Unlike traditional signage, endless aisle allows consumers to independently touch, tap and swipe kiosks for product imagery, catwalks, more information and more importantly completing their purchase. By using customer-facing, interactive touchscreens retailers empower shoppers to browse, discover and purchase on their own, increasing sales and customer loyalty.
The endless aisle is a conversion catalyst as it showcases limitless product choices. How to start or where to go next presents a digital dilemma, with myriad options to consider. Executed smartly, the endless aisle approach to retail opens new channels to ensure a speedy return on investment.
Today’s consumer browse’s her favourite online stores to find out what’s in style, and at the same time checks the top fashion blogs on Instagram and Facebook to review the latest looks. The next day, she would visit her favourite brand store and will try on a few pairs, in case she is unable to find what she’s looking for; she’s comfortable to navigate to an interactive kiosk placed in the store, changing the colour of the apparel by tapping a magic mirror to select among the options. With two taps, she pin’s or post a photo to her social media account to solicit feedback from friends. Before making a purchase, shoppers can digitally explore the suggested shirt and jacket, scarf and sunglasses. Add-to-cart and checkout is just a click away.
Spoilt for choices
The in-store shopping experience is different from the couch shopping experience. Yet, like in a virtual reality world, 3-D interface and chat bots bring much of in-store experience to the shoppers sitting at home. Retail technologies deliver the in-home experience into the store. Endless Aisle allows retailers to mimic the seemingly infinite choices of online shopping and a virtual world in a brick and mortar environment.
The natural progression in consumerism suggests that too many choices can easily overwhelm shoppers to the point of paralysis. If shoppers are required to flick through screen after screen of the brand’s in-store endless aisle options using an expensive, high definition kiosk, they might very well do the same at the confine of their four walls. To ensure that endless aisle approach becomes intelligent, the infinite choices must be narrowed down to match the individual customer needs.
If consumers are given unlimited options, they get overwhelmed. The technology needs to provide a curated experience by only suggesting similar items that are approximately the same price, size, specs etc. And, the technology to share, order and ultimately deliver the merchandise needs to be frictionless for the customer.
Deploying a rewarding endless aisle experience, for both the consumer and retailer, is dependent on focusing on the customer experience and knowing what you want the retail brand to stand for. The key to success is that these initiatives must not occur in siloes. Through the intelligent application of digital capabilities, retailers can reap even greater benefits.
There are few things which retailers need to keep in mind in order to evaluate new retail store technologies so that the decision aligns with the business strategy.
Alignment with business model
Brands need to consider whether they want to implement “ Browse & Buy” or “ Save The Sale” model under the Endless Aisle umbrella. This needs to complement with the ethos of the brand, its business model, its consumer and its capabilities to implement through its own sales staff.
Seamless integration with existing technology
For any retailer changing its existing tech stack is always a herculean task not only from an implementation perspective but the change management that comes with it. As technology being an enabler the human connect cannot be ignored. Standalone tools create silos of data that can’t be accessed by the rest of the brand’s business. In order to drive a holistic shopping experience, brands need to integrate new tools with existing technology so that they don’t miss opportunities to gather intelligence and connect insightful information. Retailers need to connect the digital interface to inventory held at other stores and warehouses. It’s critical that the interface also connects to brand’s loyalty program and point-of-sale solution for order recording and processing. Without these important links, and a sound strategy to apply the information, the endless aisle kiosk will not enhance the brand value.
Adoption by Sales Associates is the key
Engaging and enabling in-store associates may add greater value than pacing technology before customers. Equipped with mobile devices, employees can access customer profiles and preferences, check inventory, enable frictionless checkout and provide a more consistent shopping experience from associate to associate. They can identify and delight customers in the loyalty program, help customers seamlessly continue their shopping experience from online to in-store, and proactively find ways to get customers precisely what they demand. A lot of global brands have started to offer its sales staff additional incentives on all the orders placed through the endless aisle to increase the adoption of the store associates.
Having a seamless last mile plan
Brands with multiple stores and stock points have tried replicating the Endless Aisle through a manual process, where the store manager would try to find the product through the POS or call other stock points to check the availability of the product. Once confirmed a store associate would try to deliver the product to the consumer. However this manual approach, delivers a very broken experience from an operational ad consumer perspective .Customers expect to glide seamlessly between the store and the brand’s website with access to the same offers, broad inventory and services. If something in the endless aisle can’t be delivered overnight (or sooner), or with free shipping, it might irate the customer. Not only does the brand stands to lose the sale and their continued loyalty, it may also lead to potential social media backlash that can affect future sales. Hence as a brand, it is imperative to have a last mile plan in place to achieve timely order fulfillment.
Globally and also in India, a steady decline in footfall is witnessed across brick and mortar stores. Hence, the road to success for offline retail is to integrate omnichannel as a part of the retail strategy. Endless Aisle, goes a long way in providing the necessary impetus to this strategy. However, just having a digital kiosk that enables shoppers to buy online inside the store will not suffice. An intelligent order management system and logistic management system will go a long way in ensuring that endless aisle is truly enabling a connected experience for customers and seamlessly bring convenience of getting the right product at the right time.
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