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Beyond shelves: Unveiling the retail horizon with Endless Aisle technology
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Disgruntled shopper alert!
With my summer holiday only a week away, I realised I could do with an additional short-sleeved shirt. With little time for the risk of an ill-fitting online order, it was time to visit the closest department store.
I found a perfect-looking shirt. Size medium. Alas, it's too tight for my middle-aged paunch. I knew a large would be perfect, so I enquired as it wasn’t on the rail.
“Let me see if we have another in store”, said the store associate. She checked via her hand-held terminal. “Sorry, it appears we don’t”.
“Can you kindly check stock in other stores for me, please?” I replied. “No, I can’t do that”, she said. Could she order one for me there and then from their website? No.
Wow. Somewhat flabbergasted, I exited and bought the same shirt online from a different retailer. It fitted like a dream!
Would I shop there again? Maybe out of necessity. There’s not a lot of choice where I live. Would I prioritise them as a destination to make a special trip? No.
If anyone has any statistics on the adoption of Endless Aisle technology within retail, I’d love to know – please get in touch! It’s essential to ‘never lose a sale’. But it’s not as commonplace as it should be.
I do know that up to around 40% of shoppers will buy from elsewhere if the product is out of stock. It’s a widely reported statistic. An immense conversion opportunity still exists.
What is Endless Aisle?
For those who aren’t aware, Endless Aisle (an app that can reside on any device or channel) allows a shopper to browse through a retailer’s entire product range, as a store will have a physical limitation on what it can stock.
Where items aren’t in stock locally, they can be pinpointed. Orders placed. Transactions closed. Shoppers leave knowing they’re guaranteed to receive what they want, even if not immediately.
So why isn’t Endless Aisle endlessly used?
It’s not a new concept, but it’s not universal. From my frequent retailer interactions, there are several possible reasons:
Technical architecture spaghetti
As we know, COVID-19 (sorry to mention this again) was an enforcer of rapid change to meet new shopping dynamics.
As a result, new technology initiatives to meet changing shopping demands were implemented quickly. Sometimes too quickly, resulting in a loss of system cohesion.
Adapting quickly to survive was the paramount objective, however. It had to be done.
Many are now taking a positive backward step to create a long-term ecosystem of agility. Where open commerce platforms act as the core of business logic – that other applications like Endless Aisle can seamlessly plug into and absorb.
Without such an ecosystem - whilst faced with significant technical debt - it becomes increasingly harder to enable new customer experiences.
Endless Aisle doesn’t need to wait, however – a path can be built that allows for integration in the toughest scenarios, with a view to a simple transfer when the landscape has been modernised.
Multiple data repositories
Integral to Endless Aisle is having a unified view of stock.
One data master enables an accurate view of what’s available, where it resides, and how it can be fulfilled.
No unified inventory view equals customer disappointment, manifested in walk-outs and abandoned baskets.
Promotions data challenges are another common problem. Multiple channels using different sources of promotional offers. Unifying promotions data is essential to help close the sale.
No Order Management System (OMS)
An OMS is the backbone of omnichannel and Endless Aisle shopping.
An OMS can help with the unified inventory view. It manages an order from the rich information required when building a basket on Endless Aisle through to automating an order through its lifecycle – and keeping the customer informed.
Store adoption challenges
Technology moving so quickly over the last few years has brought frequent changes to operations. More to train and learn. More to adopt and utilise.
It can understandably feel overwhelming. But done right, Endless Aisle should make enriching engagement much easier for all.
Additionally, incentivisation for store associates has to be in place. The prevailing modus operandi should be selling from unified, enterprise-wide stock. Not that stores are selling online stock, with their recognition and resulting commission at risk.
Legacy Point of Sale (POS)
Older POS tends to contain the business logic in an inaccessible fashion. It’s not open or composable. This makes an Endless Aisle plug-in difficult, albeit not impossible.
Due to the above challenge, a standard method has been to provide access to a website from within the store. But it’s fragmented, not seamless and frictionless.
Secure payments are another issue – that’s for another article!
No mixed basket
A mixed basket shopping experience is a rare find and a golden ticket to increasing average transaction value.
A mixed basket helps a customer to order many things that are fulfilled in multiple ways, all in a single transaction. Take two items today. Have a bulky item delivered to your home. Access a local out-of-stock from another store for collection. Done.
Hopefully, this isn’t perceived as boasting. However, our Unified Commerce customers have seen an increase in ATV of 7.8% in the last quarter on a like-for-like basis. The mixed basket is also proven to make up to 40% of transactions during peak trading. It really works.
Combining Endless Aisle with a mixed basket makes it easy for customers. That’s what keeps them coming back. Even impatient, disgruntled shoppers like me.
Need more convincing on the benefits of Endless Aisle? Then let me also share:
Our clients who use Endless Aisle have seen store revenue increase up to 20% after its introduction.
As another example, a client of ours using Mobile POS has processed 40% of these transactions via Endless Aisle due to on-site out-of-stock. That’s a lot of walkouts avoided.
Stores are overcoming space limitations in physical and pop-up stores by offering the entire product range in small spaces. They are maximising in-store space for bestsellers and transforming stores into showrooms. Becoming more immersive as an experience and a destination worth leaving home for.
Linked with an Order Management System (did I mention we have one?), Endless Aisle offers transparency, accuracy and pace of a customer’s fulfilment options. It can consider in-transit re-stocking deliveries, for example. And with near-real-time data on these additional customer order interactions, it offers invaluable information for demand forecasting, optimised promotions and reducing overstocks.
The benefits of Endless Aisle are readily apparent and accessible to all. As mentioned earlier, we also comprehend some of the perceived barriers preventing its widespread adoption.
Perhaps there is a misconception that implementing Endless Aisle necessitates significant alterations to your technical infrastructure. This is not the case.
Our solutions are delivered seamlessly, ensuring continuity and stability with your existing platform commerce provider. We furnish the business logic, while your platform's front- end effortlessly presents the information through a straightforward connector.
I acknowledge that some of the scenarios I've mentioned may seem obvious or clichéd, as these challenges are well-known. Nevertheless, this raises a fundamental question: why isn't Endless Aisle a standard feature in every retailer?
My primary goal is to understand why this crucial aspect of the shopping experience isn't more widely embraced.
Would you like to find out more about Endless Aisle? How we can help overcome the hurdles so your shoppers enjoy what they expect? Reach out to me on LinkedIn, I am happy to help with any questions you may have.