What’s the secret to successful retail in the digital age?
In this article we’re looking at a technique for bringing the power of digital retail into your stores.
Endless aisle technology is a powerful, simple and affordable solution that can capture more sales, delight more shoppers and give customers another reason to visit your store.
But before we explore endless aisle technology, and our own Cloudshelf solution, we need to reiterate a point we made earlier this year:
the death of the high street has been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, the high street is changing dramatically.
And retailers are faced with a new breed of competitor: lean, agile startups with cash to burn and little to lose.
But in spite of these pressures and changes, retailers have made an indelible mark on our towns and cities. Even the most devoted digital shopper relies on their high street when they need to feel, see, touch and smell a product. And high streets play a central role in community life – acting as both a meeting place and a source of connection in a fast-moving world.
The clear and present opportunity for retailers is in recognising their treasured status in public life, and identifying technologies that can counter the pressures from online retailers.
Online retailers do not have a monopoly on technology.
The same technology that delivers remarkable customer experiences online can be deployed in your stores.
And that’s exactly what we’re talking about in this article.
Fighting back against the onslaught of online competition is not impossible. And a number of retailers are proof of this fact – demonstrating that customers will show up when stores provide value they can’t get elsewhere.
The challenge for retailers is to provide a compelling experience that can’t be found anywhere else. Stores have an automatic advantage on this front, because they have a physical interface, a bricks-and-mortar space, and a team of professionals who see every customer as an individual.
Endless aisle technologies, which give customers opportunities to place online orders while they are in your store, are a powerful solution that can reverse the decline experienced by many retailers.
Broadly speaking, endless aisle technologies, such as our own Cloudshelf, address three common challenges faced by traditional retailers:
1: The limits of physical retail.
2: The challenge from digital retail
3: The lack of novelty and innovation in-store
The biggest store in the world can’t hold every pair of jeans or every size of television.
And as stores get smaller, the limits and constraints of the footprint become an even bigger issue.
How do you persuade tech-savvy shoppers to venture into your store if your selection and sizes are limited? Even if you can entice people to visit your store, few will return if they can’t find what they need.
With an endless aisle, you can offer customers another way to order. Rather than leaving empty-handed, or using their phone to order the item themselves, you can help customers find and order the items they want.
Leading online retailers are so adept at optimising their buying journeys that people can often browse, shop and pay with just a few clicks.
These brilliant digital experiences are changing expectations. People are no longer prepared to tolerate poor service or inefficient processes, because they know that businesses can do better.
This creates a challenge for traditional retailers. How can you rival a brilliant digital experience without investing millions in a complete store transformation?
Endless aisle is a simple way to address this challenge.
By giving customers a digital window into your entire inventory, you can make it simple to place orders in-store and satisfy more customer needs.
For the past twenty years, technology has been intrinsically linked with the web.
In the public consciousness, the Internet is our interface with the latest and smartest technology available.
This perception has been reinforced by online retailers’ fight to provide the best customer experience, combined with their freedom to move quickly and test new tech.
Customers have grown accustomed to getting an effortless experience online – in terms of ordering convenience, payment efficiency and choice.
As online stores have grown more capable and reliable, and retail outlets have struggled, the disparity between the two has often increased, with physical stores shrinking to match the reduced footfall, taking their range sizes with them.
But this trend is shifting.
Technologists, developers, innovators and retailers are increasingly exploring the potential for technology to return to stores and engage and delight customers while expanding ranges.
Endless aisle solutions are a relatively new concept, so you may not have seen one in the wild.
The technology is powerful but simple:
With an endless aisle solution, you can help customers explore specific segments of your ranges.
For example, you might include one screen next to smartphones and another next to games consoles. This helps customers discover the entirety of the relevant range, without being overwhelmed or distracted by unrelated items.
While distinct from your e-commerce store, an endless aisle solution can leverage your existing digital assets.
Our own Cloudshelf offline-to-online (O2O) solution does precisely this, allowing us to rapidly provision your in-store technology by using the product information you already have.
As we noted above, endless aisle solutions provide three kinds of benefit:
Offer customers variety and choice that far exceeds your stock-keeping capacity.
Tech giants and agile startups might have a reputation for innovation, but your store can easily rival the convenience and flexibility of a store like Amazon.
How can you rival the kind of customer experience provided by startups and tech giants? Endless aisle is a simple way to surprise and delight your customers.
The answer to that question may be determined by your responses to these three questions:
How many shoppers leave your stores empty-handed?
How many shoppers resort to using their phone to order from your website – or a competitor’s site?
How many of your potential customers believe the best experience is now available online?
It’s easy to see why so many retailers are excited by the potential of endless aisle.
It also offers a clear path to a significant return on investment:
Turn more browsers into shoppers. By extending your range and reducing disappointment, more people leave your store after completing a purchase – even if they leave empty-handed (with their order delivered for in-store collection, or to their home).
Drive more sales from each purchase. How many of your customers leave with fewer items than they intended to buy? Endless aisle technology means customers can easily blend online and offline purchases during a single visit. They can leave with in-stock items and get everything else delivered to their door.
Retain more valuable customers. If a customer resorts to using a competitor, they may never return. With endless aisle, you have more opportunities to satisfy customer needs – even when customers are looking for an obscure item or an unusual size.
Empower sales assistants. Your in-store colleagues are a valuable asset that no online retailer can match. With endless aisle you supercharge their capabilities, giving them full access to your entire range. This improves their ability to satisfy customers and drive more sales.
Connects to your existing e-commerce assets. Endless aisle solutions can import your existing product information – meaning that you don’t need to invest in new content, or repeat effort to create a new channel.
There are many different use cases for endless aisle solutions, including:
Are your products better together? Sales assistants can’t always be available to explain complimentary items, but an endless aisle solution can be programmed to display products that are often bought together.
Having a large product range is great for customers, but difficult to manage in small and medium-sized stores. With an endless aisle solution, you can offer customers a greater depth of choices, which in turn reduces the chances of them leaving empty-handed.
Whether you’re selling complex products, or just want to give customers more information, an endless aisle solution makes it easy to share key details. Customers are increasingly interested in the story behind the product. And with endless aisle, you could even integrate video content to show the products in action – or to include background information or detailed specs.
Even when we can see, feel and touch products in person, we can still be left wondering how a product moves and changes in different settings. Endless aisle solutions make it easy to include pictures and videos to show the product in action.
Endless aisle screens are a bold way to demark zones in your stores and to help customers explore the offerings in a particular section. For example, your store might offer an endless aisle device in the denim store, or among children’s toys. This is an effective way to address customer needs when they arise, but it also means you can focus attention on particular areas of your product line – which in turn reduces complexity for shoppers.
Customers demand better. Raised on a diet of one-click ordering and next-day delivery, modern shoppers have high expectations. Beyond the practicalities of shopping, people also expect something extra from their favourite brands. Endless aisle is the perfect way to address both pressures.
Endless aisle is a powerful technology, but it doesn’t have to be complicated to implement.
Cloudshelf is a complete solution, that helps more customers find the products they love.
Want to chat about your own in-store needs?
Set up a call with our team today.