In today’s connected world, consumers move across channels to research, purchase and review products, and are more informed than ever –writes Cylindo’s Biljana Vidoevska, as she explains the benefits to retailers of deploying an endless aisle strategy …
The customer journey continues to evolve, and forward-thinking retailers know that offering an exceptional omnichannel experience can be a gold mine. Indeed, the latest Retail TouchPoints Omnichannel Survey shows that 87% of retailers say creating a seamless customer experience across all channels is the most important business goal of their company’s omnichannel strategy.
Connected customers are more focused on experience than ever - they expect a personalised offer and engaging shopping experiences. More often than not, they don’t think in terms of channels, and they expect seamless experience at every touchpoint.
The fact that some of the biggest pureplays on the market have dipped their toes into the world of bricks-and-mortar is one more proof that physical retail is not dead – but the store of the future will be a blend of the digital and physical worlds, combining the convenience benefits of ecommerce with the haptic product exploration benefits of bricks-and-mortar.
Traditional retailers have realised the importance of digital merchandising and the power of the first digital impression, while pureplays found out that even having a small, gallery-like store can have a significant impact on their business – for instance, earlier this year US retail giant La-Z-Boy acquired the pureplay Joybird, while online-first furniture retailer Interior Define expanded with more showrooms.
The main challenge here is how to showcase your broad product portfolio within a limited footprint. The answer is simple – technology!
What is endless aisle?
An endless aisle is a retail concept of using kiosks and tablets in-store to allow customers to browse and order products that are not showcased in-store – even including products that are out of stock.
One of the most important benefits of an endless aisle strategy to customers is that of product personalisation – the ability to get the product they want, and when they need it, no matter whether the store has it in stock. They can also get faster service, and, if the sales associates are busy and there is nobody immediately available to help, the endless aisle is a good alternative, so customers can look through the products and variations while waiting for assistance.
On the other hand, an endless aisle can make a retailer’s life much easier. Besides the fact they can create engaging shopping experience in-store, endless aisle can help retailers prevent customers from leaving their store unhappy because they couldn’t find what they were looking for. It basically means that you are giving your sales associates a tool to sell even the products they don’t have at their disposal in the moment. That puts retailers in a good position, creating a feeling that they are never out of stock.
According to Forrester Research, retailers who have put endless aisle strategies to work noticed that they account for up to 10% of their revenue.
The best thing about endless aisle is the fact that it blurs the boundaries between online and offline, enabling retailers to create an endless product assortment.
Disruptive furniture companies are already using endless aisle to address different challenges – and there are numerous benefits endless aisle technology can bring:
1. Prevent stockouts
Stockouts can hurt your business. According to IHL Group, retailers are missing out nearly $1t in sales because they don’t have what customers want to buy on hand in their stores. Retailers found out that they can reduce lost sales by creating in-store kiosks, offering customers a possibility to browse and order products that are not available in the store.
2. Dropshipping and endless aisle – a match made in heaven
One of the biggest challenges for furniture brands and retailers is stock management. With endless aisle, they can implement a dropshipping model and present every possible variation, but actually order a product only when there is interest in it.
Dropshipping is a supply chain management model where a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer. By employing an endless aisle technology, retailers can promote their whole assortment. Interactive touchscreens allow your customers to browse through the virtual inventory and check the different product options available.
3. Leverage a limited in-store footprint
An endless aisle makes it easy for furniture brands and retailers to showcase their product assortment without having huge showrooms. Instead, they can choose attractive locations and open small, gallery-like stores where they will offer engaging shopping experiences.
Get the most out of limited in-store space by offering an experiential retail journey. Furniture retailers are aware of the importance of the first impression, which in most cases happens online – however, stores are still the preferred channel for buying furniture.
Research from Furniture Today shows that the number of purchases in-store drops as we see a shift in generations – 82% of Baby Boomers said that they bought upholstery furniture in-store, as opposed to 74% of Millennials (still a very high percentage of purchases in each case).
Knowing these facts, experts predict that showrooms will become smaller and more tailored to the customer’s needs. And instead of being sales-focused as in the past, stores will become shopper-centric, focused on creating valuable in-store experiences and personalised messaging for their customers. Endless aisle can help furniture retailers turn their stores into destinations with engaging experiences.
4. Empower sales reps to sell more
Another factor is sales representative challenges. One of the main reasons people go in-store is to see how a product looks. Having only a limited number of pieces of furniture present makes it hard for sales reps to sell a product – in this case, an endless aisle is a perfect tool to show more and sell more.
By deploying an endless aisle strategy, you can empower your sales reps to sell more with less effort. Having your sales staff equipped with laptops, tablets and in-store kiosks makes it easy for them to quickly show customers what the specific piece of furniture looks like. In the hands of a smart associate, endless aisle technology becomes a powerful in-store tool. Their knowledge, combined with superior visualisation of every product variation, can do wonders for your revenue.
5. Translate online experience in-store
Retailers that think in terms of channels will be surpassed by customer-centric retailers that work on designing the ultimate omnichannel experience. With today’s technological advancements, furniture brands and retailers can create engaging online shopping experiences and showcase every piece of furniture they offer in different colours, fabrics, and materials with superior quality visuals, 360° views, and 4K HD zoom.
What if you could translate that experience in-store? Endless aisle is a perfect response to customers’ increasingly high expectations when it comes to shopping online and in-store. Customers perceive time as one of their most valuable resources, so make sure that the experience you offer in-store is worth while.
Replace waiting in line with a pleasant shopping experience. Forget about lost sales due to out-of-stock products that you can’t showcase. Give your customers a reason to visit your store and make the purchase.
The biggest challenge of selling furniture online is that people often want to get a better sense of what it looks like. Coversely, it’s hard to showcase every piece of furniture within a limited physical footprint. Therefore, the more product variations and options a retailer has, the more sense implementing an endless aisle strategy makes.
Biljana Vidoevska is a content marketer at Cylindo, a software specialist which brings together decades of experience from 3D, gaming and retail backgrounds to offer brands and retailers simple product visualisation. The Cylindo Platform promises to automate the visualisation of any product, from any angle and in any variation, increasing engagement and conversion rates.