The rise of ecommerce has completely changed the way the world shops. According to a study by eMarketer, worldwide retail ecommerce sales reached $1.915 trillion in 2016, and are expected to pass $4 trillion in 2020. However, as the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. U.S. consumers are expected to spend upward of $5 trillion in retail stores by 2020. This is because, even with so many advances in online shopping, a lot of people still prefer brick-and-mortar establishments.
Why is this? There are many factors worth considering. Customers like the personalized support available in stores. They enjoy the freedom to touch and explore products before committing to a purchase. They appreciate being able to avoid paying additional shipping costs. In fact, 85% of customers would rather shop in stores than online. However, there is a downside.

Forrester suggests that as much as 10% of retail sales are lost due to items not being in stock. When customers come into a store to make a purchase, there’s nothing more disappointing than finding out that the item isn’t there. When this happens, many customers choose not to wait; 17% of customers use their mobile devices to make an immediate purchase at a competitor’s website, 37% purchase the item online when they get home, and 35% go looking for the item at a different store.

However, this doesn’t have to happen. Savvy retailers understand that just because something isn’t currently on the shelves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a customer won’t buy it. Clients can still make in-store purchases for items that are out-of-stock at that location, thanks to an interactive and innovative solution called endless aisle retail technology.

Endless aisle is a term used to describe a marketing and sales technique by which retailers are able to provide in-store customers with the opportunity to order products that are either not normally sold in the store or that are currently out of stock. These products can then be shipped directly to customers’ homes or to the store for future pickup. With endless aisle, often in-store kiosks are used. An endless aisle retail kiosk provides buyers with an interactive and robust online customer experience, often superior to what they can enjoy by browsing product in store. Retail chains and ecommerce stores may provide endless aisles as one of the services they offer to enhance the customer experience and retain customers. At times, ecommerce stores do establish brick-and-mortar locations to enable customers to get hands-on experiences with a product. They then include endless aisle kiosks within the store.

With such easy access to digital shopping, does it really make sense for retailers to go out of their way to support in-store online purchases? Statistics suggest yes. After all, 90% of transactions still occur in physical stores. This means that the customers are there, and they’re ready to buy. On the other hand, 8% of inventory is typically out of stock. Put these numbers together, and it becomes clear that a significant amount of money is being lost as a result.

Retailers operating brick-and-mortar locations must effectively balance enough inventory to satisfy shopper demand for assortment breadth and depth, but still keep inventory levels to a minimum to avoid the consequences of overbuying. In short, it’s simply not possible for most stores to maintain an inventory that perfectly caters to the needs of every potential customer. At the same time, as shoppers grow increasingly experienced with digital shopping, they become less accustomed to the idea of a limited inventory. Endless aisle technology provides a solution.

The fact is that online shopping sites are not limited by planograms, fixtures, or the square footage of their showrooms. This allows them to digitally showcase an unlimited number of products, and to do so in a way that is easily navigable for their clients. Many of those clients, however, only visit the online store to research products that they plan to purchase in person. In fact, 81% of shoppers perform online product research before making an in-store purchase.

Because of this, there is a gap between expectations and delivery — shoppers expect the same inventory available online to be available in the store. When it is not, they go elsewhere.

Endless aisle virtually extends the breadth and depth of a store’s inventory beyond what is currently sitting on the shelf. In the event that a client enters the store looking for something that is either not in stock or not normally carried, retailers can still save the sale by facilitating an in-store purchase of an orderable item. When the local assortment fails to mirror the digital experience, endless aisle retail solutions create a bridge between the two.

Of course, endless aisle technology doesn’t need to be limited to only the specific products that customers can’t find in the store. It can also serve as a suggested selling solution. When product recommendation data is incorporated, retailers can easily cross-sell or upsell related items that might interest their customers. As an added benefit, endless aisle options help modernize retail businesses, extending the digital experience — where most modern customer journeys begin — into the brick-and-mortar store environment.

The benefits of endless aisle include fewer sales lost due to product unavailability, improved cross-selling and upselling, and increased brand engagement through exceptional, multichannel in-store service. When clients have endless shopping possibilities, they never have to worry about going home empty handed.

An effective endless aisle solution depends upon several factors. Here are some things to consider when selecting an endless aisle tool:
  • Even retailers who choose to install customer-facing ordering kiosks in their stores need to be sure that relevant information is accessible via mobile devices. This is because more and more clients are depending upon those devices for all of their internet needs. If customers need to check up on an order or otherwise access ordering information, they’ll likely want to do it on their mobile device. Endless aisle solutions that allow orders and returns to be processed on mobile devices give clients more freedom to shop their way.
  • Whether it’s being accessed by employees or customers, the last thing an endless aisle app should be is confusing. Users don’t have the time or the patience to power through an overly difficult learning curve. Intuitive controls and an easy-to-use interface will help ensure that those who want to make an order, can.

  • Customers expect to be able to pay for their purchases their way. Whether they want to buy online and pick up in store, buy in store and have it delivered to their home, or finalize their purchases across any number of available channels, store fulfillment solutions make it possible.
  • In the modern world of retail, no system is an island. An effective endless aisle retail system needs to be able to integrate with other systems easily in order to pull real-time inventory data, access product information, and perform other tasks.
  • No two businesses are the same, so no single out-of-the-box endless aisle solution is likely to be a perfect fit. Customizable and configurable software tools make it possible for retailers to optimize the solution to fit their own unique needs, and to even include company branding for that added bit of professionalism.
  • Customers don’t want to know what was available yesterday; they want to know what is available now. Cloud-based endless aisle web software relies on real-time processing, so that inventories and other data are updated instantly as changes are made, giving every salesperson and every customer access to 100% accurate information, every time.

The Salesforce CRM-based retail platform delivers a client-focused, connected experience and enhanced retail solutions. With an easy, intuitive interface built to assist employees and customers alike, all users will be able to find exactly what they need. A variety of customization and configuration options means that no retailer will ever have to settle for out-of-the-box capabilities when they need something more. Personalized user experiences likewise ensure that customers are getting service and recommendations that mean something to them.

Retailers know that their shops are only as successful as the individual purchase journeys of their customers. Don’t block those customers from reaching the end. With Salesforce retail CRM and endless aisle solutions, inventory possibilities really are endless.

Contact us to talk about the latest Salesforce retail solutions, and let us help you set up a strategy to connect with your customers like never before.