The linear path to purchase has been broken. Shoppers today need various pleasing digital touchpoints throughout their purchasing journeys and beyond. This means traditional brick-and-mortar retailers need to offer experiences that match, complement, and synchronise with customers’ online and mobile experiences – a true omnichannel offering. One way to offer this is through Endless Aisle.
Endless aisle powers in-store technology to allow customers and staff further inventory visibility and functionality, through mobile touchpoints. For example: an iPad to browse and order products that are not available in-store.
It can be used to manage online orders to be collected at retail locations. Or to enable stock visibility, so customers can check whether a product is available before heading in-store to purchase. Retailers can use the data to re-target customers with abandoned carts, or those who leave the store without purchasing, which increases customer fulfillment.
Digital should not be ignored, even in the brick-and-mortar environment. Many customers are familiar with digital experiences, from discovering new products on social media, to purchasing from eCommerce stores and online marketplaces. These customers may have an online account, with purchase history, preferences, and other individual data that can be utilised in-store.
And cloud-based commerce technology is now readily available for retailers looking to boost their omnichannel offering – for example, Salesforce Commerce Cloud Endless Aisle. This essentially links to a retailer’s existing Salesforce Commerce Cloud system – eCommerce, order management, marketing, data management – and extends it to provide a synchronised experience in-store.
This allows sales staff to offer online merchandising, promotions, and inventory checking in the physical store, leveraging the customer’s data where possible. Actually, this is one area where Salesforce has a distinct advantage, as few other eCommerce platforms offer the same in-store features.
Heighten Customer Experience
Customer experience across all channels is a priority for retailers. A refined omnichannel strategy – discussed in our latest ebook, Killer Strategies — can increase brand engagement, customer experience, and sales. Endless aisle essentially improves a brand’s ability to satisfy their customers’ needs. It’s quite possible that modern consumers will have experienced a level of heightened in-store or online experience (or both) from competition or elsewhere.
The result is that consumers these days have high expectations. Gone are the days of turning customers away with, “Sorry, we don’t have that in your size”, or “we sold the last one this morning.” Staff should be able to offer an alternative, or try a different item in the same size and have the desired item delivered same-day. Customers should leave with a positive experience, and a lasting relationship with the brand.
It’s estimated that 10% of online and in-store orders are lost due to items being out of stock. And it’s possible that, if potential customers are unable to buy what they desire, they may never return, which compounds loss of revenue. One-touch access to the inventory of a network of stores or warehouses at any retail outlet reduces the potential of losing sales, especially if fulfilment capabilities can match customer expectations. Free delivery and same-day click and collect, are becoming increasingly expected by consumers.
In addition, sales staff using endless aisle technology can further increase revenue by up-selling or cross-selling recommended products, either from the information provided by the customer in-store, or, if an existing customer, by utilising data pulled from the Commerce Cloud system back-end.
Maximise Store Real Estate
Despite the rise of online and mobile retail, many consumers value the physical retail experience. Touching and experiencing a product and seeking advice from a store associate remains a vital experience, particularly in areas such as fashion, performance sportswear, and luxury goods. It’s also a differentiator from digital pureplays, as traditional brick-and-mortar retailers feel the pinch from the likes of Amazon.
Enabling store access to the entire product range at all of their stores and warehouses turns the smallest stores into retail hubs. It also means stores don’t have to stock every single item. They can maximise their retail space with best-selling items. This is particularly useful where items are very expensive, or too large to stock on every single shop floor.
Retailers with branches at airports, are an example of where floor and shelf space is at a real premium. These retailers simply can’t stock everything. But being able to order an item for delivery to the customer’s home or, ideally, onward destination is the epitome of customer service.
Data Capture & Management
Using endless aisle technology in stores is an excellent way of capturing data from a highly engaged audience. This is a valuable way of increasing a retailer’s marketing database, which can be targeted with future offers and promotions to drive in-store footfall or online sales.
Having a bank of data which can be easily accessed in-store also makes the life of a sales assistant much easier when interacting with an existing customer. Staff can pull customer-specific data from the Commerce Cloud back end which will support their sales process. Data such as size and previous preferences can generate customised recommendations and upgrades, and pre-determined payment and delivery information will mean a frictionless sales process.
Ease of Use
The technology can live on a native IOS app, meaning it can be used on tablets and smartphones that staff and customers are familiar with. Functions like catalogue and inventory lists, in-store navigation, faceted product search and recommendations, and websites and customer portals can be easily accessed in a few taps. An integrated point of sale payment solution for credit cards and mobile payments also helps staff provide a seamless purchase experience for the customer.
Quick Case Study: Karen Millen
UK women’s clothing retailer Karen Millen is an example of a traditional brick-and-mortar retailer applying endless aisle to empower its in-store staff. Sales people can instantly access detailed product information and stock availability, and search for products in other stores and warehouses, and place orders directly. An in-app online chat enables easy communication with head office and other stores. Marketing material can be leveraged in-store, enabling staff to sell entire outfits, not just products, with AI-generated style recommendations and an in-app outfit builder. Karen Millen reports a 7% increase in brick-and-mortar sales.