As the battle between brick-and-mortar furniture retailers and online giants like Amazon wages on, retailers are now transitioning to zero inventory and putting excess inventory in an online shop.
This strategy, often referred to as an “endless aisle,” is being used by big-box and specialty retailers alike. Stores can reach digital shoppers using online storefronts to extend their offering as well as create customer relationships outside the physical store.
Whether it’s through in-store kiosks or on laptops in the comfort of their homes, consumers can access seemingly unlimited inventory through endless aisles. They’re able to access a larger assortment of SKUs and don’t have to worry about their favorite product being out of stock in their local store.
The best part of all for both sides? Furniture is shipped directly to customers’ doorsteps, and the retailer has a record of what they’ve ordered. With that data, the retailer can recommend additional items and continue to nurture their customer relationships.
Here’s how endless aisles benefit retailers with physical stores:
1. Associates get access to unlimited inventory
Unless your store offers special orders, sales associates have been limited to the inventory in store. With an endless aisle, associates and shoppers get access to furniture that’s always available regardless of the store’s size or location.
For example, a consumer walks into a store looking for a certain motion sofa. That sofa may not be physically in the store (because it’s impossible for stores to carry every style, color and size sofa), and the consumer may be ready to walk out to shop the competition to find it.
An endless aisle avoids potentially lost sales by allowing associates to show shoppers the items they want physically in the store and have it delivered quickly. Empowering associates with the right technology allows them to search unlimited inventory right in the store and make the right suggestion to their customer.
2. Connect with shoppers outside physical store
Many consumers forget to complete a transaction in-store, but still have a need to shop. When this happens, sales are often lost to competing stores. Like it or not, we’re at a point in retail where brand loyalty is extremely low, and price or convenience is playing an increasingly important role in purchase decisions.
When consumers know they can visit your store online or in a convenient way on their own schedule, they’re more likely to stay loyal to you and out of your competitors’ stores. This rings especially true when your endless aisle is easy to navigate, accessible via mobile devices and offers access to personalized service from stores and associates.
3. Leverage impulse shopping online
Impulse purchases such as accessories can create significant sales for retailers, but this strategy has mostly been used only in physical stores. This translates over into the digital realm in the form of an endless aisle.
When consumers browse a retailer’s website or associate storefront, they can see a wider selection of SKUs and might decide to add in a few smaller things.
Retailers can also strategically price items, so consumers have a greater chance of their cart nearing that magical number to receive free shipping or volume discounts.
It’s no secret that consumers are likely to add items they know they’ll need in the future just to avoid shipping fees.
There are a growing number of technology platforms to help retailers launch endless aisle programs. Customers log on, shop, even receive advice, customized offers and the kind of service they’re used to in-store, all from within the site. Leading retailers will use endless aisle purchases to deepen relationships with customers by connecting them with local stores and extending after-sale offers.
If brick-and-mortar furniture retailers are going to compete with online giants, endless aisles are an important competitive advantage to meet the expectations of omnichannel shoppers. By extending in-store experiences online with endless aisle, brick-and-mortar retailers can leverage their customer relationships to grow sales and empower associates.