For today’s consumers, “window shopping” both online and at physical stores has
become part of their buying experience. And retailers better be ready to greet and
captivate them wherever they visit.
“In the new world of omnichannel retail, the line between online and offline is
blurring for customers,” writes Robin Gellerman, a product strategist and manager
at OpenText. “They expect a consistent and fulfilling experience whichever channel
they use to engage with the retailer.” (1)
Which is why today, many businesses make use of both off and online features to
meet customers’ demands wherever they shop, he added.
The physical store version
In brick-and-mortar stores, the concept of “endless aisle” enables either sales staff equipped
with tablets or mobile/cell phones or the customers themselves to check stores’ product lines
for items that are not on display but are in stock. With this, stores can respond to shoppers’
requests before they start browsing for alternatives on their phones, and promote their full
line in spite of space constraints.
This “endless aisle” concept may also be an opportunity to truly personalize customers’ visits.
For instance, some Lids stores in North America now feature a “Custom Zone” area where
people can have features relating to their favorite sports teams or athletes embroidered on
the hats they just bought, and can browse the store’s digital library and look at the whole
range of styles available, customization options and promotions. (2)
For e-commerce stores, the concept referred to as “endless shelf” is an opportunity to have
an outlet in a physical marketplace where they can give shoppers access to their product lines
on a computer or touch-screen monitor with the option of purchasing as they would online.
This outlet can be as small or big as they wish, with or without a sales person to mind it.
Depending on the size and location, it might even include a small product display.
For e-commerce, this is an opportunity to have a presence—no matter how small the outlet—
where people physically shop.
Setting up an endless aisle or endless shelf
In both cases, the essential features are those already used by e-commerce people and
retailers with websites.
Product display and catalogs must include descriptions and photos that will get people’s
attention. The sites must be easy to navigate no matter the size of one’s inventory, offering
chat assistance if there is no sales staff in attendance.
Which raises the issue of whether those virtual shops should be staffed. Yes, writes Darren
Gilbert of DotActiv. “Because regardless of the rise of technology in retail, there will always
be a need for human interaction…your customers still appreciate recommendations and
advice. They also have questions that need answering, and only your sales staff might be
able to help.
“If there is no-one physically present to help answer any questions…it won’t matter if
ZINation has recently launched Smart Endless Shelf—Interactive Retail
Display for Shopify—which enables an e-commerce to introduce products
on computer screens, tablets and/or phones at physical locations.
Since this becomes an extension of one’s e-commerce with Shopify,
all the usual tools (calendar, pop up, chat) can be triggered and sales
be processed at physical locations as if it was handled online at one’s
e-commerce. ZINation also offers Smart Endless Shelf for Magento.