S-commerce, brick and click, e-Tailing, the more you delve into the world of retail jargon, the more you feel the need to keep on learning, and just when you think you have honed your skill and mastered them all, a new jargon trend pops up in the market.

Keeping up on all the retail jargon and wielding it into the retail practice is not possible, but there are a few ones that must be on your list as they can help you streamline your retail practice while staying innovative. One such area that you must master is the endless aisle, especially for preventing out-of-stock products and reducing prolonged times.

According to Harvard Business Review, out-of-stock directly leads to walkouts, and perishable items cover the biggest portion (39%) of out-of-stock products. In the case of in-stores, businesses are losing almost $1 trillion in sales every year just because of out-of-stock products.

As you can see, out-of-stock products are currently the biggest perpetrators of retail shops. The traditional inventory strategy is entirely ineffective to deal with this issue; this is where the endless aisle comes into the picture.

Also known as extended aisle, this was a new kid on the block for the retail industry just a couple of years ago, but now, it has become the best tool for retail industries to shrug off wait time and out-of-stock issues products.

But why is there so much fuzz about endless aisle, does it keep up with the promises? Let’s find out through this blog post.

What is an endless aisle?

It is a marketing and sales technique through which retail firms can order products to the in-store customers that are not usually available in the store or are out-of-stock. With 10% of the retail stores losing sales just because of the out-of-stock issue, the introduction of the endless aisle can act as a catalyst for the sales figure.

The products ordered by the in-store customers can be delivered directly to the customer’s home or can be delivered in the store for future purchases. It can keep the out-of-stock issue from preventing customers from visiting your store.

The main idea behind endless aisle is the order needs to be made from one store, and then the order is fulfilled by one of the suppliers of the same store. And the only way to make this successful is to have direct integration with suppliers and technological solutions like ERP.

How to wield endless aisle in your retail store?

In-store kiosks
It is a simple touch-screen made available inside the store, and it gives buyers a robust and interactive online customer experience, which in most cases is far better than what the customer experiences while browsing products in the store.

The customer can use the kiosk to browse product catalogs, purchase something to deliver to their home, or view product information. With 65% of the customers preferring self-service in retail stores, such kiosks can prove to be a game-changer.

But above all, an in-store kiosk will keep the customer from walking out without purchasing because of out-of-stock products. That means you will be making sales on products not even available in your store.

Retail players have realized that customer experience is the most important thing they need to focus on. That might be why more than 60% of consumers expect retailers to increase the space dedicated to experience compared to space devoted to products.

That is where the concept of showrooming comes in, where shoppers buy items in-store and then make the purchase online by using QR codes and email carts. Showrooming is an effective method to deal with out-of-stock products since you give the most convenient platform for the customer to purchase; mobile phones.
The trend of showrooming is spreading like wildfire as currently, more than 63% of the retailers plan to give customer-owned mobile point-of-sales checkout by the end of 2022. But you have to make sure that the customers buy from you rather than your competitor after leaving the store.

Order fulfillment

Another method of dealing with out-of-stock products is to give doorstep delivery to the consumer’s address for all the out-of-stock products. You just have to use your eCommerce store to make the customer’s order from a retail channel and then pass the order to a third-party supplier for picking, packing, and shipping.

It is the most effective way to implement an endless aisle in your store since after implementing this strategy, not even a single customer will walk because of out-of-stock products. Since 8% of the products are always out-of-stock, it is better to use an endless aisle rather than choosing the arduous task of keeping all the products in stock.

How does endless aisle deals with the out-of-stock issue?

With an endless aisle, you don’t have to worry about keeping your inventory firing on all cylinders since an endless aisle makes it possible to run a retail store successfully even on low inventory.

When you keep online and offline stores on an even keel, you can use endless aisles to keep selling the entire product catalog without making it necessary to have every product in the inventory in every store location.

This approach allows retail owners to incorporate a just-in-time strategy and give shoppers access to more products while keeping the inventory simple.

Endless aisle deals with the issue of overstocking since overstocking leads to a loss of around $123.4 billion in North America alone. This issue must be addressed and treated on the same level of challenge as out-of-stock, which accounts for $129 billion in North America.

How does endless aisle reduce “wait time?”

When you integrate ERP software with the endless aisle approach, you eliminate the prolonged waiting from the customer’s side. Usually, the customer’s order is put on backorder, and the shoppers have to wait for the product to arrive in the store.

With Endless Aisle integrated with ERP software, you get the option of delivering the product directly to the customer. That means customers won’t have to return to the shop for pick-up, and therefore, words like wait-time will become meaningless.

Since psychologically, wait time is perceived to be longer than the actual wait time, 75% of businesses agree that wait time is the biggest issue. It can become a reason for customers to procrastinate purchasing from your store, and they might start scouring other options. But with an endless aisle, you can overcome this challenge.

How does endless aisle deals with the out-of-stock issue?

Product customization

Since endless aisle gives you the option to show every product on the list, you can use this opportunity to step up the plate and enhance the customer experience through better product customization options.

Customers don’t only get a more comprehensive selection option, but they can even customize the products, especially while buying from home goods, food, or clothing retailers. Customer can even make their schedules and buy privately.
Connection of every supply channel

For commencing your omnichannel strategy, you have to connect with your suppliers; here, the endless aisle can help. By accumulating orders from different supply chains, you give a centralized system of access to your customers for all the products you sell.

It also helps the auto-route orders, and through this, the distribution centers can order products based on the customer’s need.

Things to keep in mind while implementing endless aisle strategy

You should have access to inventory data in real-time.
Endless aisle might help you run a retail business profitably even with low inventory, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to keep track of your inventory.

Whenever you sell a product through an endless aisle, you have to purchase it from a third party- your supplier, and then they will ship it directly to the customer or make it available in the store as soon as possible.

For such a system to run successfully, you should never consider endless aisle as a concept of endless supply. You should have complete control over your inventory levels whenever you implement this technology in-store.

Incorporating a centralized approach for making endless aisle a breeze
Instead of having a decentralized system where every store location orders its stock separately, you should carry on the endless aisle implementation with a centralized approach.

A centralized system ensures that every aspect of the order, like the number of sales, stock level, and availability of units, is made available in a single place. The best part is that all this data will be available at your fingertips.

For example, if you sell a product through a centralized system, the stock level will be automatically updated, and therefore, you can avoid overstocking or understocking issues. And you even don’t have to give a long spiel to customers explaining why you can’t deliver the product they have bought.

Choosing the right mix of products
The idea of wielding a shelf-in-store that offers all the products your suppliers deal with might be tempting, but one should always avoid such an approach.

For example, you might be a category specialist who deals only in dairy products while your supplier might be selling in other product lines of FMCG as well. As much as you might be tempted to place a virtual shelf-in store that offers all your suppliers’ products, you should first ask yourself; What are the customers going to visit my store for?

Of course, the answer is dairy products. If the customer enters your shop and finds many FMCG products, you will lose the specialization that sets you apart from others and even makes the customers challenging to fathom your approach.

It doesn’t matter whether you are running a large store that is struggling to manage its massive inventory or a small retail store that doesn’t have enough space to keep every item on display, endless aisle can be the best solution. But to thrive on the advantages of the endless aisle, you have to ensure that you have proper resources, processes, and systems in place.