When we think about how technology has changed retail, we often think of e-commerce, fast delivery and the convenience of being able to shop from the comfort of our homes. For most retailers, this addition of speed and convenience is seen as an improvement to the customer experience, but grocers have a different challenge.
When customers shop for groceries they’re not looking for the typical retail experience. Yes, speed and convenience are appreciated, but not at the cost of being able to select the best quality fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat that match their individual preferences.
Preserving this experience has been one of the most challenging aspects of embracing new technologies in the grocery sector. Supermarkets are having to take a more nuanced and balanced approach to their incorporation of e-commerce technologies alongside their physical operations. This is to make sure that the adoption of any new technology can both add to and complement the type of grocery shopping experiences that customers enjoy in-store as well as online.
So-called ‘endless aisles’ are one way of joining the dots between the in-store and online experience, offering grocers a chance to embrace more of an omnichannel approach.
What are endless aisles?
Endless aisles are in-store kiosks which allow customers to search for items and purchase products that may be unavailable or out of stock. They can then be automatically delivered to their home or schedule a convenient in-store pickup.
For regular customers, it removes any of the inconvenience or anxiety caused by not being able to find a favourite product during the weekly grocery shop. Some supermarkets may even choose to have third-party products listed on their endless aisle kiosks in order to expand their offering and help customers fulfill more of their needs, making the supermarket a one-stop-shop for more than groceries and standard household items.
Improving order fulfillment
Using endless aisle kiosks, grocers are able to combine all the benefits of having a physical store, such as product placement and checkouts, with having a direct order fulfillment centre. This allows customers to buy what they see, but also complement their order with more exotic items that the supermarket may not have room to display. For instance, a supermarket may sell all of the usual on-shelf items you would expect, but also operate a ‘dark store’ where they also sell furniture or kitchenware through a virtual catalogue - the endless aisle.
The concept of an endless aisle is the perfect example of how e-commerce can help to transform the in-store experience as well as expand a retailer’s reach online.