In sports, they say the best ability is availability. So many promising careers have been cut short by injury. Tell all the tales of Bo Jackson’s legendary athleticism you like, but at the end of the day, injuries turned a likely hall-of-fame career in two sports into 38 NFL games and only four MLB seasons of consequence. Perhaps your brand’s products have similar upside to consumers as Bo had to professional sports. But if shoppers can’t get their hands on your wares, what good is all that potential?
Now think about what you do when your local store doesn’t have the product you need.
If they have an alternative product, you might choose something else almost as good. Or you could go to another store to find what you were looking for, burning more time in the process. You could also just go home, leaving the problem for another day.
But if the store you’re in has an endless aisle, you can simply order what you need on the spot.
An endless aisle is a virtual portal that provides in-store customers access to a wider range of inventory online through the store. It could be a system that sales associates can access via tablet, phone, or computer. Some retailers set up dedicated kiosks that allow customers a self-serve path to the endless aisle.
What does endless aisles mean for a brand? Should you be worried about them or using them to your advantage? It might be a little of both. We’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s talk about why endless aisles are useful.
What’s the point of an endless aisle?
An endless aisle turns a brick-and-mortar store into an online marketplace, where third-party sellers can drop-ship products to the store for pickup or local delivery.
For consumers, the endless aisle creates convenient opportunities to get the products they want from the store they’re already in. It provides an immediate solution to the disappointment of an item being out-of-stock or a product category not being available in store.
For retailers, the endless aisle reduces lost sales. While having the item in-stock is a better experience, an endless aisle is the next best thing.
This model helps brick-and-mortar stores give customers what they need, rather than driving them to less-than-ideal solutions. It also lets stores offer more products than they can display, so they don’t have to reconfigure their layout or invest in additional display space to sell the best products and meet their customers’ needs.
Now let’s look at what the endless aisle means for brands.
How brands can expand their reach with endless aisles
There are a few ways endless aisles can help you expand a brand’s reach. Whether your ecommerce platform integrates directly with a retailer’s endless aisle system or you partner with a third-party seller who can, endless aisles enable you to sell your products in stores that wouldn’t normally carry them. Maybe they already have several options in your product category or simply don’t have the warehouse and display space to add you to their catalog. Whatever the reason a retailer can’t stock your product, an endless aisle allows their customers to purchase your products anyway.
This means your established retail partners can offer their customers a greater supply of your products than they can keep in stock. When your products are out of stock locally, your partners can still access more inventory to meet customer demand.
While endless aisles allow customers to browse a wider range of products, the most common application occurs when a customer seeks out a product by name or wants an irregular product configuration, such as a unique color or material. If you want endless aisles to work in your brand’s favor, invest in integration and partnerships to get your products there. You should also support developing greater brand awareness and new product configurations to ensure more special requests find their way to your brand.
Make your products more available
Selling direct-to-consumer can only take your brand so far. If you want to grow and scale, expand your reach by partnering with retailers and trustworthy third-party sellers. When customers ask for your products by name or have a special request your brand can satisfy, make sure retailers provide every way possible to get your products in customer hands. If they can’t stock your products in-store, an endless aisle might be the solution.