This post was written by our partner, Wondersign, who provides an endless aisle platform that thousands of retailers use to create a complete omnicommerce experience.
Let’s get one thing straight, right away: The idea of self-service is not to replace people or a personal interaction. On the contrary: A strong self-service offering helps your associates shine. By automating tedious tasks, it lets them focus entirely on the sales conversation. In most cases, this results in a better customer experience and an increase in total sales.
The smart use of self-service technology is designed to speed up otherwise laborious parts of the process. It also removes redundancies and eliminates inefficiencies. This article discusses the top 5 qualities to look for in ‘endless aisle’ software for kiosks in your retail store.
1. Real-Time Inventory
“When can I get this?” Every retail sales associate (RSA) has heard this question. Finding the answer to it can be grueling when dealing with outdated and disconnected systems. Having up-to-date inventory records available at your point of decision is a crucial aspect of the customer’s shopping experience in your store.
Here’s the Issue: A shopper comes into your store, sifts through dozens of pages of paper catalogs, and finally finds an item they fall in love with. Only to then find out it’s out of stock and won’t come back anytime soon.
Especially in a guided sales experience, it is painful for the RSA to have to abandon the shopper on the sales floor, just to look up inventory on the manufacturer’s website or in their point of sale software. And every retailer knows: If you leave ‘em, you lose ‘em!
Solution: Kiosk software that connects with your inventory management systems and also syncs directly to the manufacturer’s inventory in real-time. This gives your RSAs and the shopper direct access to this crucial data, preemptively answering the “when can I get this?” question.
Ready for some technicalities?
It will be short. Any POS and ERP software can export inventory data as a CSV file, and a good endless aisle provider allows you to automate the import of these files. With this, inventory numbers displayed are as close to “real-time” as possible. Live API integrations are better, of course, but in most cases it is more than enough to sync stock data a few times a day. Wondersign helps retailers expose their current and future inventory levels in real-time. The software even allows for smart product sorting based on item availability. With this, products that are on hand get shown first, which helps to reduce idle inventory.
2. Performance & Reliability
The key to an effective in-store kiosk solution is intuitive software. One that makes it easy for shoppers to find what they’re looking for. The user interface (UI) needs to be optimized for large-format touch screens. In too many cases, retailers think adding their website to in-store kiosks is all it will take. And at first, it seems like a great idea. You already have the asset, so you don’t need to create or set up additional software.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few drawbacks to this approach. Let’s start with the psychological damage:
Retailers spend an ever-increasing amount of marketing and advertising dollars to make their doors swing. In the Home Furnishings industry, for example, it is an estimated $100 per person to get consumers to visit a store, according to industry data. In an industry with a 36% average close rate, a lot of shoppers end up leaving the store without making a purchase.
And some of these lost sales are directly attributable to using websites on consumer-facing devices in the store. It sends a clear message: “You’re wasting your time. You didn’t need to come in today. You could do this at home, on your own device, in your pajamas.” Consumers are fast learners. They won’t come back to the store when there is no need for it. So, instead, the store has to seize this opportunity and provide the consumer with an experience they can NOT get at home.
How? By offering a blazingly fast, high-quality endless aisle application. One that enables shoppers to collaborate with their shopping companions, along with the RSA. All so they can narrow down their search efficiently and make a decision with confidence and excitement.
So let’s talk about the technical side of things:
- Your store’s Internet connection is likely not the greatest. Look for an application that is either offline-capable or has advanced caching capabilities to ensure that shoppers quickly get what they’re looking for. And no, they’re not looking for a loading indicator or a blank timeout screen.
- Another big factor is usability. Websites with small hyperlinks and pop-ups are not a good user experience and make it hard for shoppers to find what they’re looking for. Especially older and less technically inclined users will abandon the process. This is costing the retailer – not just a sale, but a loyal customer.
- Make sure your provider knows a thing or two about ADA compliance. Not just the kiosk hardware, but also the software needs to be fully compliant. Most websites are not considered ADA compliant in an in-store environment, which makes them a lawsuit waiting to happen.
And finally, let’s talk about what to offer in terms of product mix. Your website is most likely the traditional definition of an “endless aisle”. After all, your attempt is to drive search engine traffic your way. The “endless aisle” as an innovative in-store concept, on the other hand, has already been revised to become an “extended aisle”. Which means, a more curated experience rather than just listing every possible SKU a retailer can get their hands on.
Make sure the data syndication platform that feeds the shopping experiences online and offline allows you to curate the assortment based on merchandising and technical criteria. For example, only list direct-to-consumer items under 100 lbs on the website to avoid excessive freight charges. Another example is to build the in-store catalog with only in-stock items, plus those on backorder with a restocking date of less than 3 weeks.
3. Smart Upsell & Cross-Sell Suggestions
E-Commerce knows the metric as “AOV” – average order value. Many brick & mortar retailers call it the “ticket size”. At the drive-through window, they ask “Do you want fries with that”. In a retail store with a less structured (or rigid) path to purchase, it is much harder to ask this question. So it’s even more important that every tool you implement along the path to purchase has upsell and cross-sell functionality built-in.
As previously established, it costs a lot of money to get people in the door. So when they finally buy from you, it better be a decent ticket size.
Your data syndication platform needs to allow you to establish cross-sell and up-sell opportunities by linking products from the same collection and items that are often purchased together. The in-app suggestions also make it easier for RSAs to facilitate an upsell or cross-sell without coming across as a pushy salesperson.
Wondersign has a unique hot-spot based shopping feature for their Catalog Kiosk App that allows shoppers to “shop the image” from designer-inspired room settings. It comes complete with variant management and upsell and cross-sell options. Learn more.
Bonus: If the endless aisle software provides an easy way to start the financing process or to add insurance products such as protection plans, warranties, or shipping options, you can watch your average ticket size grow almost instantly.
4. Lead Collection Tools
In retail in the United States, the average close rate is roughly 22%. Almost 8 out of 10 shoppers leave the store without buying anything. Unless you’re asking everybody for their contact information when they walk in the door, there is no way for you to get back in touch with them.
Find an endless aisle app that collects shopper data as users share items with themselves or with their loved ones using built-in sharing features.
A simple follow-up “Thanks for coming in – how was your experience?” via text message goes a long way. In many cases it can be the difference between making a sale or missing out.
Find a platform that offers integrations with your existing two-way marketing tools in your tech stack. Text messaging has quickly evolved to become the most favorite way shoppers want to engage with a business
5. Cross-Shopping Prevention
Cross-shopping and showrooming are inevitable retail realities. Most shoppers walk around with a powerful computer in their pockets, just waiting to google model numbers and product names to find a better deal.
Shoppers have access to almost unlimited information at their fingertips. Here are two proven strategies that work for any retailer. And this is even without access to expensive white-label products. Let’s answer the dreaded question: “How will I prevent cross-shopping in my store?
A) You won’t. Instead, be a cross-shopping enabler! This might sound counter-intuitive, but read on.
You can take control of the cross-shopping experience as long as it includes your devices instead of the consumers’ phones. Choose an endless aisle software that allows for the convenient sharing of product information via text message, email,
and other messaging apps. This way you’re giving the shopper what they want (information on a product that they can then research once they’re back home) while collecting valuable contact information to re-engage with them once they’ve left the store. This gives you the ability to continue the sales conversation and bring them back to your store, either to your brick & mortar location or onto your website.
B) Use information that is not widely available on the web.
You can make cross-shopping much more difficult with a data syndication platform worth its salt. It lets you hide SKU numbers, obfuscate them, add random letters and numbers, reverse them, or use a custom SKU system at scale altogether. Randomize product names or simply rename series and collections of products – especially when they’re highly commoditized goods that every competitor of yours is selling as well. A solid data syndication platform translates custom SKUs back to vendor SKUs in submitted carts, so your store staff and POS system know exactly what to order.
Wondersign is an innovative software application that allows you to provide your customers with an expanded inventory, a unique buying experience, and collect customer data making follow-up and retargeting a breeze. The Wondersign app even allows you to sync data between in-store devices and your website so that customers can have a consistent omnichannel experience.