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There's a healthy scepticism around in-store technology. Many doubt that all of the examples out there are actually wanted by the consumer.

The challenge is to find technology that can add value for the retailer, without disupting the magic of in-store shopping and customer service that the consumer already loves.

Apple and Audi are perhaps the best examples. Apple provided virtual payment and free WiFi before many others, with product demos a key part of the Apple store. Audi demonstrates product features on a tablet, with dynamic content.

Endless aisle, via a store associate's tablet or a fixed hub in store, is something many are dubious about. The hubs often don't see high engagement rates.

Crocs has proven the relevance of assited selling with its tablet operated endless aisle solution in store. At Demandware's Xchange 2014 I spoke to Harvey Bierman, VP global ecommerce at Crocs. He said Crocs has been using endless aisle technology in store for around two years. "Endless aisle represents a significant part of ecommerce revenue i.e. bigger than single digit."

I thought it was worth discussing what Crocs' success in this area means.

Endless aisle particularly relevant for certain products

Crocs come in many colours and sizes. Let's hypothesise there are 10 colours and 10 sizes available. This would lead to 100 possible pairs. And that's just for one style of shoe.

Crocs can't possibly stock each store with every possible shoe size and colour for each style. That's why endless aisle on a tablet is successful.

"Do you have these in yellow?"

"No, but I can order those to your house if you'd like?"

It's as simple as that.

Solstice sunglasses

Solstice Sunglasses is another brand engaging in assisted selling using tablet devices.

Again, the product fits well with the solution. With a wide range of options that may have been browsed online by the customer, a particular frame may not be available in-store.

solstice sunglasses

Ecommerce makes product mix both more and less important

Many consumers browse product ranges online. This then gives customers an expectation in store. If this expectation isn't met, some retailers may feel like their websites are creating a rod for their bricks and mortar backbone. 

However, retailers should now be using this opportunity in store to hook the customer.

Additionally, the product mix in-store and online can inform each other. Stores short on space can feel safer not stocking certain items as they can prioritise an online solution for these SKUs.

Attributing ecommerce sales in-store

As discussed in this piece on Pier 1 Imports, ecommerce is playing a bigger role in store sales, whether through assisted selling or click and collect.

Pier 1 gives stores an ecommerce target as well as physical sales target. As integration between stores and online increases, assisted selling will become increasingly common.

Convergence of POS and ecommerce

I've written about this topic previously. The inference is that the eventual aim for companies is to have a backend system that's common for stores and ecommerce.

This may make logistics and informed merchandising reliable, and the single customer view a more distinct possibility.

Ben Davis

Published 14 April, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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