When a customer walks into a brick-and-mortar retail location, their actions are increasingly driven by online information claiming the store carries a particular item they want. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in actual inventory and product availability too often translate into lost sales for retailers when the customer finds that the sought-after item is actually unavailable.
This problem is sometimes called “phantom inventory,” which refers to products that come up in retail management systems as available, but are in fact unavailable, either misplaced, miscounted or simply hidden from view. Phantom inventory is a serious obstacle for retailers aiming to avoid overstocking while still ensuring that the right products are on the store shelf for their customers.
Scoring the Extra Point: Transactional Kiosks
Storeworks, a leading technology integration partner based in Eden Prairie, MN, was brought in by the country’s largest sporting goods retailer when this issue was identified as a costly problem. To address the issue, Storeworks designed and implemented a customer- and associate-facing transactional kiosk for alternative fulfillment opportunities.
To successfully design and implement the solution that would be the most effective for the sporting goods goliath, Storeworks first had to define the business case, determine the best technology to address the problem and collaborate with the company to tailor a solution that would map to the precise needs of the retailer.
Saving Every Customer
The first step before embarking on the custom design determination was for Storeworks’ agents to define the business case. This involved spending a significant amount of time in the retailer’s brick-and-mortar stores studying customer interactions, identifying and tracking product searches that failed to match with the inventory on hand.
The integrator was able to use the retailer’s online presence to uncover the fact that a significant number of lost or “walk away” customers could have been satisfied by turning to an alternative fulfillment method—one based on the retailer’s already existing eCommerce inventory, by accessing that inventory from within the physical store location.
“Our client needed to open their inventory and put the right mix of tools in place to provide customers with a sameness of inventory and pricing,” said Storeworks president Troy Stelzer.
Selecting the Winning Technology
After Storeworks technologists worked with the client to build a use case and functionality requirements list, it set about identifying which technologies would allow the retailer to deliver on its goals.
Given the use case and functionality requirements, it was clear that an Endless Aisle solution would be the best fit for solving the retailer’s problem. This solution includes an interactive touchscreen that serves as the missing in-store piece to the sporting goods company’s omnichannel puzzle, and enables the kiosk to close the sale when an item is out of stock in-store, rather than losing the customer at that point.
Smart Solution Development: Teamwork
To help determine the best design for the kiosk solution, Storeworks gathered valuable input by interviewing a cross-functional team from the company’s store operations, store interiors and IT department.
With the key capabilities identified and clearly defined requirements, Storeworks’ award-winning industrial designers began crafting an enclosure that would house the entire solution.
Endless Aisle FTW
Now, with the help of a retail associate, if a customer cannot find an item in the store, the solution allows them to purchase these items directly from the kiosk and have them shipped to their home (or other desired destination)—with order confirmation and receipts printed on the spot at the time of order.
“The ability to have your store’s entire inventory at your customers’ finger tips is the ultimate win-win,” says Stelzer. “Walk away customers are converted into revenue, and customers leave the store satisfied, all without having to increase your store footprint or inventory.”
ROI in Only Weeks
Storeworks’ Endless Aisle kiosk solution paid for itself in no time, generating enough gross margin to pay for the acquisition cost of the kiosk in just four weeks.
Extrapolated out, this represents $26 million in additional annual margin for the retailer, and one of the fastest ROI on projects in the company’s history.
IoT Retail Technology