While e-commerce continues to transform the retail environment, consumers are still showing up to shop. They still want to walk the aisles, touch and feel products and consult with knowledgeable sales staff about their purchase. And, there is no question about their expectation: to leave the store with the exact item they came looking for—or at least the knowledge that it’s on its way to their home.
Connecting in-store customers to e-commerce solutions
WestRock is supporting Walmart in delivering this experience for customers through “endless aisle” technology in select stores throughout the country. Endless aisle technology allows shoppers to move seamlessly from physical to digital environments—if something isn’t available on the shelf, they can order it through a nearby touchscreen.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for the industry,” said Stephen Brown, vice president, Merchandising Displays, WestRock. “We’re partnering with our customers to leverage in-store merchandising as a bridge to the digital environment. On a fundamental level, the role of merchandising displays has always been to guide the consumer to the best possible retail experience. And that’s exactly what endless aisle technology allows us to do.”
The WestRock Merchandising Displays team has been collaborating with Walmart to develop endless aisle kiosks that enable shoppers to browse and purchase products not available in the store. The adjustable five-to-six-foot tall touchscreens were designed at WestRock’s design center in Bentonville, Arkansas, and manufactured at our Forest City, North Carolina, merchandising displays plant. Initial pilot testing was conducted at Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) in New York.
Bridging the physical and digital divide for customers
“With the endless aisle, the store can be a place to inspire and engage, as well as an access point for broader commerce, while fulfillment can take place shortly thereafter,” says Leon Nicholas, vice president, Retail Insights and Solutions at WestRock. “The endless aisle provides the best of both worlds, a way for retailers to bridge the physical and digital divide that acknowledges shrinking footprints while not limiting shopper choice.”
The other benefit to endless aisle technology is for retailers—by studying the data from the kiosks, they can learn an exceptional amount of information about shopping patterns and consumer preferences, and further optimize both the omnichannel retail experience and the supply chain that underpins it all. When retailers are able to curate a shelf more efficiently, they can significantly optimize their supply chain.
Organizing the shopper journey
Through interactive merchandising displays that encourage in-store engagement, WestRock provides solutions that enable retailers to offer endless aisle capabilities that help guide and organize the shopper’s journey. Recently, WestRock has utilized “quizzification” techniques, mobile app push notifications and QR or Digimarc code integration as part of its larger Connected Packaging platform to provide an even more personalized approach.
The team is continuing to work with Walmart to design the best possible customer experience, integrating the shelf, the touchscreen, the customer’s mobile device, for a holistic, positive retail experience.
Endless aisle solutions are helping retailers resolve the challenges posed by smaller store footprints and the increasing demand for a more customized shopping experience. By paring down physical inventory to what is most likely to sell, while simultaneously offering a much wider range of products through endless aisle capabilities, retailers can meet the expectations of today’s shopper while optimizing inventory and retail space.
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