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Those in the know in online retail have been leveraging dropship vendors to create expanded ‘endless aisle’ assortments for a number of years now.

Through the ongoing development of the Matrix Retail approach it’s now become apparent a new reality is emerging best described simply as the ‘Endless Store.’

Just as an ‘endless aisle’ expands assortments well beyond the current store and retailer stocked web assortments, creating the ‘Endless Store’ connects and extends the bricks & mortar and virtual environments within which retailers operate. The potential for dramatically improved customer service and functional development of a unified retail customer experience is now within reach of every retailer.

Traditional retailers will need to staff and tool up their virtual stores and ensure effective integration and execution in their real world retail stores. And on the ‘bricks & mortar’ side retail firms should look closely at potential to reduce their store size, store inventory levels and utilize both B2B/B2C replenishment from a single omni-channel inventory. All of these actions will help to reduce the need for invested captital and improve their Internal Rate of Return on invested capital as described in my post ‘Sharing Kevin O’Leary’s Omni-Channel Epiphany.’

Online retailers will need to even further enhance and humanize their virtual stores and as many are just launching real world stores they may have some initial advantage as starting with a clean sheet and no defined bricks & mortar footprint as a starting point.

As described in my recent post ‘Breaking the E-Commerce Sound Barrier’ those best interconnecting and synergizing their bricks & mortar stores and online sales presences have the potential to outperform any pureplay e-tail or traditional bricks and mortar retail competitor.

Retailers and etailers have been employing a growing variety of online tools to make their websites more responsive, interactive and effective since the launch of of the public web in 1995. Such one to one connections with consumers online became a relatively simple interaction with goals to attract greater volume, increase conversion ratios to drive more sales through the web channel.

With the parallel explosive growth and usage of social networks and mobile, what was a static shopping channel, has now effectively become a virtual world. A place within which retailers need much more than a website, but now must staff and treat this emerging hybrid environment as an extremely large, fluid and growing virtual extension of their bricks & mortar stores.

Shoppers will now travel through the real world connected to this virtual world through their mobile device, moving effortlessly within both real stores and virtual stores simultaneously. Effective retailers going forward will need to do the same by creating and staffing their ‘presence’ in the ‘Endless Store’ with the opportunity to at the same time enhance in store service using virtual salespersons perhaps offsetting the years of cutbacks which has often made finding sales associates to assist in store difficult.

When it comes to the potential for retail transformation through creating and staffing an ‘Endless Store’ that interconnects, expands and synergizes bricks & mortar and virtual stores to enhance customer experience, it seems the retail possibilities may now be endless.

Jeff Ashcroft

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