How SA Merchants Can Sell More Using the “Buy Online, Pick up in Store” Model

Savvier and informed consumers are disrupting traditional purchasing patterns. Online retailers looking to develop a winning selling strategy should target an emerging shopping trend – the omnichannel user experience.


While the concept of omnichannel isn’t new – it’s been a buzzword in marketing since 2015 – it has certainly grown into a worthwhile and important approach to sales. At its simplest, omnichannel refers to a selling strategy that gives customers a shopping experience where they can easily jump between channels, using a desktop computer or mobile device for some tasks, and making personal connections for others.

A customer looking to buy a pair of running shoes might receive a suggestion via a text message from a friend, then proceed to buy the shoes at the brick-and-mortar store instead of from the website the friend recommended. The same friend might have read running shoe reviews online, added the shoes to a virtual shopping cart, but then abandoned it completely, only to be lured back to the website by an abandoned cart email.

shopping bags
shopping bags

Now that customers are becoming a lot more autonomous, success today means influencing customers wherever they are, on whichever device they are active on. This continuous connectivity has not only changed the way businesses connect with customers, but also how the latter shop and pay for products and services.

As an eCommerce business, it’s easier to capitalise on the benefits of omnichannel shopping if you have a clear understanding of who your customers are and what motivates them. How do they behave and what makes them prefer one channel over another?

A recent survey by PwC, titled “Total Retail: Retailers and the Age of Disruption”, found that most South African consumers prefer a trip to their nearest mall rather than hopping online to make a purchase. A massive 73% indicated that they only browsed products online to purchase them at a physical store later. When asked about the reasons why they browse online and purchase instore, 64% said they want to see, touch and try products before buying, while 62% cited immediacy, and 60% cited delivery fees.


Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the US (such as Walmart and Home Depot) are already betting on the “buy online, pick up in store” model. Considering its benefits, it’s clear to see why this omnichannel approach is gaining traction overseas. Some of the advantages are reaching customers who prefer to pay with cash, and the increased likelihood of an additional impulse purchase in the physical store. For shoppers, the ability to collect their orders at the local store on the same day is really convenient.


Here are a few ways–written in collaboration with PayU–that combining digital and brick-and-mortar shopping can improve customer experience and grow your profits:

Show local stores

Indicate the availability of all nearby physical stores on your eCommerce website and be sure to include address, contact information and business hours as well. To draw shoppers’ attention to this, display a link in your header or footer tagged with “local pickup – find a store near you”. Store locators shown on mobile or desktop pages help users to find the various outlets in the vicinity. This is one of the most effective ways to attract reluctant online shoppers to your store’s physical location.

Available now

When a customer views a product online, you can include a note in the product description that shows “this item is available now at your nearest store”. If the customer needs the product immediately or won’t be home for delivery, they can simply checkout online and pick up their order at the collect counter at the local store.

In-store pickup and payment

By providing shoppers the option to order online and pick up and pay for purchases in-store, you combine the convenience of online shopping with the instant gratification of offline shopping. Cart notices are useful for encouraging customers to go for this option. Even if they proceed to checkout with the help of an online payment gateway, make it the default option to collect purchases in-store free of charge.


Promote in-store properties online

In the age of personalisation, consumers want stores to provide them with customised experiences. For example, after a shopper has bought a product online, you can reward them with an exclusive offer, such as a printable voucher, which they can use at a nearby store. When they make a purchase online, you can also show them promotions for related products at nearby locations.

Mobile targeting

Mobile marketing enables retailers to easily implement effective “buy online, pick up in store” programmes. With the ability to reach shoppers anywhere on their mobile devices, online merchants can use a shopper’s location data to showcase the nearest retail outlet where they can collect their orders.


The digital age of retail has enabled retailers to merge the customer’s in-store and online experience. This has brought a shift in consumer spending behaviour up to the point where shoppers are now just as comfortable shopping at a physical location as they would online. Consumers no longer interact with retailers as just a store where they can buy stuff, but rather connect with their favourite brands via a range of channels and methods. More retailers are investing in a unified channel experience as it becomes the new imperative for


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