Online shopping has for years been considered the Armageddon of the physical store, and is true for many retailers in 1st world countries including the USA and UK.
In South Africa, however, consumers still prefer a bit of both. An almost middle-ground is found where consumers opt to both browse and book online while still paying in-store.
So says Rian Bornman, Founding Director of FlightSite, voted by The World Travel Awards as Africa’s leading online travel agency for 2017. FlightSite recently partnered with Pick ‘n Pay to allow customers to book online and pay at more than 1 000 stores nationwide.
“Just 1% of the population pay online. Security concerns and an affinity for in-store shopping are just a few key reasons why,” explains Bornman. “After 10 years operating as an etailer, we’ve set-up shop in PnP stores for customers to pay for their flights or bus tickets in cash or by card, in person.”
Since launching the service, Bornman says FlightSite has seen a ten-fold increase in sales.
Of the partnership, Richard van Rensburg, Deputy Group CEO says, “Pick n Pay, through its partnership with Flightsite, enabled airline and bus ticket bookings at our Money counters in selected stores as well as instore payments. We’ve seen many of our customers making use of the service, which allows them easy access to travel bookings both in our stores and from the online site. Over and above the convenience offered, our Smart Shoppers have the added bonus of earning Smart Shopper points on their travel purchases. Customers can also use their Smart Shopper points to pay for their tickets. The Flightsite partnership has proved to be a winner with our customers.”
According to Certified Customer Experience Professional, Julia Ahlfeldt, the hybrid retail model works really well in South Africa especially as customers can buy products before payday, and later pay – interest-free – when they have cash in-hand. She says there is also a preference for booking online and paying in cash on-delivery, a behavior unique to local shoppers.
“In the USA, this doesn’t happen, but in South Africa, customers still use their shopping channel of choice. Etailers and retailers are responding well to this and are increasingly giving customers different online and offline options to browse, book and buy.”
Yuppiechef, arguably one of our local etail darlings, concurs. The 11-year-old e-retailer opened its first physical store at the Willowbridge shopping centre in Cape Town on 1st October. “Shopping is most South Africans’ favourite past-time — spending a Saturday at a mall, meeting friends and eating out. Or perhaps for certain products, customers prefer the physical shopping experience — browsing, getting advice and the immediacy of the purchase,” explains Andrew Smith, Yuppiechef’s co-founder and CEO.
“Yuppiechef customers can now look at a product online, and then visit a store to make a final decision and walk away with their purchase. We believe that the future of retail is ‘omnichannel’ which means a combination of physical stores and ecommerce. No channel has to win or lose.”
Despite huge advancements in technology and ecommerce, it would appear that, for now, South Africans like the best of both shopping worlds where they can browse and review online, but touch, feel or pay in person. Be that for an airline ticket or a spatula.