Takealot is happy for you to pick it up yourself
SA's biggest online retailer, Takealot.com, has launched more than 25 collection facilities in line with other online retailers that have found value in bricks and mortar.
Shoppers, who want the flexibility to choose when to collect their goods or return items, can now pick up products ordered online from various collection points around the country, the biggest being at the New Road off-ramp in Midrand, Gauteng. It launched in April along the N1 highway, the busiest highway in Africa.
The newly renovated 1,177m2 pick-up point uses technology and automation, including a spiral conveyor belt.
The company expects to ultimately convert about 10% of its orders from the greater Johannesburg area to collections for Takealot and Superbalist.
Kim Reid, CEO of Takealot.com, says about 150,000 to 160,000 cars travel along the highway each day.
"The entire site has been revamped to allow Takealot and Superbalist shoppers to stop for petrol and groceries while collecting their orders from us."
Reid says the existing pick-up facility at Takealot's Cape Town warehouse, which has been operating for the past eight years, has an average of 1,000 orders collected daily. "We understand that customers prefer alternatives to delivery, and that having specified locations for both collections and returns is an added benefit."
He says Takealot's initial expectations were for about 1,200 orders collected a day. The pick-up point in Midrand is designed to ultimately support more than 7,000 collections a day, catering to Takealot and Superbalist customers.
The company now has a number of pickup points across the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. Takealot delivers more than 1.4-million orders a month.
Researcher WorldWideWorx estimates e-commerce retail sales in SA to be about 1.4% of the market. Online sales in developed markets, such as the UK and US, are about 12%-15% of the total market, while in China it is about 18%.
Reid says they are competing with bricks and mortar, "but younger shoppers and millennials see digital as the primary channel and it's natural to continue to swing to online".
Takealot owns Mr D Food, and in turn is owned mostly by Naspers.
More of what could be in store
Globally, big online retailers are embracing physical stores in addition to their e-commerce platforms.
Amazon, the world's largeste-commerce firm, opened its first physical book store, Amazon Books, in 2015 and since then has bought Whole Foods in a $13.4bn (R193.7bn) deal, bringing to the table 460 stores in the US, Canada and Britain. It also opened Amazon Go, the cashier-less grocery stores.
By accessing store space, Amazon can also reduce shipping costs and make it easier for customers to return products.
Smallbiztrends.com says online stores are bucking the digital trend they set in motion, retreating from higher advertising rates and heading back into physical stores where rents have dropped.
"Digital small businesses are following in the wake of their big competitors like Amazon and Shopify," it said.
This includes French fashion retailer Spartoo, eyewear brand Warby Parker and menswear retailer Bonobos.
The move into physical stores alongside online ones has also been led by an online retailer of kitchen and home-ware products, Yuppiechef.