Step aside online shopping, virtual shopping is the new kid on the block

South Africa has long lagged behind much of the world in terms of e-commerce due to factors such as fear of parcel theft, online fraud, and high mobile data costs hindering e-commerce growth. South Africa upped their game during the national lockdown and saw a marked increase in online shopping and delivery, particularly in the grocery sector.

Retailers enjoyed a roaring online trade as consumers avoided the shops during the lockdown and ordered from the comfort of their homes.

According to London-based market research firm Euromonitor International, only 1.6% of South African retail sales in 2019 were made online, as opposed to the United States where the figure was 14.8%. This year is expected to see up to 200% growth in e-commerce revenue with a survey conducted by Visa showing that 64% of consumers in South Africa made their first online purchase during the lockdown.

However, the sudden surge in e-commerce left the capacity of even the largest retailers under strain and struggling to meet delivery needs, leaving customers complaining of long wait times and poor service.

Virtual shopping

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and arguably the master of the online retail universe, believes the next big thing in retail will be the use of virtual reality (VR), allowing consumers to shop virtually from the comfort of their home, while providing them with an ultra-realistic retail experience.

“Certain things in retail will never change. For example, customers will always want low prices, fast delivery, and a vast selection of products to buy from,” he says. “And this can all be done virtually with the right technology.”  

Apollo Brands, distributor of Under Armour in South Africa is at the forefront of this new-age retail experience. During the Level 5 lockdown, the SA team brainstormed to come up with solutions to the new retail limitations set on South Africa, and the virtual shopping experience was born.

The company came up with four new ways to shop from the comfort and safety of your own space. These included a private in-store shopping session, an at-home service, a corporate shopping experience whereby an Under Armour mobile store is set up in your home or office, and a personal virtual shopping consultation led by an Under Armour retail assistant.

The virtual shopping experience

The virtual shopping service with Under Armour is booked through an online booking platform where you can select the shopping option you would like, choose your preferred store, and book a suitable date and time slot for your shopping experience. You will also need to provide some basic personal details regarding gear requirements, sizes, and colour preferences.

Virtual shopping sessions are usually conducted on Zoom or Microsoft Teams with the help of an Under Armour tech specialist, who will take and talk you through your shopping experience.

There is currently a R5,000 deposit to use the Under Armour virtual shopping service, which forms part of your purchase, and whatever you don’t spend is loaded to a voucher for use at another time. Purchases are then collected from the selected Under Armour store or from a designated collection point, and can be delivered to your car on request.  

Simple, safe, and super-efficient

Under Armour’s virtual shopping service ticks all the boxes in terms of reducing exposure to the virus and offering a convenient and personalised shopping experience. Hopefully, other leading stores will follow suit and change the future of shopping.  

This content has been created as part of our freelancer relief programme. We are supporting journalists and freelance writers impacted by the economic slowdown caused by #lockdownlife.

If you are a freelancer looking to contribute to The South African, read more here.

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