Omnichannel: Affordably and Effectively Selling in Person

The face of retail is changing.  Physical stores are becoming smarter and more connected whereas online stores are more about being a touch point for customers.  So what does that mean for your online business?  How can you maximise the potential of your business so you’re catering for more and more customers?  Very simply, by adopting an omnichannel approach.

As we mentioned in our article earlier this month, make sure that you’re selling everywhere you possibly can.  Selling on Facebook, Shopify and bidorbuy will certainly allow your fans to find you and buy your products online, but online is still only a small portion of the retail market in South Africa.  The answer is to start selling in person, but where would you start?  Physical retail is super expensive and heavily regulated, by landlords, etc.

Omnichannel selling

Here are a few examples of how you can sell affordably and effectively in person:

Expos or Fairs

  • Usual duration: 2-3 days
  • Frequency: 4-6 times per year
  • Small stand cost: R2,000 – R10,000 per event
  • Sales potential: ★★★★★
  • Typical products: high-end, designer or branded items

Expos not only allow you to sell goods directly from your stand, but you come face to face with your ideal type of customer who would normally buy your products and it brings better quality leads to your business.  Expos are also only a fraction of the cost you’d otherwise pay to rent a physical store. If you sell wedding dresses for instance, what better way to give your business a cash injection and get an idea of who your customers are than by going to a wedding expo!  You know that the exact people you’re targeting will be there and it’s a great way to get word out that your business exists.  Don’t forget to evaluate every expo based on the sales you made both during and after the event.


  • Usual duration: 1-2 days
  • Frequency: 2-3 times per month
  • Small stall cost: R200 – R2,000 per event
  • Sales potential: ★★★
  • Typical products: craft, food, artwork and similar items

Markets can be a really affordable way to sell in person and they happen frequently, so you’re guaranteed to get repeat business or referrals by selling at a regular market.  They are also a great way to build awareness and develop close relationships with customers in a specific neighbourhood.  Try do as many markets as you can, being careful to assess which markets would be more suitable to your products, brand and budget.  Markets are great for small craft type products, artwork, food and similar products.

Pop-up shops

  • Usual duration: 1-60 days
  • Frequency: dependent on availability
  • Small shop cost: R5,000 – R25,000 per month
  • Sales potential: ★★★★
  • Typical products: Any category

Pop-up shops have been used since the early 90’s as a way for businesses to test locations, products and marketing strategies.  As a new business, you can use them to get sales and present your business to your customer. Typically, pop-up shops are placed in shopping malls where the space is in between being rented by permanent tenants and the malls let the space out for a temporary time to fill the gap. Pop-up shops have none of the fancy fittings and are used on a space only basis, which means that it can be a mission to set them up with some temporary décor representing your brand, but the returns are worth it.  Foot traffic is usually really good and you can specifically raise awareness on your website and social media for your fans to come and see you in person. Obviously cost must be a factor here, but it is well worth the effort in terms of sales and marketing.


  • Usual duration: Variable
  • Frequency: Permanent
  • Small shop cost: R0
  • Sales potential: ★★★

One aspect that many merchants forget about is teaming up with store owners who already have the retail space so that they can stock or resell your products. Stockists, or resellers, can be invaluable partners for the physical retail side of your business, although you will need to be prepared to give up some of your profits to get them onboard. The beauty of stockists is that you generally don’t even pay for the space in the stockist’s store.  They make their money from selling your products.

Approaching a lot of resellers is a great way to quickly expand the reach of your products into parts of the retail world that you would not ordinarily have been able to get into.  Think carefully about which stockists to use and do your sums a few times to work out how much of your profits to offer them.

Selling your products in person is a great way to build your bank balance, move stock and market your brand.  It gives you an outlet to actually meet your customers in a way that online can’t.  Physical or traditional retail needs to be a part of your online business and vice versa.  The world of retail is no longer about online versus offline, it’s really about how you mix the two to achieve the maximum result.  Sure, physical retail is tedious and laborious but the fruits of your efforts are very rewarding at the end of the long day.

Remember too that your Shopify store comes with a free version of the Shopify POS, on both Android and iOS devices, so you can even use your phone or tablet to get those sales recorded in your Shopify store.  You can even capture customer details and use that information to market to those customers time and time again and that will help your business in the longer term too.

Find out more about Shopify’s POS system.

There are now also a bunch of easy to use and reliable mobile card readers for merchants.  One such company is Yoco, based in Cape Town.  You can buy a mobile card reader for your business without the need for a bank merchant account or expensive fees. 

Find out more about Yoco by visiting their website

Happy selling!