7 Popular Purchasing Methods Consumers Use When Shopping Online

They say there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Yikes. Just exactly how many ways are necessary in the first place? And what do “they” have against felines?? Sure, hairballs are pretty gross and no one wants to deal with kitty litter, but that’s no reason to strip your tabby of its dignity. 

Online shopping, now that’s a horse of a different color. There’s more than one way to make an online purchase, and most are significantly less horrifying than scalping a furry companion. And when you’re selling products online, it’s important to understand the different ways consumers may expect to purchase your products. 

Each of these purchasing methods appeals to different people in different circumstances. Some consumers have strong enough preferences for a specific method and will actively look for (and prioritize) brands and stores that facilitate them. If you don’t have the resources and infrastructure to offer them through your direct-to-consumer store, it’s crucial to partner with retailers who can.

At the very least, every ecommerce brand should understand the advantages of each buying method and why consumers choose them.

Here are seven popular purchasing methods consumers use to buy online.

1. Buy online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS)

For years, buy online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), also known as “click and collect,” has allowed consumers to combine the benefits of buying online with the situational benefits of buying in-store.

It might seem odd to take the convenience of buying online and add the inconvenience of physically going to a store, but under the right conditions, this is an ideal option for consumers. 

BOPIS enables consumers to get their purchase on the same day instead of waiting for shipping. Since an employee gathers the items from the store, the customer doesn’t have to wander the aisles to find everything on their list. And they may be able to pick it up while running other errands or heading to or from work.

Some retailers simply direct BOPIS customers to their customer service desk or another dedicated station where they can collect their items. Others use a locker system that allows customers to access their order using a code. 

This method became especially appealing to consumers during COVID because it helped people avoid crowded stores and checkout lanes and provided a low-contact way to buy from local stores. 

2. Buy online, ship-to-store (BOSS)

BOSS offers a similar experience to BOPIS, but it allows brands and retailers to tap into inventory from another warehouse or distribution center. When an item is out-of-stock at a local store, consumers can still place an order to have it sent from another location to their preferred store.

This allows retailers to prevent lost sales by giving consumers a pathway to getting items when they’re out-of-stock, and it allows customers to (sometimes) avoid shipping, take advantage of store perks, and pick up their purchase at a convenient location.

3. Curbside pickup

Curbside pickup was once a niche buying method only offered by the pioneers of retail. It was already growing in popularity before COVID-19, but the pandemic normalized it. Curbside pickup takes BOPIS to another level by turning the customer’s car into the designated pick-up location. 

This further reduces the time someone has to spend at the store, and basically turns the store into a drive-thru. 

4. Buy online, return-to-store (BORIS)

Buy online, return-to-store (BORIS) isn’t exactly a buying method, but it is a consumer shopping behavior that impacts where some people buy. As the name implies, people choose where they buy based on a store’s return policy. Some online shoppers have a strong preference for buying from nearby retailers with generous in-store return policies for online purchases.

Buying online is inherently “riskier” to consumers because they don’t have a chance to physically see, hold, and examine the products they purchase from a website. That’s at least part of the reason why the return rate for online purchases is over three times higher than the return rate for in-store purchases.

Facilitating returns is a pain. But it gives online retailers with thousands of brick-and-mortar locations an edge over online-only stores.

5. Showrooming

Showrooming is a purchasing method consumers use to lower the risk of online purchases. It involves a little more work, but it can be worth it for items with higher price points or longer lifespans. Before buying online, the consumer visits a retailer that carries the product so that they can physically examine the product and feel more confident that it meets their needs.

After seeing it for themselves, they’ll go online and buy from their preferred retailer or whichever site has the lowest price. You can’t really track these sales, and most retailers find this shopping behavior incredibly frustrating. But for online brands, this shopping behavior is another good reason to sell through brick-and-mortar stores.

6. Webrooming

Webrooming is the opposite of showrooming: someone researches a product online, then goes and picks it up from their local retailer. This can happen because their preferred retailer doesn’t facilitate online sales, the consumer doesn’t want to enter their credit card information online, or simply because they have other things they want to grab from the store that they may not wish to purchase online (such as groceries).

7. Digital wallets

Not long ago, PayPal was the only widely-adopted online payment app. Now, consumers use a wide range of apps to buy online, keeping all their credit card and shipping information stored within the app instead of on each individual site. 

Your brand doesn’t need to support every digital wallet on the market. But consumers who prefer to use apps like PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay will certainly appreciate the convenience. So it’s worth making sure you have some partners who have integrated with these payment methods.

Put your purchasing methods on display

When consumers want to buy your products, they will look for their preferred stores, purchasing options, and payment methods. That’s why it’s valuable to show them a range of retailers who carry your products and link directly to your product pages on their store.

Where to Buy makes this easy. With a click of a button, your customers can see a list of retailers you’ve selected along with additional information that could help them make a decision, such as price, special purchasing methods, stock availability, and ratings. You control what they see, and they simply select their preferred path to purchase.

Want to see how it works?

Schedule a demo of Where to Buy.

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