Building Your Online Store in South Africa

Building An Online Store in South Africa: A Guide

Retailers should be looking for ways to build an online store in South Africa if they haven’t started the digitisation journey already. Not just because COVID-19 pulled the rug from under our feet but because it’s simply time. As foot traffic continues to decline in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and exorbitant rentals make it increasingly difficult for retailers to operate, it’s become imperative to get your store online purely for survival reasons. 

While the thought of building an online store in South Africa can be daunting, the process is fortunately not as challenging as you might think.  By following these seven steps, you can get your online store up and running in no time, increase your visibility and start maximising the growth of your business.

Online Sales in South Africa Stats

According to research by Euromonitor International, online sales in South Africa will grow by 19% which is almost three times as fast as in-store sales in the period 2018 to 2023. These figures are expected to be boosted by COVID-19, which is anticipated to have a lasting impact on the way people shop. With non-essential brick-and-mortar stores closed due to lockdown, more consumers are shopping online for the first time in new categories, particularly groceries and household essentials.

Product Knowledge is Power

Before you even get started with building your online store, you have to have a deep knowledge of your products. It’s difficult to sell a product if it doesn’t address need or demand. As a retailer, it is also crucial to conduct in-depth customer research. This will help you to attract more customers, set the right prices and create effective marketing messages. Ultimately, this will help you to increase your revenue and provide a better customer experience.

Choose the right CMS

A content management system – often abbreviated as CMS – is software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website. There are a large variety of CMS platforms available and it can be overwhelming when trying to choose the right one. It is important to remember that selecting a CMS for your store is not a one-size-fits-all decision but should be based on your business needs. Certain CMS options are better to use in South Africa due to their support structures and integration service providers. If you’re looking to build an online store in particular (not just a simple website), the best CMS platforms are Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento. From our own experience, the plugin integration experience on these platforms is seamless. 

Responsive Design

Your online store has to be mobile-compatible. It is important to ensure your site is mobile responsive. A site that looks great on a desktop may not easily translate to a mobile device or tablet. This is not only important from an aesthetic perspective but also critical to your store’s conversion rates.

Choose a Reliable (and safe) Payment Gateway

You want to offer your customers a safe, quick, and easy-to-use payment system when building your online store. Choosing the right payment gateway determines the transaction fee, how fast money gets in your merchant account, and the payment methods you’ll offer. It’s also ok to give your customers a few choices. different payment solutions provide varying perks. For example, you can provide a straight payment solution or a payment or a Buy Now, Pay Later Solution such as ours here at Payflex. This allows your customers to show now and pay for it in 4 interest-free instalments over 6 weeks. Having a payment solution such as Payflex increases sales by 30% and decreases cart abandonment rates significantly.

Setup Your Online Marketing Strategy

A key ingredient to your online store’s success is your online marketing strategy. It is essential to attracting new customers and building brand awareness and store loyalty. Strategize ways of attracting as wide an audience as possible to your site. Promote your business on social media, increase your SEO reach, create a content strategy, and establish a robust digital marketing campaign incorporating Google Analytics, Google Search and Display Ads. Read up on some handy tools to help with digital marketing specific to eCommerce. 


Once you start making sales you will need to choose a reliable and trusted courier to help you with deliveries. This is a hugely important component of your business as items delivered late or not delivered at all could seriously threaten the reputation of your business as well as seriously damage the overall customer experience.

Continuous Review

It is all trial and error in the beginning. It is important to try and get honest feedback from your first few customers. Fix what isn’t working and improve areas that need attention.  Don’t be intimidated by data, it is your greatest asset when building an online store. Keep a close eye on your sales as well as various website stats. This will allow you to have a starting point to use as a benchmark as you move forward each month. 


Unprecedented times such as these have demonstrated the pressing need for retailers to be flexible and adaptable. Building an online store in South Africa provides retailers with great flexibility and agility. Rapidly advancing technology has driven consumers of all ages to expect a convenient and connected experience that seamlessly aligns with their everyday lives. As a business owner in an increasingly digital world, you simply cannot afford to ignore the benefits offered by the eCommerce landscape.