How to start an online store in South Africa

For many first-time e-commerce entrepreneurs finding out how to start an online store or shop in South Africa can be quite a cumbersome task but it does not have to be.

Quite simply put the best way to start an online store is to trust in the latest eCommerce technology.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to build some fancy top-end store which will cost you tens of thousands of Rands to start.

My advice to you is to try and do it yourself right from the start, I know that sounds crazy but that way you can learn the business yourself and control the business yourself and you don’t have to rely on a web developer each time you want to make a change or add a new product.

Here is how you can start your online store in South Africa the easy way

Shopify ecommerce store

Open a Shopify store, they offer every single thing you need to get started and it will cost you less than R450 a month but you can get a free 14 trial here and see how easy it is to set up. 

With Shopify you will have:

  • A choice of beautiful storefront themes that are customisable and work well on mobile devices
  • Integration with top South African payment gateways including Payfast and Paygate
  • There many local and international secure payment and checkout options too
  • There are integrations for e-commerce delivery with local courier companies
  • You get free SSL certification
  • You can apply discount codes
  • Shopify helps you with marketing and selling in online marketplaces like Facebook and other social media

It really is worth giving it a try to have a chance at being in total control of your online store yourself. If you don’t have too many products you could probably build and start your online store in one weekend.

Your Shopify store will serve you well for up to around 400 to 500 products, after that, you may want to consider a custom solution built on Magento, which is an excellent PHP coded solution.


Alternatively, go for the WooCommerce option.

If you don’t see yourself using Shopify and doing it your self, then consider appointing a web developer to build you a WordPress website with WooCommerce installed.

WooCommerce and WordPress are both relatively easy to update yourself through its easy CMS (content management system).

Basically what you could do is get the developer to build the initial site for you and thereafter you can load new products on the fly yourself or send it to them to do. It still remains a much cheaper option than the other bulkier e-commerce platforms.

But the best part is.

woocommerce together with WordPress offers a plug-in for just about any e-commerce function you may desire when first opening your online shop. There are literally hundreds of free and paid options to choose from. This is what makes it special and ensures you can grow your store the way you need to.

You could build this yourself too but it will have much more of a learning curve and it is probably not recommended if you want to get your store up and running quickly.

WooCommerce will also stand you in good stead up to around 450 SKU’s (stock-keeping units). After that, you will find that making large changes to your site where every item needs to get updated just becomes too much work.

Magento Online Store Software

To start a high volume online store consider using Magento.

Magento Commerce is the ideal solution for e-commerce stores with big product catalogs and can easily handle more than 100 000 products in its inventory.

Magento is open source and offers many different theme options to choose from, you will need to use a professional Magento development company to build and maintain the store for you or hire an in-house Magento developer.

Magento was recently purchased by Adobe for $1.68 billion and we see this platform growing much bigger and better going forward.