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You don’t need a website to start your online business

Article by DPO PayGate

“You can build a successful, thriving online business without a website”, says payment expert PayGate.

According to World Wide Worx, online retailing in South Africa was due to pass the R14 billion mark in 2018 as it began to go mainstream. For the next three years, from 2018 to 2020, online retail sales are forecasted to more than double from 2016, to almost R20 billion – a year sooner than originally predicted.

To tap into this massive growth opportunity, an e-commerce website should sit on every business agenda. But the truth is that building a website, especially one that’s well designed, will take a certain level of investment if you want to do it properly. When you’re just starting out, it may be difficult to afford the development costs, and you may not be technically savvy enough to build your own. You may even still be experimenting with what kind of business you want to build, or what niche you’d like to focus on.

If you can’t afford a website from the get-go, there are other ways to get started as a small business with a big idea, and gather the funds you need to build your website in the future.

The platform of choice

Get your business started with these five, simple solutions:

1. Sell from social media

Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world with 2.23 billion active monthly users of which 21 million are based in South Africa. Instagram is another excellent platform, which currently has one billion active monthly users and rising, with 6.6 million South African users. Each of these platforms require slightly different ways of approaching sales.

You can create a Facebook Business Page and sell items through the accessible Facebook Shop. The application allows you to list products and costs, connect payments, and even send invoices through Facebook Messenger. The Facebook Buy Now/ Pay Now button can be integrated with well-known South African payment gateways. In this way, your customers can use trusted services that build their confidence in your business and its ability to deliver.

Selling on Instagram is a bit tougher as you can’t add separate links to photos, which makes it harder for shoppers to find each product on their own before they can pay for it. But there are walkarounds to this problem, a quick Google will help you out. If you have 10,000 followers, you can include links in Instagram story adverts. Last year, Instagram also introduced shoppable posts that lets you sell directly from posts. Businesses wanting access to this exclusive feature need to first complete an application.

South Africa’s leading local payment service providers can support Facebook and Instagram payments using an Ecwid ecommerce shopping cart integration – Ecwid will help you set this up and connect it to your accounts which makes it a very quick and easy route to market.

2. Try an e-marketplace

Takealot, Zando and Superbalist are some of South Africa’s prominent e-marketplaces and offer a space for all kinds of products, services and sales. One of the biggest advantages of using one of these platforms to build your brand and business is that they handle all the showcasing and marketing of your products, manage the payments, handle your online security, and ensure efficient product delivery. In exchange, business owners will pay the marketplace a commission on your sales.

But something that is important to consider before you start using an e-marketplace is that you will have to opt into the payment gateways and payment methods they have on offer. You will have to use those as part of your agreement to sell using their stores, even if they’re not your first choice, since transaction fees differ.

3. A one-page shopping cart

Did you know that you can use a free one-page website from an e-commerce shopping cart provider, like Ecwid, to sell your products? It will be very minimalistic but it will immediately put your business on the internet and help you generate sales. You can use these one-page shopping carts to add products, connect your payment and shipping methods, and even implement some basic branding.

If you use Ecwid, you can set up your own domain name so that it reflects the name of your business, or you can use a free domain that will look a lot like this: “mysuperstore.ecwid.com”. You can do the same with Shopify using one of their basic pricing plans. Just remember to set aside time to figure out how the system works, how to set up payments and shipping, and to fine tune your page. It’s never as quick as one click.

4. Start a blog

A nice way of building community and customer engagement is to start your own blog on a platform like WordPress. Setting it up does require, as with the one-page websites above, a measure of patience and a dollop of time. There will be things you’ll need to troubleshoot and adjust as you go. But, fortunately, there are tons of WordPress walkthroughs on the internet that can help you with almost everything. Then, once you’ve started a blog, you can build reader excitement, talking about your offers and your products. Once you’ve got a market ready to go, you can use a plugin called WooCommerce to start selling.

If you build a blog on a different platform, be sure to check that you will be able to add e-commerce functionality and integrate with local payment gateways. If it can only support international payment rails, you might also need to pay higher transaction fees than with local payment offerings.

5. E-payments without an online presence

Today, it is now also possible to send your customers an electronic invoice for payment without needing any kind of e-commerce website or online presence. There are some amazing e-invoicing payment options available from local payment service providers that allow you to create a bill that you can then email to your customer.

When they click on the payment link in their emailed invoice, they will be taken to a secure payment page where they can opt into paying via their preferred method such as credit card, Instant EFT, MasterPass, Visa Checkout or Scode.

Conclusion

Times continue to change as rapidly as people’s minds and technology innovation. You need to go where your customers are. Use the platforms that your customers use.

This doesn’t always mean you absolutely need to start out with a website to create a successful online business. You just need to find the platform that best suits your budget and your customers for a start and grow from there. Your business dream is right there, within reach. Go and get it.

DPO PayGate is a proud Partner of the NSBC.