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E-commerce website options in South Africa

Article provided by Xneelo

With a population of more than 58 million, South Africa is a large consumer market with a growing e-commerce sector that’s projected to reach R225 billion in the next five years. Naturally, breaking into this market does have its challenges.

Xneelo asked professional web developer Felix Norton and e-commerce expert, Warrick Kernes, for their top tips for South African entrepreneurs.

An introduction to e-commerce hosting and software

Your first task is choosing between a hosted or self-hosted e-commerce platform. Shopify is a popular hosted solution, as it enables you to launch your store within minutes:

Alternatively, you can install a self-hosted e-commerce platform such as WooCommerce. Self-hosted solutions are typically more customisable than their hosted counterparts:

“As a WordPress web design agency owner, my go-to platform is WooCommerce. It’s also the most popular e-commerce platform in the world, with 26% market share. I recommend WooCommerce as it’s easy to use, cost-effective and well supported”. – Felix Norton, Woww

To learn more about starting an online store with WooCommerce, visit Woww’s new course – Win with Woo.

Choosing a hosting provider

If you do opt for a hosted solution, it’s important to choose a reliable hosting provider. We recommend opting for a company that offers good performance and uptime rates, plus 24/7 customer support.

Many companies offer to host to international customers but it makes sense to opt for a provider that has servers located in South Africa. This helps you provide a high level of performance to your local customers.

Building your online store

Once you’ve chosen your hosting partner, you’ll need to create all the essential elements of an online store. These include sections like a shopping cart and checkout page, as well as an area where returning customers can log into their accounts:

“When it comes to choosing an e-commerce platform to build your site on, entrepreneurs in SA should only choose between WordPress or Shopify. These platforms are the most established, offer the widest range of support and both have a wide range of plugins and apps that allow you to add extra functionality to your website as you grow which means you won’t need to hire a developer every time you want to make a change.” -Warrick Kernes, Insaka

To help drive conversions, your site must have order persistence. This means customers can return and complete their purchases later. Some shoppers may be hesitant to share their payment information online, so it’s also vital that you meet important security standards, including installing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.

“The number one thing to think about when starting an online store is choosing the right product. Unlike physical stores, you need to take into account the logistics. Factor in the shipping weight, size, delivery distance and how perishable your product might be”.

Felix Norton, Woww

Four tips to break into the South African e-commerce market

“Lean on the e-commerce community. You’re not alone. This can be a lonely journey if you try to figure it all out on your own – there are already thousands of people on the same journey and you should lean on them to find the answers to your questions.”

Warrick Kernes, Insaka

It’s important to tailor your store to your target audience. With that in mind, here are four tips for appealing to South Africa’s growing e-commerce market.

1. Prioritise the most popular product categories

According to the International Trade Administration, the top e-commerce product categories in South Africa are clothing/apparel and media. If your business operates in any of these areas, you’re ideally placed to sell to South African customers.

If you’re an international company, it’s smart to feature these product categories more heavily on your e-commerce site. Even if your store sells products outside of those niche areas, they can be useful for catching the attention of your South African audience.

2. Support South Africa’s preferred local payment methods

If customers can’t pay using their preferred methods, they’re likely to abandon their online shopping cart. In South Africa, 41% of all e-commerce transactions are completed using a credit or debit card, while Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) accounts for another 20%.

Due to an increase in credit card fraud, the Payment Association of South Africa mandates the use of 3D Secure. This means your store must implement 3D Secure at checkout.

Many popular e-commerce platforms support EFT and card payments, including WooCommerce and Shopify. By choosing a platform that supports these gateways out of the box, you can reduce the time and effort required to launch your online store.

Alternatively, you can process payments using a mobile solution like SnapScan. This popular app removes the need for cards and EFTs, which can positively impact your conversions and cart abandonment rates.

3. Optimise for local search engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vital for driving traffic to your online store but you must localise your store for the South African market. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make your site multilingual. By creating Afrikaans and English versions of your store, you’ll stand the best possible chance of getting your store indexed in popular South African search engines.

4. Calculate taxes and duties

To reduce cart abandonment and ensure reliable delivery, we recommend displaying all local taxes and duties upfront. This involves assigning Harmonised System (HS) tariff codes to all of your products.

HS is an international system that enables customs departments to classify traded items. You can use these codes to calculate the taxes and duties that you need to apply to each product.

It’s time to become South Africa’s next e-commerce success

Taking your business online can be a daunting prospect. However, the biggest South African e-commerce market had a revenue of over 55 billion rands in 2020, and that’s continuing to grow.

By creating an e-commerce store that’s localised and optimised for the South African market, you’ll be in an ideal position to connect with a huge (and expanding) audience of online shoppers.

Xneelo is a proud Partner of the NSBC