So you’ve got your market, you’ve got your product, and your small business is doing well in your local area, but you’re getting questions like, “do you have a website?”, “how do I find you online?” and “can I buy your products online?” 

It’s a big step. Moving your business from the offline space where you are comfortable and confident with your processes, to the online world where things can get very technical. But, moving your business online can only be viewed as a positive move in 2021 and beyond. In fact a recent survey found that 51% of small businesses felt they were more likely to grow with a website than without one.

With e-Commerce on a growth spurt in South Africa, now’s the time to jump onto the bandwagon. Fortunately for South African SMEs, starting an online business doesn’t have to be complicated or hugely expensive, and web builder packages can be tailored to meet the needs of your small business.

Let’s break down what you need to start an online business

1. Create your e-Commerce website

Getting an online home for your business involves three main elements, domain registration, website hosting and website building. With an already established business, these three elements are relatively simple to move forward with, as your business name and products are ready to go live. We break down the three elements below:

  • Domain registration: This involves choosing and registering the name and subsequent address of your website. It is the name consumers will use to find and identify you online. Using the name of your business is the most logical choice as it’s the name your current customers are already familiar with.
  • Website hosting: All websites require a space online for data to be stored. Web hosting allocates space on a server, where your website and all it’s vital information can be securely stored and visible online.
  • Website building: Developing your website is perhaps the most exciting part of the whole process. Fortunately, building a website no longer requires coding knowledge and hours spent manually implementing technical jargon. A website builder is an easy-to-use tool that lets you create your website with a drag  and drop feature.

Find a website builder that will include all the necessary capabilities for an e-Commerce store including:

  1. Product pages
  2. Shipping information
  3. Secure payment
  4. A mobile-friendly design

For a more detailed outline of creating your first website, read our step-by-step guide.

2. Create relevant content

From product copy, to your brand history and industry relevant articles, your website needs to tell customers exactly what you offer, why they should purchase from you and how to do so. You will have existing customers from your offline efforts that know your brand, but being online opens you up to a world of new browsers. These browsers will need to be introduced to your business, and convinced of your value.

Think about how you started, and what sets your business apart. This will help you write content that shows authenticity and genuine brand value.

3. Market your website

Once your website is live, it’s time to tell all your existing and future customers you’re now accepting orders online. There are a number of ways to get attention online and they include:

  • SEO: While search engine optimisation (SEO) is a strategy that takes some time. It’s well worth the investment. By finding out the terms your customer base is using to search for your products, you can include them in your content and Google will start to pick up that your website is relevant to show to searchers. 


  • Social media: Marketing your brand and products via various social media channels is the perfect way to reach consumers as they browse online. While the platforms you choose to advertise on are dependent on your type of business, the important channels to invest in are Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.


  • PR efforts: Publishing business updates on relevant, widely-read websites can be costly, but it helps you tap into a wealth of new customers who will be interested in the products you offer. Even if you choose to secure one article a month with a publisher, you’re on your way to getting your name out in the digital world. Remember though, to choose websites that have a similar audience to yours, to ensure your efforts don’t go wasted.

Taking your business online is the first step towards future growth. Embrace the change, get the basics implemented and from there the digital world is your oyster.