It’s no secret that e-commerce is booming in South Africa. Consumers are far more comfortable browsing and purchasing goods online, while technological advances in cashless payments and e-commerce website builders have made the space far more accessible for everybody.


Naturally, the e-commerce space isn’t set to slow down anytime soon. With the ease of getting online, and the preference of consumers to stay away from crowded shopping malls and long queues, it’s an ideal time to get into the e-commerce market. 


While it’s an exciting time to get into the world of e-commerce, the process can’t be rushed. If you’re ready to navigate this space but want to know more, follow our tips for how to start an e-commerce business in South Africa.


Choose the right e-commerce platform


Typically, consumers start their search for a product online. If your website is easy enough to navigate and use, these consumers will go further and purchase the product from you instead of trying to find it in-store. 


There are a number of e-commerce platforms on the market, all with different features. If you’re wondering which e-commerce platform is best, it all depends on your requirements but there are a number of  hosted e-commerce platforms that you can set up yourself in less than 24 hours. 


No matter the e-commerce website builder you decide on, make sure the platform includes:


  • Various templates to choose from
  • The ability to add products for scalability
  • Third party payment gateway integration
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Local customer support


Understand your order fulfillment needs


Getting those all important orders are one thing, fulfilling those orders are another. The whole experience of completing an order to receiving it plays a big part in a successful customer experience, and so the logistics process needs to run smoothly.


Keep in mind that if you own a brick and mortar store that it’s stock needs to be separate from your online stock to avoid stock levels reflecting incorrectly on your website. This requires a separate warehouse of stock dedicated to your online orders.


Once an order leaves your warehouse, remember to keep the customer in the loop via a tracking system, automated emails or sms’s. With the lack of physical purchasing, customers like to be kept informed about where their order is in the system, and when delivery might take place. 


Not sure how to choose a delivery service? There are a number of service providers available in South Africa, including:


  • South African Post Office


An affordable solution for e-commerce startups. Costs are based purely on weight which is a bonus, but the inefficiencies of this service can put the smooth sailing of your service at risk.


  • Courier Services


A door to door service that has proven to be a reliable option in South Africa. These services offer product tracking and customisable solutions to suit your business needs. Courier Services offered in South Africa are:







Meet customer expectations


There are a number of things customers don’t just want to see when they land on an e-commerce website, but expect to see. People are far more comfortable with navigating the online shopping space than they used to be and they want to have a seamless experience from start to finish. 


Remember these customer expectations when building your website:


  • Keep the design of your website simple and clean
  • Optimise your pages to load fast
  • Allow customers to search for products
  • Integrate quick and secure payment solutions
  • Keep your customers up-to-date with their order progress


Take on an e-commerce frame of mind


This is less of an actionable tip, but a critical one. Whether you’re expanding your business from brick and mortar to online, or setting up your first business, e-commerce requires you to be constantly on top of new trends, solutions and customer needs. 


Get into the mindset of following relevant industry experts, join community groups and listen to industry podcasts and you’ll set yourself to be one of the first to know about new developments in the e-commerce space. 


Can e-commerce be profitable?


It certainly can, if you take the time to do your research and planning. Building an e-commerce business, like any other business takes time and it won’t be a success overnight. Assess your position after a few years of operation, not just one, to see how sustainable it will be in the long term.