E-Commerce Opportunities for SMEs in South Africa

Updated on 20 May 2024

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e-commerce opportunitees

E-commerce is the answer to the digital era’s demand that small and medium enterprise (SME) owners adapt to thrive. Leveraging local and international e-commerce platforms can offer crucial support and growth opportunities for SMEs across South Africa.

According to Go-Globe, South Africa is the 42nd largest market for e-commerce in the world, with the market predicted to be worth more than R400 billion by 2025. Further, it predicts the country to have more than 1 billion transactions yearly.

The opportunities for SMEs and independent entrepreneurs on e-commerce platforms are endless, from a bigger audience reach to reduced infrastructure costs. In this article, we will explore some of the other e-commerce opportunities available for SMEs and independent entrepreneurs in South Africa.

E-Commerce Opportunities on Platforms for South African SMEs

In our most recent guide, we explored the new AmazonSA marketplace and compared it to other online marketplaces such as Takealot, BobShop and Makro. In this article, we will explore other marketplaces available in South Africa.

1. Red Bubble: The Australian online marketplace is mostly for print-on-demand products that are based on user-submitted work. Products include prints, T-shirts, phone cases, hoodies, cushions, duvet covers, leggings, stickers, skirts, and scarves. The company offers free membership to artists. Creatives can maintain the copyrights to their work and self-regulate prices on this platform.

2. Etsy: The American e-commerce company focuses on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewellery, bags, clothing, home décor, religious items and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools.

3. Uber Eats: The global e-commerce company is a subsidiary of American e-hailing company, Uber. Because of its parent company, (prepared) food sellers can enjoy a wide audience reach, accessible marketing tools (ads and offers) and be able to manage their orders straight from the Uber Eats Orders app.

4. Pick ‘n Pay: The retailer offers a chance to local suppliers through its Pick n Pay Enterprise Supplier Development (ESD) and Pick Local programmes. The ESD programme also has an app which provides small suppliers with the tools and training required to become successful and sustainable suppliers.

5. Massmart: The global retailer owns several brands in South Africa including Makro, Game, Jumbo and Builders (aka Builders Warehouse). Small businesses that want to supply these stores can approach the retailer directly. The most important consideration is that there must be customer demand for the product, and it must be something the retailer typically sells.

While these platforms are readily available, they cater to niche products. Niche product platforms are ideal for those selling a single product or service and seeking a larger audience.

E-Commerce Stores Connected to Your Domain

Below, we explore platforms that enable you to sell multiple products and launch your own online store.

1. Squarespace: The website builder is a great platform for small businesses looking to build an online store that reaches an international audience. You can build a website, upload content on the platform and manage the online store. The platform uses Stripe and PayPal for payments. It also includes tools to help business owners customise their websites, add products, manage orders, and track inventory as they grow.

2. WooCommerce: WooCommerce is an open-source (open-source means publicly accessible and modifiable software code) plugin for WordPress. The platform is aimed at helping small businesses scale their online store. It provides free and paid-for tools for product management, payment processing and shipping methods amongst many other things.

3. Shopify: The online platform is ideal for small businesses whose products move quickly. The platform provides a big audience reach, a user-friendly interface, and customer support resources. It is also compatible with mobiles, making it easy to use.

Benefits of an E-Commerce Store

Establishing an online store offers numerous advantages. Here are key reasons to leverage e-commerce opportunities for your small business.

1. Cost-cutting: Online stores help small businesses save on many costs such as infrastructure, payment processes and shipping. By leveraging an e-commerce store, you can easily save on these because most platforms provide resources and tools that solve these problems.

2. Scaling: By turning to e-commerce, you can scale and grow your business much quicker than with traditional practices, which are more stable but slower. E-commerce platforms also allow you to reach international clients, expanding your audience rapidly.

3. Marketing: Using existing e-commerce platforms reduces your marketing burden, as your products reach their users. An online store offers visibility, data insights on product and audience behaviour, and access to automated marketing tools like ads and social media posts.

E-commerce platforms offer SMEs and independent entrepreneurs a fast way to scale, reduce costs, and utilise powerful marketing tools. Embrace these platforms now to expand your business and meet the evolving technological demands of your customers.

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