Top E-Commerce Website Builders for Small Businesses

We compare some of South Africa’s best E-commerce website builders. Get info on pricing, features and how to choose the best suitable product for your small business.

E-Commerce Solutions
25th ,Jun, 2021
Review
Compare Our Best Picks
Shopify - Best for growing businesses
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    • Free web hosting
    • Drag & drop functionality
    • Unlimited products
    • Overview dashboard
    • Sales & finance reports
    Shopstar - Best South African option
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      • Easy to use website editor
      • Free website hosting
      • Free SSL certificate
      • Anytime cancellation
      • 14-day free trial
      Squarespace - Best for well-designed templates
      • Free images
      • Drag & Drop functionality
      • Customisable templates
      • Sales analytics
      • Multiple payment options
      Yola - Best beginner all-rounder
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        • Drag & drop functionality
        • Inventory tracking
        • Order management
        • Multiple payment options
        • Social media integration
        Wix - Best for first time e-commerce store owners
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          • Custom domain free for a year
          • Shipping and fulfillment
          • Business Email
          • Reports for sales activity
          • Multiple payments options
          Introduction

          E-commerce is a trend that is here to stay. This is good news for entrepreneurs launching new online businesses for three important reasons: the barriers for entry are lower; it’s cost-effective so no significant investments are needed; and finally, business owners have the opportunity to scale their business. 

          It’s never been easier for business owners to set up their own e-commerce shops without the help of a web developer. This is thanks to the introduction of out-of-the-box solutions with DIY website builders and ready-made storefronts. These platforms have reduced the high costs and the complexity of designing and developing a website with e-commerce capability. 

          It’s becoming increasingly important that buyers can easily navigate your e-commerce store, that it conveys a sense of trust and is fast loading. Some key features to consider are product search, clear product and shipping information and a secure and easy to use payment gateway. With buyers increasingly using their smartphones to make purchases, it’s equally important that your website is mobile responsive. 

          Main Features

          Pre-built templates, plugins and add-ons

          Web Builders are built to simplify the process of getting a website. To avoid complex setup processes, choose a website builder with an easy-to-use website editor. Avoid web builders that require a separate e-commerce setup or plugin and opt for an e-commerce store builder that already has built-in e-commerce capabilities. An e-commerce web builder will eliminate the need for additional setups and offer a ‘plug-and-play’ mechanism to website building. 

          Domain & hosting 

          Your e-commerce website will require a domain name and hosting. The domain name is the name of your store. E-commerce hosting makes it possible to run an e-commerce business and allows for functions required to operate a commercial website such as payment processing, security, SSL and other plugins. Some e-commerce builder providers come with e-commerce hosting and domain registration services, if not you will have to secure these separately.

          Store Inventory Management 

          An inventory management tool is necessary to help business owners to manage their stock and to run an efficient e-commerce website. Some of the tasks this tool can help you with are generating sales reports, setting up automatic low inventory alerts, and managing order packing and shipping, as well as providing valuable sales data.  

          Security

          It’s important to ensure that your customers’ credit card information, login details and email addresses are safe on your website. One of ways to do this is by purchasing a SSL certificate to show visitors that their information is safe on your e-commerce website. An SSL certificate provides a way for visitors to verify that the website they are on, indeed belongs to the associated domain name. If a website is encrypted with an SSL certificate it is more complex for information to be intercepted. Most reputable e-commerce website builders will handle all your system and security updates to prevent cyberattacks against your website. 

          Multiple payment options 

          A recognised, established and well-known payment gateway will instantly put customers at ease. Offer customers multiple ways to pay you so that they can select the one they already trust. The most popular payment methods are credit and debit cards. Other alternatives are Masterpass, Zapper, SnapScan, Mobicred, PayPal as well as SiD Secure EFT and MoMoPay.

          Reporting tools and custom report features

          Reporting and analytics tools and reports give you the means to review your store’s recent activity. Common reports you can generate for your store are product analytics, sales, acquisition, inventory, behaviour and marketing reports. Having insight into how your customers find you will guide your decision-making with regards to your marketing efforts. 

          Easy-to-use checkout

          Customers come back to websites that are easy to navigate and have a seamless checkout process. It’s critical to make sure that all necessary information is available and that the consumer understands the stages of the checkout process. 

          Social media marketing integration

          To easily market your store and products, choose a website builder that can integrate your store to your social media accounts allowing you to easily promote deals across the various social media channels. Merchants can also choose to take search engine optimisation and marketing (SEO and SEM) services to make them more discoverable on Google search. 

          Customer Product Reviews feature 

          The majority of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. Having review functionality on your e-commerce website enables customers to leave reviews which gives your brand credibility and can help increase sales. 

          Promotion and discount code tools 

          Offering customers discounts or offers based on past purchases is a well-known method of attracting customers back to a website. Most e-commerce builders will have this functionality which helps to create discount codes with start and expiration dates. 

          24/7 Support

          It’s important as a business to minimise website downtime. When your website is down it means your potential customers can’t reach you or if you are an e-commerce website, can’t make purchases. Choose a provider that prioritises customer services and is available to assist in bringing your systems back up 24/7.

          Pricing

          Web hosting & Domain – As part of your subscription, most e-commerce websites will include the cost of securing a domain and maintenance. For those that don’t, you will have to factor in the cost of a website domain and hosting. 

          Subscription package – Packages range from monthly or annual. Most providers offer discounts if you pay for an annual subscription. As part of your subscription you get an e-commerce store, hosting, e-commerce CMS, analytics and data, payment methods. Other features you can expect from popular options are social media integration, blog and domain. 

          Transaction fees – To accept online payment you will need to set up a payment gateway. Some of the most popular options include Sage Pay, PayPal and PayFast. The transaction fees will depend on the payment gateway used to accept payments on your website. This will either be a percentage of the total order or fixed.  

          Number of products – The size of your store and how many products you will be selling determine the cost of the plan/package that will suit your business. Plans can run from 1 to 200 products. The unlimited product option often costs more. 

           

          Buyer's Guide

          The increase in the number of e-commerce web builder options available means business owners are spoilt for choice. It is however important to consider the needs of your business, the product that you sell, as well as delivery and payment systems.

          Consider the following: 

          Budget

          Building a website with e-commerce capability used to be an expensive investment for a business. Thankfully, those days are long gone. Business owners are now able to set up an online store for an affordable fee. Many of the options available offer different packages you can choose from. This makes it easier to budget for the option that suits where their business is right now, for example are you a new business or a more established business looking to sell bigger volumes of product? That will determine what, potentially costly, additional features you may need. 

          Your Product

          There is virtually no limit to the kinds of products that can be sold online. E-commerce businesses can sell anything from clothing, beauty and décor items to non-physical products such as digital products, lessons and experiences. According to e-commerce platform, Shopify, ‘Trending products to sell in 2021’ list, some of the most popular products are hair styling tools and accessories, handheld device accessories, and toy kitchens and play food, among others. 

          Delivery & logistics/ order fulfilment

          An important, but often overlooked aspect of running an e-commerce store, is the logistics of getting the item into the customer’s hands. This is also referred to as order fulfilment. It’s key that business owners consider the entire process involved from receiving orders, managing inventory, the storage facility, order processing (packing and getting items ready to be shipped). Other important considerations are shipping with your delivery partners of choice and finally, your returns process if customers return an item. 

          Marketing 

          One of the biggest benefits of hosting your online store on an e-commerce website builder is marketing. Many are able to help drive potential customers to your store using search engines through SEO best practices and other plugins and add-ons. Many also support social media integration to platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. This can help you to spread the word about your business even further. 

          Data Security

          Customers can be wary of buying online because of fraud concerns. It’s important that your online store conveys a sense of trust. Let your customers know that their credit card information, login details and email addresses are safe on your website. Some of the ways to reassure customers is to use a reputable payment gateway and to make sure that customers have a way of reaching your business. 

          E-commerce Website Builders Benefits

          • Wider market reach – opportunity to grow your customer base and increase sales.  
          • Cost effective – save on overheads such as rent, utilities associated with having a physical storefront. 
          • Ease of use – free or paid for pre-built templates to help you design your store and plugins and add-ons.
          • Customer convenience – customers can shop from any location at any time. 
          • Security – meet all payment card industry standards to protect personal and business data.
          Get a Quote

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            THE BEST PURCHASES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES 2021

            Finding the right purchases for your small business is time consuming, so smesouthafrica.co.za looked at dozens of options to come up with the following recommendations.