A Comprehensive Guide to Starting an Online Store

The rise of e-commerce in South Africa has been truly remarkable, especially over the last few Covid effected years. With shopping malls becoming almost obsolete and Takealot sales reported to have increased by over double, it is no surprise that everyone is looking for a way to get in on the action.

The internet has become the ultimate destination for shopping, and if you’re not online, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity.

But, the truth is, starting an online store is more than just having an idea. It requires careful strategy, planning, and execution. There are so many aspects to consider, from setting up the right platform to building an audience, and it can all feel quite overwhelming.
However, with the right guidance, you can start your very own e-commerce website and be well on your way towards achieving success.

So how do you go from no plan to having a super fast amazing website with a million followers and likes on social media? There’s a lot that goes on, but here are a few basic steps to starting your journey.

Step 1 – Choosing a Niche and Unique Selling Point

It’s important to choose a niche that is not already dominated by the big players. Identifying your unique selling point (USP) is also key – this could be anything from providing exceptional customer service to offering a better price. Conducting market research is crucial, as it helps you assess demand and competition for your chosen niche and ensures that there is a viable market for your products.

Step 2 – Finding Suppliers and Setting Prices

Once you’ve identified your niche and unique selling point, it’s time to move onto the next step: finding suppliers and setting prices. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Identify your product range: Determine what products you want to sell and which suppliers have them available. This includes researching and selecting local or international suppliers.
  2. Calculate costs: Determine the cost of the product, courier costs, and any transactional costs such as payment gateway fees. This will give you a clear idea of your overall cost of goods sold (COGS).
  3. Set competitive and profitable prices: Set your prices to be competitive with the market and to make a profit that will cover your COGS, courier costs, and any other operational costs. Be sure to do a thorough analysis of your competitors’ pricing to ensure that you are not pricing yourself out of the market.
  4. Consider dynamic pricing: Dynamic pricing is a strategy that allows you to change your prices based on factors such as demand, competition, and inventory levels. This can help you stay competitive and maximise your profits.
  5. Leverage supplier relationships: Building strong relationships with your suppliers can help you negotiate better pricing and payment terms. Keep in mind that many suppliers offer volume discounts, so it may be worth increasing your order quantities to save on costs.

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 Step 3 – Selecting an E-commerce Platform

When setting up an e-commerce business, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll make is choosing the right platform for your online store. There are several options available, and it’s important to select one that suits your needs and goals. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Understanding the different types of e-commerce platforms: There are different types of platforms available, including open-source, licensed, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Each type has its own benefits and limitations.
  • Comparing WooCommerce and Shopify: WooCommerce and Shopify are two popular e-commerce platforms in South Africa, with around 50,000 and 12,500 stores, respectively. WooCommerce requires more developer support, while Shopify is easy to use, and there are costs involved with both platforms.
  • Weighing the pros and cons of each platform: Consider the features, flexibility, ease of use, customisation options, and pricing of each platform. Also, consider whether the platform provides support for the specific features you need for your online store.
  • Seeking help from designers to set up your e-commerce store: It’s essential to work with an experienced designer to set up your online store, especially if you have limited technical knowledge. They can provide valuable insights and help ensure your store is user-friendly and visually appealing.

WooCommerce tends to require more developer support to get up and running and to maintain all the add ons and updates, and obviously there is a cost involved. Shopify is super easy to use and you can get a store up and running literally within a few days. There are plenty of designer to assist you setting up all e commerce carts, whichever you decide to go with.

Step 4 – Developing a Marketing Plan

Develop a sound marketing plan and learn as much about digital marketing as you can. Its easy to blow a ton of cash at marketing and get very poor results. There are great digital marketing companies in SA to help on this front. Make sure you are constantly reviewing your spend, Cost of Acquisition and regularly updating your content to attract visitors to your site.

To attract customers and drive sales, you need a sound marketing plan. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • The importance of a sound marketing plan: A solid marketing plan helps you reach your target audience, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website.
  • Learning about digital marketing: Digital marketing is essential for any e-commerce business. Learn about search engine optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, email marketing, and social media marketing.
  • Avoiding common marketing mistakes: Avoid spending too much money on ineffective marketing campaigns or focusing solely on one marketing channel.
  • Regularly reviewing your marketing strategy: Regularly review your marketing plan, measure your results, and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Step 5 – Listing Products on Online Marketplaces

List your product on the various marketplaces, Takealot is by far the largest in SA, accounting for around 1/3 of all ecommerce traffic. One need only look at Amazon which accounts for over half of all ecommerce in the USA and is the USA’s single largest retailer by turnover, to see where the online action is happening. Look at the South East Asia and you see the same trend. Australia and the UK – same trend.

Listing your products on online marketplaces is an effective way to reach a broader audience and drive sales. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • The benefits of listing products on online marketplaces: Online marketplaces provide a platform to showcase your products, reach a broader audience, and increase your sales.
  • Understanding the importance of Takealot in South Africa: Takealot accounts for around 1/3 of all e-commerce traffic in South Africa, making it an essential platform to list your products.
  • How to make trading on Takealot easy with the ShopGlu Takealot connector: The ShopGlu Takealot connector links up with your WooCommerce or Shopify store, making it easier to trade on Takealot.

The ShopGlu Takealot connector will make trading on Takealot a breeze by linking up to your Shopify and WooCommerce stores. Chat to us to see how it can help your store.

Starting an online store can be a challenging task, but with the right approach and resources, it is possible to create a successful e-commerce business. Remember, starting an online store is all about being passionate and committed to your chosen niche. It’s about offering something unique and valuable to your customers, and standing out in a crowded market. With a solid plan in place, and the right tools and resources, you can turn your e-commerce dreams into a reality.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started today and watch your business grow!