Many South African businesses shared a collective sigh of relief on Thursday as the Presidency announced all eCommerce stores are allowed to operate under Level 4 Lockdown.
A lucky few businesses can return back to some form of production & online sales. But companies without eCommerce stores are facing the prospect of being left in the dust if they don’t jump onto the eCommerce bandwagon soon.
In this article, we will compare the 4 best eCommerce platforms for businesses in South Africa during the lockdown.
4 Best eCommerce Platforms in South Africa
The most popular eCommerce platforms in South Africa right now are:
Magento is an advanced open-source eCommerce platform popular with large online retailers.
Shopify is a SAAS (Software As A Service) eCommerce platform with monthly plans.
Wix eCommerce is the eCommerce add-on for Wix, a user-friendly SAAS website builder.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an eCommerce Platform
We are comparing these platforms based on the most important factors for small businesses right now:
Ease of Use
Features & Functionalities
TL;DR: If you don’t want to read this shpeel then skip right to the end:
Price is the most important factor for businesses at the moment as cashflow has been tight, if not non-existent.
And there are many costs to factor in, such as set up costs and running costs. These 3 things must be considered when it comes to the cost of these eCommerce platforms:
- Set up cost
- Monthly fees (subscriptions, hosting etc.)
- Transaction fees
Magento is an open-source eCommerce platform that will allow you to set up an online shop for free. That being said, there is a learning curve which may not be worth your time, in which case you want to hire a developer to assist you – this will cost additional.
But because Magento is open source, you don’t pay a monthly subscription, however you will still have to pay your hosting fees.
When setting up your online shop you can choose to accept online payments, or direct bank transfers (EFT). If you select the latter, there will be no transaction fee. However, if you want to accept online payments you will need to use a South African payment gateway such as PayFast or PayGate. Both of these providers charge 3.5% per transaction.
Shopify is a subscription-based complete eCommerce solution. You sign up online, and without any technincal set up you can start creating your store.
Shopify requires a monthly subscription for you to continue selling products on their platform. They have different packages to choose from, based on what your needs are.
Shopify’s transaction fees get less as the monthly subscription plan increases.
Similar to Shopify Wix is a subscription-based complete eCommerce solution. You sign up online, and without any set up you can start creating your store. Wix also requires a monthly subscription to use their platform. They have 4 different monthly plans to choose from, offering different features.
Wix charges a flat 2.9% on all payments through their Wix Payments solution.
Since this is a self-hosted solution, you will need to pay for your own website hosting.
As with Magento, Wocoomerce allows you to accept EFTs. But if you want to accept online payments, you need to use PayFast or PayGate.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is very important because business owners want a simple, easy to use online shop that will allow them to sell products and make changes without having to hire developers.
We will cover two aspects of ease of use:
- Setting up
- Ongoing management
You will need to set up your ecommerce shop before you can use it. And there are things to consider here like the hosting and installation.
When we refer to “management” we are talking admin operations such as adding/editing products, managing orders and shipping etc. And we are also talking about updating or changing content text, images etc.) on your site.
As we have mentioned, you can set up a Magento site yourself, but the learning curve is steep and not worth your time. Magento is an ecommerce platform aimed at businesses who have very large catalogues (thousands of products). So the back-end is simple, but there are many different tabs and settings to navigate through.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform designed for small business owners who want a quick professional website in no time. Therefore they have made the platform very intuitive, making it easy for almost anyone to set up a store. It’s fairly easy to edit a Shopify store, in that they have limited what you can edit. There is a front-end editor that allows you to change images and text as per the theme you choose. Shopify is built for small businesses. The back-end is very intuitive and simple to use.
As with Shopify, Wix is built for the person on the street. So it is simple to create a website and add your products. Wix eCommerce is also has a simple & easy to use back-end.
Setting up a Woocommerce store by yourself is entirely possible after watching a few Youtube tutorials. The most technical and complicated part is really just setting up your hosting domain with a WordPress installation. Woocommerce is the best of both worlds – it has the infrastructure to handle thousands of products and categories, with a simple to use back-end.
Features & Functionalities
Other than the standard eCommerce functions, you may want to add extra features to your website like price comparisons or product customisation.
Each platform allows you to add some extra functionalies & features, however it varies from platform to platform.
Because Magento is an open-source platform, developers from all over the world are constantly improving the platform by adding new features and functions. These are called extensions and there are tens of thousands of them, both free and paid options.
Shopify has the Shopify App Marketplace where developers sell their “Apps” which offer the extra functions you are looking for. However, almost all the Apps are subscription-based, meaning your monthly subscription increases.
Wix has their online store which allows Wix website owners to add functionalities to their site. Most of the Apps to choose from coming with a free and premium option – the former with limited features.
Because Woocommerce is an open-source platform, developers from all over the world are constantly improving the platform by adding new features and functions. These are called extensions and there are tens of thousands of them, both free and paid options.
Some website owners want total control over how their eCommerce shop looks. Therefore design is an important factor to consider.
All the platforms allow you to choose from thousands of ecommerce templates and themes. The major difference between the platforms is how customisable that template is.
Customising a Magento theme depends entirely on the theme/template you have chosen. Generally speaking making text or images changes are fairly easy, however changing layouts and modifying whole sections can be hard.
Shopify’s focus on is more on simple ecommerce management than design customisation. They have some amazing themes and templates to choose from (ranging from free to $200). Editing these templates are easy in that you can change text & images, but customising these templates is near impossible.
Wix also comes with templates to give you a professional “out of the box” website. But it is their intuitive front-page editor that allows you to edit almost any aspect of your shop. But even with this editor, some aspects of the template or theme cannot be changed.
Woocoommerce is a WordPress “plugin”, so your shop often takes on the styling of your website. This is why it is VERY easy to turn a WordPress site into a Woocoomerce store. WordPress allows you to really edit every single aspect of your website. It does depend on what theme or template you use, but the design flexibility of WordPress and Woocommerce make it stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Website Ownership is a very important factor to address, especially for business owners who may want to upgrade their ecommerce stores or move to another platform at a later date.
Both Shopify & Wix lock business owners into a monhtly subscription, which if cancelled causes the owner to lose their site.
Magento & Woocommerce are open-source platforms, allowing them to be downloaded and installed on your own hosting server – which means you have total control.
Magento is a self-hosted solution – meaning the software is installed on your website hosting server. Essentially you have full control and ownership of the entire website (design, content & products).
Shopify is SAAS (Software as a Service), where you sign up with them and you use their platform to sell your products. They provide the hosting, software & support which you are essentially “renting” through a subscription. If you stop paying your subscription they shut down your site. There is also no way to transfer your Shopify website to another platform (like Magento or Woocommerce).
Wix is also SAAS like Shopify. You are renting your eCommerce store.
Woocommerce is a self-hosted solution – meaning the software is installed on your website hosting server. You have full control and ownership of the entire website (design, content & products).
There are many factors to consider when it comes to choosing the best eCommerce platform for you. We have focussed on the most important factors to business owners right now during Lockdown.
But after all is said and done, there is one clear winner.
WooCommerce is the best all-round eCommerce platform. It caters for every kind of business, selling any product and with any size catalogue.
Setting up a WordPress website with WooCommerce is easy, and there are no monthly costs other than your hosting.
It gives you the flexibility to design your eCommerce store exaclty as you like, and upgrade it with unlimited features & functions.
Why WooCommerce Is The Best eCommerce Platform in South Africa Right Now
Your website is probably a WordPress website, making it painless & cheap to convert into an online store
There’s no monthly subscription fees
Choose from a wide-variety of designs & styles, which can be customised to your business
Add any features or functions to your online store
You own your website, content and all products
At this stage we should probably admit that as WordPress development experts, we are a bit bias. However, we have worked with each of of these platforms and experience beats theory any time.
WooCommerce is the perfect option for any business that wants an eCommerce store. And if you already have a WordPress website, it’s even easier to convert to an eCommerce store.
Need an eCommerce Website?
We can help you convert your existing website into a functional online shop. Or we can build a fresh new eCommerce website so that you can sell products online.