5 of the best e-Commerce platforms in South Africa

In the modern, fast moving society that we live in today the number of South Africans who shop online has seen a massive increase due to the rapidly improving accessibility and people are becoming more accustomed to shopping online.

Stand-alone retail stores find it difficult to compete with online shops when it comes to prices of products, this is mainly because of additional running costs and capital needed to setup and operate a physical store.

When shopping online, customers enjoy shopping when they want, where they want, and paying how they want due to the various payment methods available to online stores. This is something that traditional retail stores find difficult to compete with and online stores use to their advantage.

To a business which never had an online shop/eCommerce store and are keen on starting one on their website, often, the first question asked is which website platform is the best to sell or market their products on?

There is no perfect choice. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages, we cover the most popular, user-friendly e-commerce platforms used today, as well as their pros and cons, and other key details that will help you choose the right option when selecting an eCommerce platform for your online store.

According to the market share studies, listed below are the top 5 eCommerce platforms being used on the web today:


1. WooCommerce


WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms worldwide. It’s a plugin for WordPress that will turn your WordPress website into a powerful online store. So it is no surprise that Automattic, the company behind WordPress, added this hugely successful plugin to its portfolio way back in 2015.

These are the pros and cons of WooCommerce:


  • Free to use – no purchase cost.
  • Massive selection of themes for your website (free and paid)
  • Easy to use and customise
  • Easy to move your website to another host
  • One of the best platforms for SEO
  • Allows for extensions and integrations through plugins
  • Large community of developers supporting the platform


  • No direct support. You need to seek help from forums or ask developers for help.
  • Website hosting is charged separately
  • As there are many add-ons to choose from, you could run into security problems if you’re not careful.
  • WooComerce has only basic features and you need to install plugins or write code yourself for some desirable eCommerce functionality.


2. Squarespace Online Stores


Squarespace is a private American company, based in New York City, that provides software as a service for website building and hosting. Its customers use pre-built website templates and drag and drop elements to create web pages. Squarespace targets clients who want to have a good looking and fast website while not having to deal with hosting or security problems.


  • Good support
  • Easy to use and set up with little-no coding skills
  • Quick loading websites
  • Perfect for small businesses
  • Website hosting is included in their monthly fee


  • In order to sell products, you have to pay a cost of around $18
  • Not very customizable
  • Does not support third party payment providers
  • Moving your website to another host is not easy


3. Shopify


Shopify is a commerce platform that allows anyone to set up an online store and sell their products. Merchants can also sell their products in person with Shopify POS all you have to do is just pay the monthly fee, drag and drop elements and you good to go with selling your goods online that’s how simple it is. Shopify also has a market where you can buy themes and addons. Most of these are paid ones with few quality free options.


  • Arguably the quickest to launch
  • Store web pages have fast response and loading times.
  • Relatively easy to set up with little to no coding skills
  • Supports online and offline retail points
  • Website hosting is included in their monthly fee.


  • Add-ons are expensive and some require recurring billing
  • Not easy to move to another host
  • Custom theme development is expensive and requires an expensive skill set.
  • Hosting is rather expensive
  • For additional features you would need a professional developer
  • Not the best platform for SEO


4. Magento


Magento is an e-Commerce platform which is used by large enterprises such as Nike and Coca-Cola. Magento is a really powerful and highly customizable platform where a skilled programmer is needed for the setup and maintenance. Magento is free but it has paid plans for enterprise solutions and large businesses.


  • Features a rich and scalable platform
  • Great speed and SEO
  • Huge community support
  • Great for Omni-channel retail
  • Made to be integrated to popular accounting and CRM software


  • Meant for big budget, national and multinational eCommerce store owners
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Needs a developer for any customization
  • No direct support
  • Expensive to set up


5. PrestaShop


PrestaShop is a locally hosted platform that is free to use. With the costs PrestaShop of plugins and themes you could end up paying a fortune to create the shop you desire. Also, customizing your online shop requires specialised programming skills.


  • Open Source which means you can download the software for free.
  • User Friendly Interface. eCommerce store front is easy to maintain.
  • Crowd sourced support is easily available due to the thousands of people using this platform.


  • Basic features are free, but extensions can be expensive.
  • Website hosting needs to be purchased separately.
  • No direct support from the creators of Prestashop.


In Conclusion

In our opinion, if you are small-medium business owner and you want to market and sell your products online on a small-medium sized budget, WooCommerce would be the best option to go with due to the large support base, the variety of free to use plugins and the customisation options available on WordPress allows developers and store owners options when it comes to the look and feel of your website.

If you need help with setting up an e-Commerce website, feel free to send us a message below. We are expert eCommerce website builders.