According to Statista, electronics and media are the second top-selling product niches in South Africa. This could be attributed to the fact that Africa boasts the youngest and second-largest population in the world. In addition, mobile commerce is currently dominating online sales in South Africa, and online sales have exploded in the last few years, probably due to Covid and lockdowns driving digital adoption.
Whichever way you look at it, now’s a good time to start an online electronics store in South Africa.
In this article, we’ll explore what it takes to set up an electronics shop digitally, by South Africans, in a South African environment, for South Africans.
What Makes a Successful Online Electronics Store in South Africa?
A word of truth: many entrepreneurs fail to make online businesses work. They mistakenly believe that all they need to do is build the website, and the people (and sales) will follow.
But building an online store, like building any business and doing it right! Can be hard and complex. So here are a few things that will make your online electronics store in South Africa thrive?
- Marketing and building awareness.
- Specialising in a sector within the electronics sector.
- The right high-quality products that are not readily available from local stores.
- A website that utilises SEO best practices, helpful and informative blog posts, and trust elements such as product reviews, trust seals, and certificates.
- Meaningful product descriptions.
- High-quality product images.
- Excellent customer support.
- Upfront shipping options and costs.
- Good refund policy.
- Payment options of customer’s choices.
- Fast delivery and good delivery process.
A Quick Note About Standing Out From the Crowd…
Before we get into the meat and bones of the article, you should know that when you start an online electronics store in South Africa, you have an added opportunity to do better than your competitors. Here’s how:
Excluding the Big Boys like Takealot and BidorBuy, dudes that are into electronics and start an e-commerce business are usually those who plonk gadgets on a website but don’t pay attention to the softer elements. If you were to pay attention to those usually-neglected elements, then you can quite easily drive more traffic to your site than do your competitors.
For more traffic via search engines, the key is long-term SEO planning (aka. organic traffic; see below) which is something that most South African online electronics stores don’t bother with. Yet.
You can create a powerful differentiating factor by uploading original (not copy and pasted) product descriptions that target your ideal audience and by making your site attractive and user-friendly.
For example, take a look at the product description below - while it may be fine for people who understand Bluetooth jargon, the description is obviously a copy and paste from the manufacturer and does nothing to help someone understand why they should buy it. This is bad form for both SEO and prospective customers.
Generally speaking, in South Africa, those who own electronics stores don’t often provide meaningful product descriptions, but if you did, you would find higher conversion rates, and more of the right traffic via search engines.
In summary, focus on what’s important to search engines and your ideal customer.
Quick Case Study: Best Buy
Do yourself a favour and have a look at an overseas electronics website called “BestBuy”- they utilise content exceptionally well, and as a result, feature on the first page of Google search results when someone types in the phrase, “buy computer online”.
Content on their website includes:
- Education articles about computers and tablets.
- Geek Squad tech tips.
- Detailed descriptions of each product category.
- User reviews on products.
- Transparent pick-up and shipping details.
- Questions and answers on every product.
- Buying options.
- Comparisons to similar products.
They make it easy for visitors to buy their goods by removing all psychological resistance.
That is BestBuy. Be like BestBuy.
Steps to Start an Online Electronics Store in South Africa
In summarised version, the end goal is to launch a website that contains your products, but before you get to that stage, you’ll first need to do some groundwork, such as researching the market, and deciding what you’ll sell, especially because the electronics niche is so varied.
From there, decide on a business model, what services you’ll need to make it all work, your budget, delivery options, and only then can you start building your website and start implementing your marketing and promotion plan.
Let’s move through the steps:
Step #1: Research
It’s a good idea to find out what others who have gone before you are doing in the electronics arena; this will spark ideas and give you a better understanding of what you’ll need to do.
Study their business models - this is especially important in South Africa which is still somewhat behind in terms of online buying. While studying them, put yourself in your prospective customer’s shoes to analyse what your electronics store can do better.
Also critical at this stage is deciding on the products you’ll sell, and researching your target audience. For example, will you supply a large variety of electronics in categories, or will you specialise in only one type? How can you do things differently to others who sell online?
How to decide on the type of products you will sell? Here are some brainstorming tips:
- Can you offer solutions to people’s problems in terms of electronics? Can you combine what they need with the knowledge you already have?
- Are you passionate about some area within electronics?
- Learn from Amazon’s top sellers and read reviews of the products you wish to sell.
- Once you start searching, Facebook will begin adding electronics products to your newsfeed - check the comments people are making, and browse Facebook Marketplace.
- Check competitor information, such as which products are their top sellers, and their blog post topics (in South Africa, not many online electronics stores utilise content for SEO, so if you regularly add helpful content in blog posts, you will overtake your competitors pretty quickly as far as SEO goes).
Step #2: What Business Model?
In South Africa, you have two options:
- Buy products and keep a stock of them. Delivery will be in your hands. Alternatively,
- Use a dropshipping model.
Both methods have pros and cons, but the dropshipping model may be a little more difficult to use in South Africa because we still lag behind and there are not many dropshipping suppliers. Read more about dropshipping in South Africa and what to expect.
Step #3: Develop a Plan
Now it’s time to build a plan - this is a working document that you can keep referring to and adding to, in order to stay on track. You’ll also need a plan if you require financing. But for the purpose of keeping things simple, your plan should include:
- Differentiating factor - don’t just plan to sell electronics without taking an approach that distinguishes your business from the next.
- Profile of your ideal customer based on your specialisation.
Doofinder provides an example of the profile of an ideal prospect. The last paragraph shows why understanding your audience intimately is critical in your marketing efforts.
- Brand - logo, colours, “vibe” of the brand (to match your ideal buyers), design, your main message.
- Goals and strategies - break these down into a project plan and tick off each task as you go.
- Information about competitors.
- Marketing plan - what will you do to attract traffic to your site. Be aware that if you are not a digital marketing expert, you will probably need to hire some help for this, otherwise you are likely to waste your money. (See more on types of marketing later in this article).
- Projected expenses such as:
- Domain name
- Website hosting or cost of e-commerce platform
- Services required
- Products (if stocking)
Step #4: Build a Website
Now that you’ve worked on the foundation of starting an online electronics store in South Africa, it’s time to build your online shop. Here are your options:
- The simplest method is to use an e-commerce platform such as Shopstar which is built by South Africans for South Africans. Shopstar makes it much easier to start an e-commerce business because they offer services that make things easier for South African digital businesses. For example, on your website you’ll need a payment gateway. Integrating this into a website can be a pain, but Shopstar just requests a quick click of a button. You can also use dropshipping from right inside your account dashboard. Find out how easy it is to build an online electronics store in South Africa with Shopstar.
- Get a website made by an agency. This is not recommended because a) it is expensive, b) many agencies refuse to hand over control of the site to the client and want to do all the back work themselves, for a fee of course, and c) it is hard to find an agency that delivers on its big promises. The thing is, that an agency can make a site look beautiful, but not necessarily perform well with search engines, and this is key to getting enough traffic for the sake of sales.
- The last option is to build a website using WordPress and WooCommerce, but if you have no WordPress or web development experience, be prepared for a very steep learning curve. Learn how to choose a South African payment gateway to integrate with your website.
Step #5: Create a Marketing Strategy
At this juncture, you’ve put in a ton of work and you’re sitting with a beautiful website. But what now? How do you make sales?
Well, there are two types of digital marketing:
- Organic: a long-term strategy that brings in traffic via search engines. For this to work, you would need to upload content regularly. So although it doesn’t cost you anything, you would need to hire a writer who can compile content that is valuable to your audience, and that offers solutions to their issues with regards to electronics. Blog posts must be informative and educational, not promotional, although they should include subtle marketing elements such as a Call to Action. If you set up your website using Shopstar, they offer “Boost” services, and included in those services is copywriting.
When you use the Shopstar platform on which to build your online electronics store in South Africa, you can also use their affordable Boost Services to generate sales faster.
- Paid advertising: this strategy brings in traffic immediately, but also requires an expert to create the adverts because the learning curve is steep and you can waste a lot of money while experimenting. Use Shopstar’s paid advertising services - it is affordable and done by experts.
Example of a paid ad on Google Search.
We recommend a combination of the two types of marketing - run paid ads to build traffic immediately while you’re setting up organic initiatives which take longer, but are more sustainable.
What Now? Checklist for Next Steps
- Think about how to differentiate your online electronics store.
- Conduct research about competitors and your ideal buyer.
- Decide on which business model to use.
- Draw up a workable plan that can be used to reference back to.
- Decide on the best website platform.
- Devise a solid marketing plan in order to consistently generate sales.
- Check out the Shopstar platform and Boost services.
Now go get em! And remeber we're here if you need anything.