Category Archives: Retail

Starting Your Web Store – How to Receive Payments Online

A very important step when starting your web store is to ensure that you can receive payments online. You’ve created your web store because the online retail channel means that your customers can buy 24/7 from anywhere. However, your web store is not the only one online. So, if you customers have problems to pay for your products, they will leave your site and try elsewhere.

Let’s have a look how you can receive payments online.

How to receive payments online

The way we buy and pay for our products has evolved with the internet. As a result, there a number of ways your customers can choose to pay for your product online.

  1. Credit cards

For online shoppers, the preferred method of payment is still a credit card. Accordingly 42% of people are making online payments using credit cards. Also are Visa and MasterCard the two most popular card scheme brands. The use of credit cards for online payments is popular because of the following:

  • Credit cards have already been in use for decades in offline trading.
  • Credit cards are available and accepted worldwide.
  • To pay with a credit card is simple – it involves entering the credit card number along with the name of the card owner into a form.
  • Credit cards are generally convenient for the buyer.

There are however some disadvantages when receiving payments online via credit cards:

  • Credit cards do not possess a good security mechanism. If an attacker steals a credit card number, it is sufficient to buy products online.
  • Credit cards are not anonymous. When a product is purchased, the owner of the credit card and its number become known to both the seller and the banks involved in the transaction.
  • It is expensive for web store owners to receive online payments via a credit card. Credit card institutions and banks require the seller to pay relatively high basic charges as well as a percentage of sales to them.
  • Credit cards are not suitable for payments between private individuals.
  1. PayPal

PayPal is a credit card-oriented payment system. In contrast with credit cards, makes PayPal payments between two private individuals possible. In order to be able to use PayPal, it is necessary to register with it. The receiver of a transaction pays PayPal a fee which depends on the turnover. This is deducted directly from the amount received. However, web store owners need to monitor their PayPal accounts closely.

“While making payments via PayPal is fairly simple, receiving payments is where things get a bit more complex. This has to do with South Africa’s exchange control regulations, which state that you cannot hold money paid to you in foreign currency for more than 30 days. You also cannot use foreign currency that is sitting in your PayPal account to pay to another PayPal user” according to Maya Fisher-French of “Maya on Money”.

  1. Electronic funds transfer (EFT)

EFT is the electronic transfer of money from one bank account to another. It is also one of the oldest electronic payment systems. EFT is considered to be a safe, reliable, and convenient way to conduct business. The advantages of EFT include the following:

  • Reduced administrative costs
  • Increased efficiency
  • Simplified bookkeeping
  • Enhanced security

One concern with the use of the EFT payment system is that criminals may fax or email you a fraudulent proof of payment certificate. So, when you complete that transaction, you may discover that the funds are not showing in your bank account. The best way to prevent this fraud is to wait for the funds to show in your bank account before delivering the goods.


Although there are many innovative digital payment methods and systems known, credit cards, PayPal and EFT are the most important one to have when you start doing business with your web shop. Remember that there are costs and risks involved to receive online payments. However, without it – well…?

Read also: 7 Steps to Start an Online Business


Meier, A. and Stormer. H. 2009. eBusiness & eCommerce: Managing the Digital Value Chain, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.



Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Web Store

Choosing the right eCommerce platform is one of the most important business decisions you can make. It’s just as important decision  you make when shopping for a house, a car or a business location. “You have to look at what you are shopping for, what you want, what you need and what the trade-offs are among all your choices” says Nate Shivar from ShivarWeb.

There are hundreds of eCommerce platforms to choose from. However, they can broadly be placed into three categories:

  1. eCommerce platforms that you develop yourself;
  2. Subscription platforms; and
  3. Open source platforms.

Develop your own eCommerce platform

This is not for the fainthearted!

Developing your own eCommerce platform is only an option if you are a website developer or if you get a developer to do the job for you. The big advantage of developing your own eCommerce platform is that you can do it exactly as you want it to be. A real disadvantage is that you’ll spend more time developing your website than selling your products.

Also, you can’t use the themes and apps of third party developers. It’s expensive if you don’t develop the platform yourself and too many tests runs are needed to get it right. And, if your business starts to grow big, then you may experience scale problems with your custom developed platform.

Developing your own ecommerce platform is more for web developers than want to do some online retailing.

Subscription platforms

When you decide to use subscription platforms you are actually ‘renting’ an eCommerce platform. Shopify is an example of a subscription platform. The great advantage here is that you don’t need to design your website yourself. That’s good news for non-tech savvy retailers! In addition, Shopify can help you with technical or operation issues. Another advantage with Shopify is that you can start your business right away. Just add your products and start selling…

“If you are looking for a simple e-commerce website that won’t require much housekeeping, but still has a classy design and great customer service, go with Shopify”, suggests Jason Parks CEO of The Media Captain in the Entrepreneur. Indeed, Jason mentions that using subscription platforms such as Shopify requires minimal technical capabilities. Moreover, he recommends Shopify for the theme store, plugins and built-in tutorials. And lastly, says Jason, “Shopify is all-inclusive when it comes to an eCommerce platform, meaning you can get all you want in a ‘one-stop shop’.”

Some disadvantages of Shopify. Shopify is not free says Manthan Bhavsar from Metizsoft Solutions. For example, there’s a 1 – 2 % commission fee when you use a third party payment gateway. Even more, Shopify does not allow you to change the coding of your website, so you are totally dependent on them for updates or upgrades of the platform.

Open source platforms

Here you are more in control of your eCommerce website.

This is only for those who feel truly adventurous, and are willing to take on a challenge. However, Zorzini from ECommerce Platforms cautions that although open source platforms are completely free, they are coming at a cost. You still must learn how to set them up and how to design the themes. Moreover, you need to decide which plugins will enhance your newly built store the best.

WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that adds eCommerce functionality to your WordPress website so you can have an online store. WordPress is probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system (or CMS) in existence today (iThemes). As a result, WooCommerce is a popular open source eCommerce platform, especially for small businesses.

You need to pay nothing more than you hosting fees to use Woocommerce. Furthermore is it supported by a huge online community of developers and experts and therefore the glitches and bugs are quickly sorted out. It’s simple to use and have lots of plugins and themes to choose from. To add and change products with Woocommerce is however not so straight forward.

Joe Robisin wrote in Practical Ecommerce when to use and when to avoid Woocommerce:

When to use Woocommerce

  • Your website is primarily a blog. If you have an established site or if you have a new one that is blogging-centric, don’t change it just to sell a few products. In that case, adding on a WordPress ecommerce plugin is a good solution.
  • Limited product catalogue. While a Woocommerce can carry several thousands of products, it generally performs not as well as dedicated eCommerce platforms with the big numbers.
  • Simple products. If your products have limited variations and no customization options, then a Woocommerce will function well. Examples of products requiring no customization might be small electronics or home goods that come in only one style and color.
  • You are familiar with WordPress and need a quick store. If any of the above requirements apply – your site is primarily a blog, you have a limited product range, and your products are simple — then adding a WordPress eCommerce plugin is a good way to quickly get your store live.

When to avoid Woocommerce

  • You don’t have a reliable developer. If you’re an eCommerce owner and you don’t have your own developer and you’re not a developer, it will be difficult to keep your Woocommerce store running long-term.
  • Complex products. Creating complex and variable products takes significant customization. For many WordPress ecommerce plugins, you’ll need to add in additional third-party plugins to get what you want.
  • You don’t want to manually update WordPress and the plugin. In addition to keeping the WordPress core updated, you’ll also need to update the eCommerce system that you are using with WordPress.
  • No time to test the upgrades. If you’re not a developer or don’t want to pay for a developer’s time when your website’s backend needs updated, Woocommerce might not be the best choice.


All platforms have costs associated with them. Which means, if you’re coming out the gate with a new business or product, make sure you can support the cost of an eCommerce platform before you spend the money.

Further reading:

  1. Are Websites Obsolete? Not so fast, some says…
  2. 7 Steps to Start an Online Business
  3. Planning Your Online Business
  4. Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business

Woocomerce vs Shopify



Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business

The second thing to do after planning your online business is to choose a domain name. After that, you need to decide who is going to host your website. Choosing a domain name for your website is critical for the success of your online business. Karol K. writing in Winning WP concurs: “Choosing a domain name is something every website owner needs to ensure they get right — ideally before they do anything else, and ESPECIALLY if the website will be serving a commercial purpose.”

Also important is to get a reliable company to host your website. “It’s crucial to select a hosting provider carefully since your business will depend on it” advised Syed Balkhi in the Huffington Post.

But let us first discuss how to choose a domain name for your business.

How to choose a domain name

It is mostly great fun to search for a domain name. I do it as follow:

  1. I go to a domain name search facility e.g.;
  2. Then I type my first choice domain name to see if it is available;
  3. If the name is already taken, then I try my second choice, and so on;
  4. Once I’ve it the ‘jackpot’ (a domain name that is available), I’ll quickly register and pay for it.

However, there are more structured ways to choose a domain name. Brainstorming is a good way to generate a list of potential domain names. Still, many of us battle to get a name to start with.

If you battle get a domain name to start with, have a look at your mission and vision statements that you’d designed in the planning stage of your online business. For example, if your vision statement is: “We want everybody to wear our garments”; then may be an appropriate domain name. Or if your business’s name is “The Coffee Shop” the is an easy choice.

However, since most of the generic .com domain names are already taken, you need to be more creative. Then it may be a good idea is to choose an unusual, but catchy domain name like

There are several things to consider when you want to choose a domain name for your business:

  1. The size of your domain name. A short domain name is better because users can remember it easier. They are unlikely to misspell your domain name while searching for your business online. The domain name for this website is “ebizplan” which I think is easy to remember and relatively easy to spell.
  2. Consider a domain name that resembles your business. Ideally, customers will be able to guess a domain name from the firm’s name. If this isn’t possible, then find a functional name; a unique name (Yahoo!); or one that expresses an emotion or attitude associated with the brand, person, or mission 1.
  3. Choose a unique name. If you choose a domain name that is too similar than existing domains, you’ll start your business on the back foot. First do a Google search of the domain name you’ve got in mind. You’ll quickly see how many domains have similar names and also if they do similar business than you planned to do.
  4. Choose “.com” first. Dot com (.com) websites are by far the most popular domain extension on the web. “If your number one name choice isn’t available, then try your second choice before accepting other top level domains. Remember that some browsers accept address-only entries in their address bar. If you type just the domain name (and who knows how many of your users will just do that?) they will return, by default, to the ‘.com’ site”, suggest Ogi Djuraskovic and FirstSiteGuide team.

Deciding which company will host your website is the next step after you’ve acquired your domain name.

Choosing a hosting company for your website

Your website needs to reside on a hosting computer somewhere.  Because when you buy website hosting you basically rent server space on a server where your web files will be placed. So whenever somebody will look up for your website by entering your domain, he or she will get directed to your website.

Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a reliable web hosting company to ensure that your website remains safe and accessible all year round. Also, a web hosting company makes it possible for your website to be accessed by everyone on the web.

Syed Balkhi writing for Huffington Post gives the following advice when choosing a web hosting company:

  • Understand the different hosting options available – there are various web hosting options available such as Shared, VPS (Virtual Private Server), Dedicated and Managed Web hosting;
  • Excellent customer support is a must – the internet never sleeps. So, look for a provider that offers excellent customer support;
  • Choose a host with an excellent uptime track record – the hosting provider you choose should take every precaution to ensure maximum uptime;
  • Cost should not be your only consideration – as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” As a business, you cannot afford to experience extended downtime;
  • Ability to scale – as your business grows, your website will tend to generate more traffic. For that reason will the ability to scale be increasingly important.
  • Good reputation is essential – once you have narrowed the list of important features you require, the next step is to find a host with a top-notch reputation.

Now that you’ve a registered domain, and hired a capable web hosting company, you may start thinking of choosing your eCommerce package.


Congratulations! You are now one of at least 330 million registered domains owners on the internet. I’m afraid so say, the easy part is over. From now on it will be guts before glory.

The third step to take when starting an online business is to choose your eCommerce package…

Further reading:

  1. 7 Steps to Start an Online Business
  2. Planning Your Online Business


1 Thomas, L. 2011. The McGraw-Hill 36-hour course: online marketing, McGraw-Hill Education.



7 Steps to Start an Online Business

Having your own online business is a dream that many of the readers of this blog may have. There are however important steps to start an online business that needed to be followed.

Starting an online business, although it operates in a different channel, is not that different from starting a Brick and Mortar business. In both cases you need no do certain things in order to get your business up and running.

The 7 steps to start an online business

Starting a business may be for most people a chaotic and emotional episode. However, if you have a guide to do the right at the right time, the process may be smoother that you think. So, here are the steps:

Step 1: Planning

A Business Plan is a detailed action plan or road map outlining every conceivable aspect of the proposed venture. The plan describes what, how, when, where and why with regard to the new venture. It is thus a structured guideline for achieving your business goals.

Therefore, if you want to start an online shop, you should at least ask the following questions:

  • What kind of products do I want to sell?
  • Are there any competitors that will be selling the same products as me?
  • What should my website look like?

Read more: Planning Your Online Business 

By this time you should already have an idea what your business is about. Also about a name for your business…

Step 2: Register a domain name and choose a hosting company

If you already have the name of your shop, it is time to start setting it up. The first thing to do is to register for a domain name. However, good luck! According to Tek Eye (2017), there were 330 million domains registered for over 1.8 billion websites last year… So I think all the obvious domain names is already taken.

In spite of all the best domain names already been taken, you should try to get a name that can best represent your products or services. Registering a domain name should not cost you more than $10 (R120) for a .com extension. Visit SA Domains to see if a domain name is available.

After getting the domain name, you need to find a good hosting company. Look for a hosting company that has good servers and that will be able to run your online store e.g. Texo Webhosting.

Read more: Choose a Domain Name and Hosting Company for your Online Business 

Step 3: Choose your E-commerce package

You can build your online store through hosted solutions or self-hosted solutions

Hosted solutions:

Many hosted solutions provide a good experience to users with you doing very little on your end. However, when you use a hosted solution, you should be prepared to lose a lot of opportunity for customization.

The following three are among the top solutions:

It’s easy for anyone to set up an e-commerce site with Shopify. Some of the features you will enjoy by setting up a store with them include a custom mobile template, unlimited server bandwidth, SSL security, and a personal app store. You can try it for free for 14 days or choose a package that will suit you. Pricing starts from $14 to $179 (R180 – R2300) per month depending on the features and functionalities you are looking for.

Yahoo! Merchant Solution. The layout of Y!MS is fairly straightforward and can be easily customized. Y!MS ecommerce plans start from $19.98 to $224.96 (R260 – R2925) per month depending on the package and features you need.

BigCommerce is similar to Shopify but has limited features. The website has a clean interface, making it easy for users to sign up. You can easily add users, products, features and take payments online in just a few minutes. BigCommerce pricing ranges from R325 to R3900 a month depending on the features your need.

Self-Hosted Solutions:

If you do not want a hosted solution, you can make your own e-commerce scripts or use other open source or commercial shopping cart scripts.

Zen Cart is a popular open source script that will work in most web hosts. The script is free to download. The only downside of using the script is that your website will feature a “Powered by Zen Cart” message at the bottom.

Magento is another good script you can use for your e-commerce website. The script is written in PHP and is frequently updated. As is the case with Zen Cart, you will feel more comfortable using Magento if you are well-versed with HTML and CSS.

If you are comfortable using WordPress, you can easily set up an ecommerce store using various free and paid plugins. Examples of popular plugins that will enable your WordPress site and have ecommerce capabilities include WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, Cart66, and others.

Read more: Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Web Store

Step 4: Taking Payments Online

Credit cards provide customers with an easy way to make payments at your store. Apart from credit cards, customers may also wish to pay through other methods such as PayPal. You will want to accept payments through the methods that your customers trust and use. To accept credit cards online, you will need a merchant account.

Read more: Starting Your Web Store – How to Receive Payments Online

Step 5: Add Content and Products

After you have set up your domain name, hosting and shopping script, you are ready to start selling online. You now need to add your content and products. From this point onwards, you will also need to do some maintenance and tune your website design to match the needs of your customers.

Indeed, “The quality and relevance of the content of a retailers’ webpages can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce” writes Douw G Steyn recently in Bricks2Clicks.

The next important step is to get the product that your customer has paid for, to its destination.

Step 6: Shipping and Fulfillment

Like a physical retail store, you need to maximize the visitors at your store. However, you cannot simply hand over products over the counter. Also, shoppers expect a seamless shopping experience — no matter where they are, what device they are using, or how they choose to shop. Order Fulfillment – taking the right product, putting it in the right box, shipping it, and gaining the customer’s approval – is a demanding task (Bricks2Clicks).

Step 7: Marketing your online shop

One of the biggest challenges you may face as an e-commerce store owner is generating traffic that converts on your store. There are a number of digital marketing channels that retailers can use in the online channel:

  1. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) consists of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Paid Advertising (e.g. PPC – Pay Per Click advertising).
  2. Content Marketing includes Blogging, e-Mail marketing, e-Books and video marketing.
  3. Social Media Marketing is marketing on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So these are the seven steps to start an online business…


Just as with Brick and Mortar shops, there’s no easy way to just star and make money. If you follow these steps to start an online business, you may soon identify your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats that exist in the marketplace.

Good luck with you new venture!




Living Your Dream – Your Own Business at Last!

Everybody has a dream, a dream to own your own business perhaps? Like Sipho*. Sipho is a South African that grew up with his granny in a corrugated iron shack in Alexandria. Their shack was right next to the affluent city of Sandton. Now let’s learn more about Sipho’s childhood…

Sipho had a difficult childhood. He lost both his parents when he was only ten years old. For that reason his granny took care of him. Many nights Sipho had gone to bed hungry, because his granny’s social grant was too little…

The school that Sipho attended was not far from their shack. However, it was overcrowded and underfunded. He had to attend classes with about 50 learners in rooms fitted for only 30 pupils.  Also, there were not enough textbooks and the teachers were many times not there to teach them.

In spite of Sipho’s dire situation, he was not blind to the wealth and extravagant lifestyles of his neighbours on the other side of the fence. He was dreaming to live and prosper on the other side of the fence…

Sipho is dreaming of having his own business

We’ve heard many times that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the most important sector in most economies. In fact, SMEs are the principle providers of jobs in developed economies. Yet, in developing economies, like South Africa’s, the informal business sector contributes significantly to the GDP. According to South African Market Insights, the size of the informal economy is estimated between 7% and 13%.

Even more, South Africa’s informal sector is supporting 27% of all working people and it provides goods and services to millions of people on a daily basis, according to Natalie Greve in FIN24. In fact, Stats SA has found that almost 70% of people who start an informal business do so because they are unemployed and have no alternative source of income.

Image eBizplan

Getting into the formal business sector

Sipho will probably not enjoy the glitter and riches of the Sandton community by selling loose cigarettes, sweets and small packets of corn chips on busy street corners. He needs to enter the formal business sector which will give him access to venture capital and, if he is lucky, government support.

For Sipho, however, it won’t be easy to enter the formal business sector. Although there may be lots of opportunities in the sector, the costs of starting a business are high. And then there are things like rates and taxes, government’s ‘red tape’; labour issues, political uncertainty and fierce competition.

Sipho will need the all the help he can get, and lots of good fortune to start his own business and cross the fence to Sandton…


There are many people like Sipho in South Africa. They are poor, hungry and desperate. Maybe the answer for them is to join the digital economy. Government and private sector can facilitate access by means of free Wi-Fi at internet cafes near the homes. It is a place where they can get information about ‘starting a business’ and also to join a group on the social networks.

Read also: Home-based business – Important Startup Strategies

Main image: Pixnio


Choosing a Suitable Location for your Retail Store

Choosing a suitable location for your retail store is not an easy task. Indeed, making the wrong choice can be devastating for your business. “There is no ‘right or wrong’ answer when it comes to picking the perfect location. It actually depends upon the type of business you operate and what kinds of consumers you’re looking to attract” according to Portland Community College.

However, there are certain retail principles that apply when a location needs to be chosen.

Principles 1 that apply when choosing a suitable location for your retail store

  1. Adequacy of present market area potential. In other words, how many potential customers are in the market area and what are their purchasing power. Also, will they buy your products?
  2. Customer accessibility. A suitable location for your retail store should have access that is convenient for target market customers. Many products such as snack foods and gasoline are convenience goods, requiring a location close to target customers.
  3. Growth potential. The location must be in an area with a growing population and income rate.
  4. Business interception. A location must be chosen to intercept consumers when they are heading to their traditional retailers. A small retail store near a big department store may guarantee constant human traffic.
  5. Minimising the competition hazard. Current and potential future competitors must be identified and considered. If needed, a location must be considered away from competitors and in a location where competitors cannot intercept customers.
  6. Site economics. An analysis of the available services and characteristics of the site, such as size, shape, ability to carry large and heavy building structures, must be considered.


Where you choose to locate your retail business will have a major impact on everything your shop does. Therefore, the difference between selecting the wrong location and the right site could be the difference between business failure and success.

Read also: Deciding on the Form of Ownership for your New Business


1 University of South Africa, 2009. Practical Merchandising, Only study guide for CRMM02-X, Centre of Business Management, UNISA, Pretoria.



Integrating Online with Offline –One of the Biggest Challenges for Bricks and Mortar Retailers

Integrating online retail with offline retail remains a big challenge for most retailers. Retailers who are for years in business are using technology that is developed for running a physical shop better and making shopping for their customers easier.

A study by Forrester Consulting reported by Internet Retailing found that although 90% of the UK retailers are now doing business online, most of them find it difficult to join their online and offline technology. Yet, only 26% of the retailers interviewed mentioned that their sales are influenced by the online channel.

Technology use by the customers of Bricks and Mortar retailers

Most of the customers of Bricks and Mortar retailers visit the retailer’s website to get information about the inventory in the shop.  And, according to the study by Forrester Consulting, 39% of customers surveyed say they are unlikely or very unlikely to visit a retailer’s store if its website does not provide physical store inventory information.

Only 32% of the retailers that was interviewed offered a function on their websites for customers to view their in-store inventory details.

Customers want shopping convenience

Results of the study indicated that half of all customers cited store pickup options as important or very important to them when shopping online. However,  only a third of retailers today already support store-pickup programs.

The customers interviewed demanded the following:

  • Absolute guarantees that the product is actually available;
  • Rapid picking and notification alerts;
  • Customers want to pay at the point of pickup;
  • Customers want the option to pick their goods up at alternative locations.

Integrating online – customer experience in the digital age

By using their smartphones in the shop, the customers are in power. They use their smartphones to check inventory availability before entering the store. The phones are also use in the store and to research the products that they are interested to buy.

Retailers that integrate online retail with their physical stores need to be masters of their stores and the digital domain.

Image: pixabay