BENIMBLE eCommerce

price of starting online store in south africa

How much does it really cost to start an online store in South Africa?

Starting an online business in South Africa can be a tricky minefield. There is an incredible amount of opportunity to make money online in South Africa today. It’s never been easier and cheaper to start an online store in SA than right now.

But there are so many online ecommerce platforms available, how do you choose which one is the best for you?

Let’s look at what it costs to build an online store yourself in South Africa

What does it cost to start your own online store in South Africa?

There are two main costs to consider when deciding on which online eCommerce platform you are going to use in SA. Firstly the setup cost and secondly the monthly maintenance cost. We will look at the real cost of starting your own store by looking at the leading platforms in South Africa currently by market share:

These 3 represent almost 80% of the ecommerce platforms used in SA currently. In order to make an informed decision you need to compare apples with apples. We are going to break what you need to start an online shop in South Africa down into 3 parts:

  • The Platform or Software that runs the shop
  • Web Hosting (Where the website lives)
  • Transaction fees

In order to compare online selling platforms you need to combine all three of those costs together to get the true cost of starting an online store in South Africa. Below is the table of entry-level costs for the 3 major platforms you can use to build your online store in South Africa:

BENIMBLE eCommerce Platform
Monthly Cost: R299
Transaction Cost: R0
Monthly Cost: R522 ($29)
Transaction Cost: 2% per transaction
Monthly Cost(Hosting): R241 ($15.99 GoDaddy)
Transaction Cost: R0

So on face value BENIMBLE eCommerce looks like the most cost effective way to start an online store in South Africa with Shopify the most expensive. But that is not necessarily the case.

Hidden costs: The real cost to consider when starting an online shop in South Africa

A lot of South Africans choose WooCommerce or Shopify to build their online shop because it is such well known platforms. There are, however some hidden costs that you may not be aware of when building your online store with WooCommerce ot Shopify.Lets take a look at the costs that no one tells you about.

Your time is worth a lot!

WooCommerce on Wordpress

To illustrate the hidden costs of using WooCommerce, it’s important to know how WordPress and WooCommerce works. WooCommerce is an open source eCommerce platform that runs on the WordPress framework. Both WordPress and WooCommerce are free to use but free does come with a price. Unfortunately, WordPress and WooCommerce is not an out of the box solution. It’s not as simple as plug and play. You will need technical skills, or at least you will have to learn these technical skills. This can take a lot of your time.

Building a website with WordPress and an online shop with WooCommerce is a steep learning curve. If you have the technical knowhow, you can build an online shop fairly quickly. If you don’t, it’s going to take time, patience and a LOT of trial and error to build an online store that you can use to start selling online. Spending this amount of time on building your online store and not getting sales, is lost revenue. Not many business owners take this into account, but the first hidden cost of using WooCommerce is the cost of your time.

The second cost to consider is the domain registration fee which is about R250. To give credibility to your store you will need to buy your .co.za domain.


The first cost that is not included in your Shopify plan that many people miss is the credit card processing fee. It doesn't matter what payment processor you use, they all charge a processing fee to use their service. This can vary from just below 3% to well over 5% depending on which payment gateway you use. This is important to know when using Shopify because depending on which plan you’re on, Shopify will take their transaction fee AND your payment gateway will take theirs. To give you a practical example of how this works, I’m going to use Payfast as the payment gateway to show you how this works. Payfast charges 3.5% plus R2 (ex VAT) for every credit card transaction they process.

Transaction Amount R100 R500 R1000 R10000
Shopify Basic Fee (2%) R2.00 R10.00 R20.00 R200
Payfast Fee (3.5% + R2) R5.50 R19.50 R37.00 R352
Total Transaction Fee: R7.50 R29.50 R57.00 R552.00

The second cost to consider here is also the domain registration fee which is about R250. To give credibility to your store you will need to buy your .co.za domain.

BENIMBLE eCommerce

Because the BENIMBLE approach differs from both Shopify and WooCommerce (because they are structured for the South African market), they do not charge a Transaction fee, and with your registration you get a free .co.za domain should you require it. This is because hidden fees are not part of their model and there are no 3rd party apps that need to make money as their whole ecosystem is self contained.

The cost of Premium themes and plugins

We are going to combine the next two hidden costs together. Even though they have different functions in your online store, you’re probably going to need to buy a premium theme and plugins for your WordPress website and Shopify store. The WordPress ecosystem runs on 3rd party developers to keep all the WordPress themes and plugins updated, and to create new ones. If you run outdated themes or plugins on your WordPress website, they turn into major security risks. At best they become incompatible with newer versions of WordPress, at worst they allow hackers to get access to your website. Just like you, these developers aren’t that excited to work for free. It costs time and resources to keep these themes and plugins updated.

You may be able to find many themes and plugins that are free to use but over time they tend to become neglected by the developers who created them and they slowly become outdated.

With Shopify, although the basics is included in your store, if you want to add functionality you will probably have to buy it from Shopify 3rd party developers. This is for add ons like Size charts etc or themes. Because both Shopify and WooCommerce are priced in dollars you also have no certainty as to the exact cost as this is linked to the Dollar-Rand exchange rate, and we all know how that goes!

BENIMBLE bundles their add-ons and themes straight on their packages for free. There is no add on costs to use them, and as your store grows you can add them and remove them as needed. They are constantly adding themes and extensions, and they keep them up to date as part of the commerce platform.

When it comes to hidden costs, WooCommerce and Shopify are both the losers here.
BENIMBLE eCommerce platform leader in south africa

Who is the cheapest online shopping platforms in South Africa?

When looking at online shopping platforms in South Africa, the cost of setting up and running your online store should be at the top of your mind. But without taking into consideration the hidden costs, you will be duped into using platforms that only want your money, and the value returned does not match it. For people who are looking for an ecommerce solution in South Africa, that is not going to take a lot of time and technical know how to set up or cost you an arm and a leg, then BENIMBLE eCommerce is the most cost effective way to start selling online in South Africa.