How to trade online without a website

Online shopping is now a reality. Take your business to the e-marketplace and your customers will be banging on your virtual door. The best part is you don't have to have a website yet.

Black women sitting on a bench outside busy shopping online.
By Brendon Williamson

According to market researchers World Wide Worx, online retailing in South Africa will exceed R20 billion – especially now that the coronavirus has impacted foot traffic and sales.

It is now important that an e-commerce website should sit on every business agenda. But the truth is that building a website, especially one that’s well designed, will take a certain level of investment and technical knowledge if you want to do it properly. However, there are other ways to get started as a small business.

Here’s how you can get your business started with these five, simple solutions: 


Facebook is the biggest social media site in the world with 2.23 billion active monthly users of which 21 million are based in South Africa. Instagram is another excellent platform, which currently has one billion active monthly users and rising, with 6.6 million South African users. Each of these platforms require slightly different ways of approaching sales.

You can create a Facebook Business Page and sell items through the accessible Facebook Shop. The application allows you to list products and costs, connect payments, and even send invoices through Facebook Messenger. The Facebook Buy Now/ Pay Now button can be integrated with well-known South African payment gateways. In this way, your customers can use trusted services that build their confidence in your business and its ability to deliver.

Selling on Instagram is a bit tougher as you can’t add separate links to photos, which makes it harder for shoppers to find each product on their own before they can pay for it. But there are walkarounds to this problem, a quick Google search will help you out. If you have 10 000 followers, you can include links in Instagram story adverts. Last year, Instagram also introduced shoppable posts that lets you sell directly from posts. Businesses apply for this feature.

South Africa’s leading local payment service providers can support Facebook and Instagram payments using an Ecwid ecommerce shopping cart integration – Ecwid will help you set this up and connect it to your accounts which makes it a very quick and easy route to market. 


Takealot, Zando and Superbalist are some of South Africa’s prominent e-marketplaces and offer a space for all kinds of products, services and sales. One of the biggest advantages of using one of these platforms to build your brand and business is that they handle all the showcasing and marketing of your products, manage the payments, handle your online security, and ensure efficient product delivery. In exchange, business owners will pay the marketplace a commission on your sales.

But something that is important to consider before you start using an e-marketplace is that you will have to opt into the payment gateways and payment methods they have on offer. You will have to use those as part of your agreement to sell using their stores, even if they’re not your first choice, since transaction fees differ.


Did you know that you can use a free one-page website from an e-commerce shopping card provider, like Ecwid, to sell your products? It will be very minimalistic but it will immediately put your business on the internet and help you generate sales. You can use these one-page shopping carts to add products, connect your payment and shipping methods, and even implement some basic branding.

If you use Ecwid, you can set up your own domain name. You can do the same with Shopify using one of their basic pricing plans. Just remember to set aside time to figure out how the system works. It’s never as quick as one click.  


A nice way of building community and customer engagement is to start your own blog on a platform like WordPress. Setting it up does require, as with the one-page websites above, a measure of patience and a dollop of time. There will be things you’ll need to troubleshoot and adjust as you go. But, fortunately, there are tons of WordPress walkthroughs on the internet that can help you with almost everything. Then, once you’ve started a blog, you can build reader excitement, talking about your offers and your products. Once you’ve got a market ready to go, you can use a plugin called WooCommerce to start selling.

If you build a blog on a different platform, be sure to check that you will be able to add e-commerce functionality and integrate with local payment gateways. If it can only support international payment rails, you might also need to pay higher transaction fees than with local payment offerings. 


Today, it is now also possible to send your customers an electronic invoice for payment without needing any kind of e-commerce website or online presence. There are some amazing e-invoicing payment options available from local payment service providers that allow you to create a bill that you can then email to your customer.

When they click on the payment link in their emailed invoice, they will be taken to a secure payment page where they can opt into paying via their preferred method such as credit card, Instant EFT, MasterPass, Visa Checkout or Scode.

Times continue to change as rapidly as people’s minds and technology innovation. You need to go where your customers are. Use the platforms that your customers use. Your business dream is right there, within reach. Go and get it. 

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About the Author

Brendon Williamson is the Chief Sales Officer at DPO South Africa.

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