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Is An Online Store Better Than An Actual Shop?

Richard on 31 July 2019
Is An Online Store Better Than An Actual Shop?

For many entrepreneurs today, the decision to open an online shop for their store or open a more traditional, physical shop is not an easy one to make. Both come with different risks, rewards, and challenges. Want to know which one is right for your business? Keep reading to find out.

What Is An Online Store?

Online stores, also known as an ‘e-commerce website’ or ‘webshop’, are very similar to traditional shops. They both sell products and services directly to customers, both require staff and marketing, and both need to be a registered businesses.

The primary difference is that online shopping happens on the internet. That means the costs of opening a store are much cheaper, you can quickly access global customers, and there are no long term rental agreements.

They are also incredibly simple to set up. With locals companies in South Africa like Shopstar as well as international companies like Shopify and Etsy, it’s very easy to build an e-commerce website and get started. Much easier than it is to establish a traditional shop.

Do Business From Anywhere at Any Time.

If your goal is to sell products to people all over the country or even all over the world, choosing online shopping is perfect. With your own e-commerce platform there are no limits to who you can sell to and where you can do business. Want to market to people in America? They can buy from your store right away. This means that you’re able to earn money in Pounds, Dollars and Euros, which is great if you live in South Africa.

Why Not Have Both?

Having a traditional store and an e-commerce website is a great idea. One of the real benefits to a physical retail shop is how easy it is for your customers to see, feel and touch the products you sell before they buy them.

With a webshop, it’s not that simple. For this reason many online stores have a 30-day return policy, allowing customers to buy, try and return a product if they are not happy. Many of the most successful small businesses in South Africa combine a traditional shop with an online shop to reach new customers, became a respected business in their area, and grow their company.

The question you need to ask yourself is: Can you afford to divide your attention between the two? Running both an online shop and normal store takes a lot of work.

Okay, Okay. But What About The Costs?

While we can’t tell you the exact cost of running an online store versus a traditional shop, we can give you an idea of how much you might spend on rent and what you would need to spend money on.


According to this article in BusinessTech, rent for a traditional shop in a shopping mall can cost anywhere between R250 to R500 per square metre. So very quickly you can find yourself paying a lot of money every month for renting shop space. While according to Shopstar, the maximum you will pay to own your e-commerce website is R1050.00 per month. Already making an online store much more cost effective.


Do you need staff for a webshop? Maybe. But you can also run it all by yourself. Because every business is different the number of staff members you might need will depend on the store you run and how successful it is. In the beginning you may have to do all the work, but very soon you could have a team of people working for you.


The difference between stocking a webshop and a traditional shop is very small. Both rely heavily on supply-chain management and negotiating with your supplier. However, with an online store you’re already saving money on rent, so having a warehouse or storage space is much more affordable.


Worried about how you’ll deliver your products to customers? You can do it yourself, but that would take up a lot of your time. Instead, think about partnering with or using a courier company for local and international shipping. From The Courier Guy to Dawn Wing, and many more options there are great people to work with. Some companies, like Shopstar, even have selected partners for you to choose from already.

Overall: Is An Online Store Better?

Around the world retail is quickly moving to online shopping because it’s the easiest, fastest and trendiest way to reach customers and make a sale.

However, just because everyone can open an online store, doesn’t mean that having a webshop is right for your business. The best e-commerce websites do really well because they make it convenient for people to do their shopping from wherever they are.

To give you an idea of what online stores work well, here is a list of the businesses and services we think are perfect for an e-commerce website:

  • Fashion store
  • Shoe Shop
  • Art gallery
  • Cleaning company
  • Furniture store
  • Builders equipment and tool hire
  • Skilled labour
  • Writer
  • Graphic designer
  • Social media manager
  • Accessories (watches, belts) brand
  • Beauty products
  • Jewellery store

Remember, this is just a small selection of businesses already running stores online. The opportunities are almost limitless!

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