Top Four Online Marketplaces


In a space as saturated as the ecommerce platform market, it can be very difficult to decide which virtual sales platform is best suited to your needs. The Catalyst team has made it their mission to review the top four sales platforms that are making it big in South Africa.

[For more info, click on the platform titles in the article to go to their websites]

First of all, a few guidelines for those who wish to start offering their products online:

  • Choose your platform wisely: different platforms cater to different needs, so what works for some may not necessarily work for you; it all depends on what you need the platform to do for you and your clients.
  • Different platforms attract different audiences;
  • Read the website’s business terms and conditions and get to know who you’re dealing with. One of the biggest complaints that online sellers have is not knowing about hidden costs, so make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

Now, without further ado, here are four of the top ecommerce platforms for SA markets…


This is an online store builder, perfect for technically minded people who want to build and customize their own store sites.


  • Sellers have complete control over the look and feel of the website;
  • They offer a 14 day free trial;
  • You can choose from over 100 professional store templates, or build your own design using HTML and CSS, giving complete control over the look and feel of your website, from its domain name to its layout, colours, and content;
  • Shopify provides domains for $9 per year (that’s R 81 at the moment); and
  • You can upgrade or downgrade your account at any time for no charge.


  • Where the other ecommerce platforms have existing clients that move through their websites, startups have to generate their own clientele; and
  • You are completely responsible for your own branding, marketing and customer relations, which can be a good thing!

Conclusion: perfect for virtually any business (small and large-scale).


Having merged with both and Superbalist, Takealot is one of the true ecommerce giants in South Africa. Their website is like a giant market where people search for items, products and brands, rather than stores and specific companies.


  • Takealot has a good reputation;
  • They handle most of the details themselves, and seem to be pretty upfront about what they require from suppliers to sell their product; and
  • Takealot takes care of customer services and product distribution, which can be a positive, since it means as a seller you aren’t responsible for keeping track of client-facing details.


  • As with all online third-party sales, Takealot gets the glory, not the company that supplies them;
  • They do charge certain fees, including for storage, fulfilment, successes, and a monthly subscription;
  • They charge suppliers for product returns (i.e. when clients return products);
  • As a seller, you have little control over how your items get listed and there is virtually no way to generate customer loyalty.

Conclusion: perfect for most supplier companies and manufacturers.


Etsy is an ecommerce website that has been specifically created for people selling handmade or vintage products and supplies. The site is modeled after open craft fairs, giving sellers storefronts that can be personalised where they list their goods.


  • Creating an Etsy account is simple to set up;
  • You don’t need to have a techie bone in your body to get an Etsy shop running;
  • You only need a prototype at first;
  • It’s relatively cheap to get up and running; and
  • Since sellers can personalize their profiles, there is the potential to create brand loyalty.


  • Etsy is a very competitive marketplace;
  • People have been known to steal ideas;
  • The website functions as an Etsy sales store search engine. Since searches on Google rarely feature Etsy stores (unless the store is very popular), sellers are limited to Etsy clients;
  • Etsy takes 3.5% of your sales, and R2.79 per item listed. The website also charges the seller for credit card payments, conversion fees, and PayPal fees;
  • Sellers are responsible for product distribution; and
  • When you are on the Etsy sales store, you’re renting. You don’t own the domain or have control over the website.

Conclusion: perfect for small-scale start-ups, crafters and hobbyists, and when used in conjunction with a separate website/blog.

Based in South Africa, the company purports to be an ideal solution for sellers trying to unload excess inventory. Anyone over the age of 18 can transact on the site, providing they respect the site’s terms and conditions. The aim is to enable small retailers, or even hobby sellers, to reach larger audiences of potential customers, who may be geographically distant.


  • As a company, bidorbuy tends to take a fairly hands-off approach and tends to let buyers and sellers sort out issues between themselves;
  • Their terms and conditions favour protecting the seller;
  • The site reports that up to 20% of people are making a living from selling goods on the site;
  • Product listings can be sold in different ways: as auction items, ‘Buy Now’ items, classified items, and as personal offers to bidders on closed-auction items; and
  • The website hosts a range of resources with step-by-step guides on how to sell.


  • The website requires a lot of fine-print reading, which is good news for sellers who like to know who they’re getting in bed with and to what extent, but can be difficult for sellers who thrive on simplicity; and
  • Items are sold per category and type, not supplier/business, so developing customer loyalty is incredibly difficult.

Conclusion: perfect for manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and small-scale businesses.


Anelia de Waal joined the Fetola team as a Media intern now holds the position of Media Coordinator. She achieved an honours degree in Social Anthropology in 2015. In her spare time, Anelia grows her own vegetables, takes photographs and makes wooden things.