Pre-Covid eCommerce in South Africa

Perspectives from Online Store Founders.

eCommerce Growth 


In 2013 I was introduced to in the early days of WooCommerce and have used it regularly ever since. The tool allows you to track the growth of website tools using web scraping. From cross referencing data is the best around for understanding of what tools are powering the web. We run reports on a regular cadence and since lockdown we've been running them more regularly to gather these insights. For the following sections we are looking at growth in terms of the number of businesses using eCommerce platforms. This is one of many different ways to look at growth. A more comprehensive view would also look at the amount of transactional volume that these stores are doing and more closely examine the churn rate (how many survive) over time.

2016 to Current Growth

Looking at the number of sites using eCommerce platforms, South Africa is growing faster than the US and most European markets at between 40%- 55% year on year. South Africa has more online stores than the rest of Africa combined, this won't be true by the end of the year as markets like Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt are growing even more aggressively. Depending how you look at the size of the eCommerce market in South Africa it will rank between 12th and 17th in the world. In terms of number of sites it's similar to that of New Zealand or Singapore.

2016 to Current by Platform

Looking at specific eCommerce platforms WooCommerce is leading the way by a long shot. However, we estimate that only about 55% of WooCommerce sites are selling online. Across the board eCommerce platforms are growing but it's WooCommerce, Shopify, Wix and Ecwid that stand out amongst the pack as the current leaders. Again if we were to look at this growth by transactional volume it would look much different. Magento has under 1k sites but it's very likely that they are the leaders in transactional volume as they power many of the South Africa's largest online stores. Similarly while WooCommerce has more than 6x the number of Shopify stores I suspect that Shopify represents close to the same amount of transactional volume. Businesses paying the $29 (and up) a month for an online store are more advanced merchants.

eCommerce Growth in 2020

As lockdown ensued you can start to see the sharp increase in eCommerce growth in 2020. Six months in and South Africa has already added as many online stores as in were added in the whole of 2019. 

August 2020 online store breakdown

As you can see the majority of the online stores launched in June chose WooCommerce, but Shopify and Wix are growing quicker.

August 2019 to August 2020

Comparing the YoY (year on year) growth of June 2019 to June 2020 it's incredible to see the impact of Covid-19 with a 306% change.


Collectively South Africa has over 54k online stores. Here's the full breakdown of the platforms, including the amount of stores added in June 2020. Below we share a link to a migration report we've put together which looks at the movement between platforms in the past year. 

Stores by Category

We looked at over 500 stores (20% of stores that launched in June 2020) to gain some insights into which categories make up the bulk of stores. Below we highlight 8 categories and trends that we've spotted. Click on the icons to read more about the categories and to see some examples of newly launched businesses.