Cape Town e-commerce store building platform Shopstar is seeing growth rates of up to 30 per cent each month, and now supports around 2,000 shops with a combined turnover of close to ZAR10 million (US$900,000) to date.
Shopstar allows anyone to create and manage their own online store. It has built e-commerce stores for the likes of SUPER Glasses, Kin and Dear Rae, and Disrupt Africa reported in January the company was one of 13 startups selected to take part in high growth investment company Knife Capital’s Grindstone accelerator programme.
Jens Herf, founder and managing director, told Disrupt Africa the company is seeing strong growth and plans to expand outside of South Africa, predominantly in emerging markets. It is looking to raise funding by the end of the year.
The startup’s ambitious plans are framed against the successes of 2014, which saw Shopstar receive an investment offer at SparkUp! Live, take part in Seedstars World and Get in the Ring, become one of three winners at the 2014 Tech4Africa IBM SmartCamp, and named among the finalists at the PwC Vision to Reality Awards.
It also rolled out a number of new functionalities, with more planned for the next few months.
“This year Shopstar will focus on the integration of the trust architectures. The objective of these developments is to create trust amongst stores and customers, and to create a better buying experience for our shops customers, in store and online,” Herf said.
The startup targets SMEs that sell products, and helps bring them into the e-commerce era with no hassle and at an affordable price.
“Current trends are showing that e-commerce is actually only an optimisation of commerce,” Herf said.
“For small guys to survive amongst the noise out there, it is important that they build communities around their brands. Those shops who have pop-up stores and a physical presence are doing well. Shoppers are looking for authenticity, and a more personalised approach.”
Herf said the startup believed it was important to look at how online and offline retail can be combined.
“We see a very big growth in the smaller merchants where they are able to increase their current sales through clever use of e-commerce,” he said.
He said Shopstar was fast becoming one of the more recognised players in the industry, with plenty of opportunities to expand outside of South Africa in the future and take advantage of the growth of e-commerce.
The platform allows those creating e-commerce stores to do so without the need for design skills, and choose whether or not to take advantage of the Shopstar logistics solution. Payment gateways PayPal and PayFast are accepted, while Shopstar also allows clients to set up an electronic funds transfer (EFT) option to receive payments.
The company charges no setup fee, but operates on a pay-as-you-go system after a free 30-day trial. Users are required to purchase credit, with credit then deducted on a monthly basis depending on the package. Clients can cancel at anytime.
Herf said Shopstar has a big role to play in the growth of South African e-commerce because it has works very closely with its clients.
“This has allowed us to understand that the growth of e-commerce for smaller businesses is not so much about teaching people about shopping online, but rather building tools which will assist the shopper in a better buying experience,” he said.
“By building technology to facilitate this we are providing smaller retailers with a product which assist them in embracing commerce online and offline more effectively. This leads to more and more retailers setting up with and selling through Shopstar – generating growth in the e-commerce space.”