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Agency takes SA products to global EC market

by Herman Manson (@marklives) The incredible uptake of ecommerce means we need to find new, relevant ways of developing brands. Michael van den Heerik is doing just that through his ebranding-solutions agency, Web Wiser (, with which he intends launching South African — and African — brands into the global e-tailing space through conversion-based marketing.

Michael van den HeerikNew brands should be developed and marketed with online business in mind and should be SEO-worthy. Van den Heerik points to Black Insomnia as a case study in launching a SA product and brand onto the global stage. The coffee company was founded by Sean Kristafor and is in the process of being sold to a venture capital group in the UK; Van den Heerik was its CMO and ecommerce and operations officer. Positioned as “the world’s strongest coffee”, the product has become a best-seller on and has spawned a host of copycat brands. At one stage, it was shipping two tons of coffee a day to the US. (The brand had been in a holding phase over the past year as Kristafor is currently recovering from a serious medical incident in May 2017.)

“As Alex Bogusky once said, to be able to deliver the best-possible outcome, you will need to have an affinity with the brand and its products,” says Van den Heerik when asked what key factors should be considered when taking on a local brand to launch internationally. “Combine this with a solid idea and realistic expectations or budgets and we’re in business.”

Playroom start started out of the playroom of Van den Heerik’s house in Somerset West, Western Cape. The agency grew quickly and, despite moving to a proper office space, has had to relocate again, having run out of space for new staff. It employs 12 people and also has access to partners in the US, Europe and India.

Specialities include online marketing and web development, creative business solutions, app development, website design, design, social media marketing, and PPC marketing.

Its client list includes a coffee brand for the Rwandan government;, a dog nutrition brand out of Johannesburg just launched in SA and launching soon in the US;, a social media platform for golfers; and Cipla, the pharmaceuticals company.

Brand equity

In some instances, Web Wiser has taken equity in the brands it is building; currently it’s invested in four different businesses. It allows for a much deeper relationship, says Van den Heerik, and allows the agency to be deeply involved all the way down to selecting and ordering product colours and deciding where to sell.

Van den Heerik says, in his experience, SA ecommerce product brands generate R125 000–R150 000 a month in turnover this country. To scale up, they need to think and go global. Clients only need to develop the product; will do all the rest, from branding and marketing to incorporating a business in the US, logistics and pricing. It will even hire, train and manage staff on the ground if required. “We deliver whatever it takes to start, build and maintain an ongoing relationship between brands and their customers,” the website promises.

Editorial marketing starts up to two months before a brand is launched into a new market by targeting relevant bloggers with ads well before they receive the official press release or interview invite.

Great test market

SA is a great test market for ecommerce savvy product brands. It has a westernised economy and is multicultural, with a sizable ecommerce market. “Ecommerce is growing double-digits on every continent, with us being located in the middle of the global timezones and having an abundance of native-speaking resources, combined with a growing digital infrastructure we’re confident that business will continue to grow,” says Van den Heerik. “Africa has woken up to ecommerce and it is exciting how SMEs in Africa now can create global e-brands.”

Case study

Supplied by

Black Insomnia Coffee

Black Insomnia Coffee adThe global coffee market is one of the most-competitive consumer markets. When was asked to launch Black Insomnia Coffee, it developed a strategy that would reboot the entire market. Launched in South Africa on 8 July 2016, Black Insomnia Coffee was founded on a platform of the latest marketing technology that developed in to a highly intuitive dynamic remarketing campaign with an unheard of 11.8% conversion rate.

Delivering a 360º ecommerce platform solution, Web Wiser took the brand global three months after the initial launch. In March 2017, Black Insomnia was ready to take on the world’s biggest market, the US. Using a combination of dynamic pixel-tracking technology, predictive product placement software and an integrated online PR campaign, over 60m users were reached. An order rate of 30 orders per minute, with an average order value of US$39.74, made it the second- largest global craft coffee overnight.

Starting with a dedicated, dynamic targeting, social media campaign focused on key influencers, a PR campaign was then rolled out targeting relevant media. Using the ‘EST’ “The World’s Strongest Coffee”, a media influencer campaign was created that had enough ‘stickiness’ to get the desired media exposure in the US morning news broadcast programmes. By analysing the online behaviour of the consumer target market using dynamic pixel tracking technology, Web Wiser identified this that time had the highest conversion rate.

After the initial engagement with the consumers, a conversion rate of over 11.8% was reached. Using a Shopify-integrated Amazon Multi Channel Fulfilment solution, Web Wiser managed a total order value of around R1 800 000 per week, offering a range of standard, two-day and overnight delivery throughout the US and Canada at the most-competitive rates.

Using its own developed technologies such as predictive product placement and value maximizer, it managed to keep the conversion rate between 10% and 11% of the total visitors. By ensuring that the consumer has a positive experience, combined with event- and behavioural-triggered email scenario marketing, it not only ensured that there was a sustainable base of return visitors but also created true brand ambassadors that are engaging, defending and promoting the brand in their digital hemisphere.

For Black Insomnia, Web Wiser has delivered a 360º ecommerce solution, from e-branding to incorporating global offices, distribution and fulfilment solutions and trusted payment and finance solutions, through its preferred solution-provider agreements with payPal, Silicon Valley Bank and Shopify+. Using a four-step continuous circle, it has developed a self-funding and continuously growing digital marketing platform that will develop a long-term, sustainable business model:

  1. Chase

Using integrated pixel technology throughout all its digital domains, channels and communication, it actively grows the number of potential customers in its database. As the success rate increases, Web Wiser grows the ‘lookalike’ audiences of its existing base to an ever-growing base of potential customers.

  1. Analyse

Starting with the obvious low-hanging fruit to have the best conversion opportunity, it grows its audience and, by continuously analysing that growing audience for their online behaviour, it continuously keeps track of the needs, requirements and optimised conversion points of the audience.

  1. Optimise

Understanding when conversion happens and when customers are abandoning or bouncing, the efficiency of the targeted media and content is grown. This way, Web Wiser always stays current and grows the effectiveness of the online marketing spend. The above-average conversion rate then allows one to further invest in online marketing which then grows audience again.

  1. Drive

The optimised user experience (UX) will create loyalty and brand salience. From there, a base is quickly developed on which peer-to-peer recommendations and positive reviews can be driven, which further grow direct and organic traffic.

Herman Manson 2017Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of

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Agency takes SA products to global EC market


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