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Heavy Chef Event: E-Commerce Essentials

Event: E-commerce Essentials


  • Warrick Kernes, CEO, Insaka Academy
  • Nalisha Pillay, GM of KOODOO
  • Fred Roed, CEO and Founder, Heavy Chef (MC)

This event was held on 18 August 2022, 6pm-7:30pm, Workshop17 Sandton, JHB

Hybrid Event: Live On Stage, In-Person And Livestream.

Have website will sell, right? Not so fast, warned the speakers at the Heavy Chef E-commerce Basics event in Johannesburg last night. It turns out that in e-commerce, as in bricks-and-mortar selling, knowing, respecting and delighting your customers are the keys to success.

The 30 entrepreneurs who came to Workshop 17 and the 35 who joined the livestream were thoroughly entertained and educated by Nalisha Pillay, GM of KOODOO, and Warrick Kernes, founder of the specialist e-commerce training academy Insaka. As always, Heavy Chef CEO Fed Roed kept the conversation flowing.

Nalisha’s company is the sole distributor of Sony PlayStation products in South Africa, which sounds like the golden key to e-commerce success. She had a different story to tell, however.  When the KOODOO website first went live, an entire week went by without a single sale. “Building the website was not the biggest job; winning customers’ trust was. They did not know us and had no reason to trust us,” said Nalisha. So the team went offline, attending shows to meet gamers and getting them comfortable with KOODOO. They also put a lot of effort into humanising the website: instead of a bot, customers talk to a real person in real time, and when you call the number on the site, an actual person picks up and answers all your questions.

This level of customer service, product advice and engagement is what allows entrepreneurs to compete with the Takealots (and soon Amazons) of the world, said Warrick. It is also the reason he recommends a focused approach, instead of starting with a variety of products to see what sells. “When you specialise, customers will choose you because you can answer their questions and give them a fantastic service experience. That’s how you build an army of raving fans that will support you forever.”

Do you build your site now, or wait until your product is ready? This was the question that won Thulare Matlaba, owner of the clothing brand Makepsi, the Heavy Chef hamper for the evening’s best question. Always build it now, agreed Nalisha and Warrick. When your product arrives, you’ll be too busy getting sales to build the website, and a website is always a work in progress in any event. As far as SEO goes, age influences ratings, so the sooner your site is up, the better. And the site doesn’t have to be idle while you wait for product: invite people to pre-order, ask them to opt in on the waiting list, or get them to sign up to your mailing list so they can be the first to know. These are all great ways to create hype, while building a database and getting SEO results.

Among the factors that drive success, the two experts mentioned getting your website up and running in the shortest time possible (WooCommerce and Shopify are the only platforms South African start-ups should consider); choosing an industry you know so that you know what customers want and where to connect with them; finding ways to create exciting experiences online the same way you would do in a physical store; and, depending on your product, creating an omnichannel experience that enables webrooming and showrooming. 

And never neglect your email database. “It’s the only digital asset you can own, and it gives you longevity in the digital space,” said Warrick. Nalisha added: “Your email database is gold because it’s people who gave you permission to contact them and who are interested in what you’re selling.”

You can watch the full livestream here: 

In addition to excellent information and networking, Joburg’s entrepreneurs were treated to eats from Grumpy Snacks and drinks supplied by Backsberg, Sir Fruit and Goodleaf CBD. A huge Heavy Chef thank you also goes to the other partners that ensured the evening’s success: PayFast and Xero, Capitalise, Whipping The Cat, xneelo, Workshop 17 and Black Maverick.

Event Details

  • Thursday 18 Aug, 6pm-7:30pm
  • Start Time: 6pm South Africa Time / Central Africa Time (Sharp!) 
  • Venue: Workshop17 Sandton, 138 West St, Sandown, Sandton, 2031.
  • Parking is available across the street from the venue, at the Sandton City parking precinct.

Heavy Chef events are brought to you by Xero and PayFast.

Support is provided by Howler, Workshop17, Creed Living, Sir Fruit, Goodleaf and Backsberg.

Heavy Chef is proud partners with xneelo, Digital Planet, We Grow SA, HP Store, Capitalise, Parcel Ninja and Global Citizen.