As more people discover the ease and convenience of buying products online, online selling is quickly becoming an excellent way to add additional sales and profits to a company's bottom line.
One of the best-selling products online is coffee, which in 2018 became the leading category in e-commerce sales.
To sell coffee online, though, you have to make sure you have a solid grasp of the coffee industry and an understanding of successful online selling principles that other coffee companies employ.
This article explores how to create an online coffee business.
- How to Sell Coffee Online Quickly and Easily
- Is Selling Coffee Online Profitable?
- Selling Coffee Online: The Final Word
How to Sell Coffee Online Quickly and Easily
Starting an online business selling coffee is a great idea, especially since over 150 million Americans have at least one cup of coffee daily. Coffee is the most popular beverage in the country; however, it has become more than just a drink to jump-start your day.
Coffee consumers are constantly looking for high-quality and specialty coffees that can often only be found online. Here are ten steps to help you make money selling coffee online.
1. Determine Your Customer
If you want to learn how to make money selling coffee online, determine who your ideal customers are.
For example, are you going to offer you coffee only online or will you have a storefront as well? Do you intend to sell your product wholesale to retailers or are you going to follow a strictly direct-to-consumer model? These questions have to be answered before you can set up your online business.
Part of determining your customer is also finding a niche for your own coffee. This means you're filling an unmet need in a segment of the market. Specialty coffee is a high-demand commodity, so you can almost certainly find a niche that needs to be filled.
Identify trends and pain points that coffee customers have by visiting online coffee communities and learning what they need or want from a new coffee product. Understanding the competitive landscape can also help you find holes in the market.
2. Sell Wholesale
If you decide you're going to sell coffee wholesale to retailers, you will need to have access to larger quantities of coffee because grocery stores, cafes, and markets will typically want to place large orders.
They also tend to prefer whole bean coffee because it stays fresher for a longer period of time. It is estimated that coffee shops and other retailers buy anywhere from 50 to 200 pounds of coffee per week, so preparation for that volume is key.
Of course, with wholesale customers, you'll get larger payments less often than with individual customers, so you will want to understand how that model will affect your cash flow. For example, some companies may only order at the beginning of the month, which means you won't get another order from them for at least 30 days.
You may want to set up contracts with retailers to ensure you can count on that money at a specific time each month.
3. Sell Direct-to-Consumer
If you choose to sell coffee using the direct-to-consumer model, you won't have to have access to as much inventory, but you'll want to have a nice selection of coffees from which they can select.
Individual coffee consumers will only buy between 12 ounces and three pounds of coffee at a time. They may want to be able to choose between whole coffee bean and ground coffee. You'll need to decide if you want to offer them that choice.
In the beginning, you may want to focus your online coffee business on a specific product type or style. For instance, maybe you'll only offer organic coffees from a specific region of the world, or you might concentrate on only selling fair-trade coffee.
Perhaps you'll only offer a light and dark roast of a coffee that is of superior quality on your online store? When you focus on your niche, you will be able to nail your branding and marketing.
4. Dropship or Roast?
Next, you need to determine if you're going to dropship your coffee or roast it yourself.
With drop shipping, you do not have to have any inventory on hand because you simply notify a third-party manufacturer of the sale and they package and ship it to your customer from their warehouse.
If you decide to roast, package, and ship your own coffee, you'll need to take time to learn the craft and dedicate more time to the preparation of your product.
To make this decision, you should ask yourself if you are more interested in being hands-on with your product or in the marketing and branding of your product.
If you want to do more than learn how to sell coffee online, roasting your own beans could prove rewarding. If you're just interested in whether you can make money selling coffee online, dropshipping may be a better option.
5. Find a Supplier
Whether you decide to sell wholesale to retailers or to individuals, and whether you decide to dropship or roast your own coffee, you'll need to find a supplier. This is a critical decision because customers are very knowledgeable about their coffee and want to know its origins.
To select your supplier, request samples of their product so you can taste the coffee yourself. Set up some taste tests with potential customers or your friends to determine which supplier is best.
Other factors to consider when selecting a supplier include customer service and price. Your supplier should be available to you when you have questions or need help with an order. Remember that if they treat you well, they will treat your customers well.
As far as price goes, ensure the products are in your price range. You are going to mark up the coffee you sell online, so you don't want it to be overpriced for your customers either.
6. Decide on the Products You're Going to Sell
We touched on this a little bit in the above section, but you must decide how the products you're going to sell will differentiate you from other online coffee sellers.
For instance, are you just going to focus on selling coffee online, or are you going to add other products like baked goods, coffee-related gifts, coffee-infused foods, and branded merchandise, like mugs? Again, it's good to start small, but adding new products as you scale keeps customers curious.
Another thing you may eventually consider is whether to sell coffee machines online. These can be profitable and you might be able to market a specific machine that has proven to enhance the coffee you sell.
If you don't want to keep an inventory of coffee machines or other products on hand, you can always choose to dropship this part of your business and still roast your own coffee. Just be sure to keep your niche in focus as you expand.
7. Develop Your Brand
Once you know all the specifics of the coffee you're going to sell online, you can start working on your brand. This is a key component of selling coffee online.
With all the coffee brands available, you'll need a brand that will help you stand out in a crowd and will resonate with your customers. Find out everything you can about your target audience, including what is important to them so you can emphasize how your product matches their values.
Other aspects of developing your brand include choosing your company's name, selecting your colors and fonts, designing a logo, and finding a slogan.
Make sure your company's name is easy to pronounce, describes your product, and projects the feeling you want your customers to have toward your business.
Your logo, colors, and slogan will appear on all your products, website, and social media, so you want to take the time to create the perfect combination. Make them unique and memorable.
8. Create Your E-Commerce Store
Now you're ready to establish your online coffee website, which is going to be your store, so you definitely want to spend significant time setting this up.
To begin with, you need to have a professional website that will process your customer's orders. This can be difficult to build from scratch, but fortunately, there are third-party e-commerce platforms like Shopify that handle the online sales part of your business for you by securely processing your customers' orders and credit cards.
These platforms have templates that you can use, or you can create your own design, but the nicest part is the hard work of coding has been done for you. Customize your shipping and return policies, terms and conditions, FAQ page, and contact information to personalize your store.
Then, add your products, including photographs and descriptions, to ensure your customers can easily find what they need. Set up shipping and payment options, and you're almost ready to start taking orders!
9. Begin Marketing
It's finally time to let the world know that you're open for business! Social media will be a great place to start getting the word out about your online coffee store.
If you have a potential customer list, send them an email announcing your grand opening and maybe even include a special first-order deal just for them. Use local listing tools such as Google My Business to ensure customers can find you if they search for online coffee stores.
Advertise your store in free online communities and begin creating content for your website and social media pages. Think about what coffee lovers want to learn or know about and create compelling articles, videos, and posts that reflect your brand and messaging.
For instance, if you're focusing on organic coffee, a video showing where your product comes from and how it's cultivated will go a long way in showing customers why your product is a great choice.
10. Nurture Relationships
Once you get a customer base, you'll want to nurture those relationships by reaching out to them on social media and in an email to keep your brand fresh in their minds.
Studies show that small businesses that engage with their customers through various channels are more successful in building trust and loyalty than those who simply process orders. Responding positively to comments online and answering questions promptly do not go unnoticed by potential customers.
Coffee is a highly personal product, as people care very much about a beverage that they spend so much time drinking. You will gain a lot of customers through word of mouth if you can tap into that personal connection consumers have with their coffee.
Stay on top of trends and capitalize on opportunities to tweak your brand as tastes and preferences change. Just be sure those trends are consistent with your brand and messaging.
Is Selling Coffee Online Profitable?
Selling coffee online can absolutely be profitable, especially if you use the tips here to start your business. The market is definitely crowded, but since coffee is so dependent on individual tastes, you can certainly differentiate yourself and establish a customer base.
Coffee fanatics are always looking for new products to try, so if you're the new kid on the block, you have a chance to win over customers by really impressing them with your product and service.
Differentiation is the key to online coffee sales success, and you need to get your differentiation in front of your potential customers.
Tell the story of your coffee and show them why they need your coffee instead of some other store's product. Use the free and inexpensive marketing tools that are available online, especially through social media, to boost your sales and keep your marketing expenses down. This will also improve profit margins.
Selling Coffee Online: The Final Word
Even though there are many online coffee businesses already out there, given how many people love coffee, there is always room for another one, especially if you have an idea for how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Demand for coffee is only increasing, and as more people start shopping online, you have a great opportunity to grab a piece of the e-commerce coffee market and earn a tidy profit for yourself in the process.
Put these tips on how to start an online coffee business into practice, and you'll have a customer base in no time that is clamoring for your products! Remember to start out small and focused, and soon, your online coffee business will be thriving!