Are you getting lost in search results or the thousands of social media posts hitting the newsfeeds?
Getting frustrated because your coffee eCommerce platform looks like just another one of the thousands of websites that try to sell coffee in a saturated market?
Coffee shops, subscription services, and eCommerce platforms are delivering better content to more discriminating customers every day, and this is forcing newcomers to raise their game.
If you don’t have a multimillion-dollar advertising budget, you can still stand out from the pack and command your share of a rapidly growing market.
We’ve analyzed the data and identified an apparent factor that sets thriving eCommerce platforms apart from those that never make a sale.
Table of Contents
- 1. Create a Compelling Physical Presence
- 2. Eye Grabbing Shared Space and Concepts
- 3. Word of Mouth Marketing
- 4. Community Outreach
- 5. Use Social Media Influencers
- 6. Build Real Online Presence
- 7. Build a Facebook Business Page
- 8. Create YouTube Content
- 9. Paid Advertisements
- You Don’t Need a Super Bowl Ad to Find New Customers
The advertising your coffee subscription service and eCommerce platform deliver to customers needs to engage and motivate them to refer their friends and families to your content and products.
This is a challenging task that can be accomplished without spending that much money.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
As Starbucks opened new stores on every street in every major metro area in the world, it was only spending $88 million a year in advertising.
That’s a fortune to a small coffee eCommerce store, but it’s nothing when you compare it to the multibillion-dollar advertising budgets of similarly sized companies.
Why didn’t they spend more?
According to a top marketing executive at Starbucks, coffee shops are different than car companies when it comes to creating effective advertising.
Coffee customers share a special relationship between them “and that barista behind the bar, we haven’t been able to conceive of a way for TV advertising to repeat that, to capture the heart and soul of the company.”
We’re going to talk about the ten ways you can share your business’s heart and soul with potential customers and build relationships with them, even before they order their first shipment from your coffee eCommerce platform.
Here are ten highly successful approaches that drive great results.
1. Create a Compelling Physical Presence
eCommerce sites can have a compelling physical presence in their local communities.
If you want to drive sales, boost coffee subscriptions, and make yourself a destination for motivated buyers, physically connect with your customers and help them emotionally invest in your products.
You can build a strong local presence for less than $100.00 a month with two easy steps.
Go to Local Events
Go to where your customers are! Almost everyone drinks coffee and establishing a professional display at high-density events can generate impulse sales and recurring subscription sales.
Worldwide reach, thanks to a robust, optimized website is no excuse for ignoring local spending, combined with the impact local supporters can have on building your business.
The cheapest way to run circles around your online competitors is to compete with them where they aren’t — your town.
Go to local sports fields and public parks on Saturday morning and sell coffee to parents as they watch their kids play football, rugby, or cricket.
Sponsor a local book store’s reading circle, host a tap-takeover at an independent coffee shop, and set up a display at a local school’s talent show.
The effort you will need to invest to get permission will pay big dividends because you are likely going to be the only game in town and will have the undivided attention of a captive audience.
Something is wrong if the kid on the street selling lemonade has a better local presence than your eCommerce platform.
Having a worldwide reach is no excuse for ignoring domestic spending and the enormous effect local customers can have on building your online presence.
The cheapest way to compete with big box eCommerce platforms is by sponsoring local events.
Book clubs, farmer’s markets, and tap-takeovers of independent coffee shops are all inexpensive ways to establish a personal relationship with your customers.
Making these events a regular part of your advertising plan will keep healthy relationships.
Work With the Small Business Community
Ask your local Small Business Association or Chamber of Commerce what you can do to sponsor a business’ grand opening, membership drive, or monthly meeting.
When the event happens, bring your best products and friendliest employees.
Win over the people drinking your products and offer steep discounts on coffee delivery subscriptions for local businesses.
These volume buyers can create downstream sales by introducing their employees and customers to your product while they are pumping revenue into your business.
Great design triggers an emotional response in your clients’ minds and encourages them to buy your products. Search engine optimized websites can get customers to visit your site once, but mind-blowing content, hip multimedia, and an artistic set of recent photos keep them returning.
Physical storefronts are too expensive for eCommerce sites, and they do not serve their business model. You can still leverage retail space by entering into cooperative agreements with local businesses in your target market.
Shared space concepts are growing in popularity where commercial real estate markets are hot. Find out where these common space concepts are and strike up a deal to get a display in their store.
Why does physical presence matter for an eCommerce or coffee subscription service?
Barista Magazine’s recently conducted survey found that roughly half of all coffee consumers first discovered their favorite coffee shop by physically seeing a sign, product on a shelf, or being told about it from someone they trust.
The same survey found that superior tasting product is what kept them coming back for more coffee.
You need to build a physical presence in front of your target audience to encourage them to buy your goods. It will drive sales and indirectly increase website traffic.
San Diego’s Simply Local is an excellent example of a business you need to partner with.
It offers small, local businesses retail floor space in one of San Diego’s hottest growing neighborhoods.
Small business owners, including a coffee roaster, rent shelf space and maintain attractive product displays.
These vendors are benefiting from high foot traffic, efficient horizontal integration, and boosted brand recognition without the burdens of a long-term lease or large inventory obligations.
Horizontally Integrate With Complimentary Industries
Do you know what coffee is good for? Everything.
It is one of the most versatile ingredients for foods, desserts, candles, and even soaps.
The online coffee distribution market is full of people trying to sell coffee to drink, but few people are pursuing opportunities with local bakers, chefs, candlemakers, brewers, and other small businesses.
Reach out to these small business owners and offer them free or heavily discounted coffee on the condition that they include it in a signature, limited run recipe or product.
A [your brand] milk stout from the microbrewery down the street, [your brand] scented candle, or [your brand] tiramisu boosts your brand recognition and encourages customers to associate your brand name with positive memories and different applications.
A previous gift of $100 with of coffee can get a lot of desserts into peoples’ hands.
3. Word of Mouth Marketing
You need to be your business’ best advocate.
Be enthusiastic and sell your customers on your dream when you’re speaking to them.
Bring the subject up naturally and let them sense your excitement, passion, and intimate knowledge of the field of coffee and eCommerce.
The advantage you have as a coffee subscription box owner or eCommerce vendor is enormous.
You sell a product people immediately relate to and understand and have a level of expertise on a technical subject that small business owners desperately want to master.
Don’t be afraid to speak to businesses and people about how you are not only selling excellent coffee, but building a profound online presence that integrates Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and SnapChat.
If you establish yourself as a subject matter expert on web technology, eCommerce, and development, people will build better relationships with you, and that will translate to sales.
Here are a few other easy, inexpensive ways to create word of mouth marketing.
Send Follow Up Notes
Imagine the excitement your customers would experience when they order a pound of coffee from your website, and along with their electronic receipt, they get a link to an Instagram photo showing your happy employees bagging or packaging their order.
Your company is owned and staffed by real people who care about the business, let your customers see that.
Services like Constant Contact can be used to encourage repeat sales.
Thirty or sixty days after their first purchase, a customer should get an automated message via e-mail or SnapChat with an artistic picture of your product and an invitation to re-order.
The pictures should pop, be aesthetically pleasing, and inspire action.
You have worldwide reach, so send photos of gorgeously crafted coffee cups, people enjoying your coffee around the world, and pictures of the plantations that you source your beans from.
The individuals who are buying your product are likely excited about coffee, play up on that.
Go to Diners, Cafes, and Coffee Shops
The competition in the coffee industry is fierce, but that does not mean it needs to be hostile or even adversarial.
Go out to independent cafés, diners, and coffee shops and let them know that you would like to get your product on their menu.
Offer your products at a discounted price. Invite the owner to charge a premium over their house roast and encourage them to put [Your Brand] cappuccinos, mochas, and coffees on their menu to build perceived value.
Send out Facebook status updates, Instagram photos, and SnapChat pictures to your connections the second you get on the menu.
Promote the business that is supporting you.
It builds traffic, helps you attract the other business’ followers to your website, and makes your business look even more successful.
4. Community Outreach
You can do great things for your community while building your subscribership and eCommerce platform traffic.
We’ve found several examples of how coffee businesses are getting into the black by creating strong community relationships.
Here are just a few examples that will work for your coffee drop shipping or eCommerce platform:
Offer Specialty Coffee Training Classes
Date nights are changing all over the country. Couples are going to class to learn how to make drinks, fun dinners, restore furniture, and do fun outside activities.
Get in on this trend and build your business in the meantime by working with the best baristas and independent coffee shops in your town.
Offer to provide the coffee for a one-hour class on sourcing, coffee preparation, and coffee design.
Couples will learn how to make patterns in their coffee, and the entire time they will be drinking your product.
Greenville, SC’s Methodical Coffee executed the class approach perfectly and increased business immediately.
They built a reputation as being coffee experts with minimal investment and made a lasting personal connection to their customer base.
As an e-commerce platform, you’ve got an advantage that physical stores don’t enjoy — you don’t care if your customers make coffee at home. In fact, you want them to.
Create a Pop-Up Shop
Pop-up shops are intentionally short-fused concepts that operate out of another restaurant.
Think about the outrageously popular food truck that operates out of a trendy Indian restaurant on Saturday morning to serve English breakfast.
The pop-up concepts are successful because they draw huge audiences, offer inspired cuisine in a familiar setting, and generate massive social media buzz.
Pop-ups work with coffee shops. Rabble Coffee, Indianapolis, IN opened a pop-up shop before they opened a traditional brick and mortar location and in so doing, they built up a loyal customer base that greeted them on opening day.
How can you replicate this success? Keep your customers’ contact information and send Tweets, SnapChat messages, Facebook announcements, and SMS messages to them announcing a short-lived pop-up café in their town.
Tell them more information will be sent out when the time is near. 48 hours before opening, post another announcement and build the buzz!
Offer to split the profits with the restaurant, café, or bar owner and this event could easily cost less than $100.
To blow it out of the water, hire a local photographer to take photos of the event and provide you with a steady stream of social media posts.
Pop-up shops work almost anywhere and are especially useful at farmer’s markets, school sporting events, and bars.
Work with Schools and Community Groups
Churches, schools, art camps, and other organizations are constantly looking for fundraising opportunities.
Reach out to them and offer to provide 10% — 20% of revenues generated by customers who use a special promotion code when signing up for your service.
Give them a minimum donation if need be to sweeten the pot.
This approach has the advantage of creating a push-pull effect. People who typically wouldn’t order from your site will submit orders to support their neighbors, kids, and friends.
People who would order coffee online will decide to do it from you because it helps something they care about.
Because your margins are likely enormous, you can give up a 10% — 20% tax-deductible donation to generate some sales and create a client database that supports future subscriptions.
5. Use Social Media Influencers
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
You can dominate a market and get a great web presence by creating content on outlets like YouTube, or you can enlist the help of experts to do it for you.
Find out who is active in the markets you are targeting and offer to send them a selection of your best products in exchange for a no-holds-barred review.
Peregrine Espresso in Washington, D.C. did just this and contacted dozens of local food bloggers and social media personalities. The word got out, and their business boomed.
Think creatively about how you can make your web content relevant to your audience.
Reach out to college organizations in the towns you are trying to increase your presence in and offer to let people star in a YouTube video showing them drinking coffee for the first time.
Tag the video with the names of the college, the organizations involved, and other highly searched keywords, like “coffee.”
Doing this helps you drive viewership by appealing to people who are looking for something entirely different.
It is all about brand recognition, and this helps you introduce yourself to others for the first time.
Enlisting dynamic personalities that blog about coffee, lifestyle issues, colleges, and other seemingly unrelated topics builds your brand’s reputation as a high-quality product that is dynamic.
Your featured content will be diverse, and you can keep posting different media to encourage web subscribership.
Need a real-world example of how this worked? Dave Asprey invented Bulletproof Coffee. It is just coffee, MCT oil, and butter.
Dave sells the coffee and MCT oil, and he sells a ton of it.
He promoted the health benefits of MCT oil and explained why it was rational to drink coffee with butter to slow the rate at which your body metabolizes caffeine.
He reached out to lifestyle bloggers, food hipsters, mixed martial artists, and media influencers and pitched his product.
He became a recognized expert in his field and people went to his website to learn about Bulletproof coffee.
The more they discovered on the site and the more they saw Bulletproof being discussed on social media, the more they bought.
6. Build Real Online Presence
Review sites drive sales by boosting recognition and trust.
An eCommerce and coffee subscription service needs to manage its web presence, or it will fail, and we found that encouraging a discourse with your customers on review sites typically pays off.
Studies show that most Yelp users leave 4 or 5 stars reviews.
Your online business needs to focus intently on pleasing customers and encouraging them to review your business online.
Their reviews support your website’s search engine results and will help new customers find your service.
Why should you care about building a high number of good reviews?
Search engines are the third most popular way that customers find new businesses and the search engines prioritize sites that have positive feedback in prioritizing reviews.
If your product has hundreds of 4 and 5-star reviews on Google, Yelp, and similar services, it will beat out your competition before the customer even clicks on their page.
Here are the most efficient ways to build a great online presence that drives sales and subscriptions.
Ask for Feedback
Include a link to review your business in your e-mail correspondence and on your website.
Barista Magazine found that coffee shops and eCommerce platforms asking for reviews had 40% more reviews on social media sites than those that did not.
They also found that the average rating of the stores that had more reviews was about the same as the ones that had fewer reviews, but their search results were far better.
Offer Yelp discounts
Yelp offers check in and referral discounts.
When customers visit your Yelp page and “check in” to your business or use a Yelp referral code, they get a discount, free sample of coffee, or whatever else it is that you’re willing to give away.
This draws new customers to your business and encourages reviews because people will tell their friends that you are offering a check in promotion.
The advertising may cost more than $100.00, but the 15% discount certainly won’t.
Retweet favorable comments, respond to outstanding Facebook statements and always reply to Yelp reviews.
Your engagement encourages more customer interaction and drives up your search engine results.
Speaking with reviewers also makes it clear that there is a real, hard-working human on the other end of the computer who is responding to criticisms and making things better.
You can’t compromise on core values, but letting people know you hear them and inviting them to return often translates to improved reviews.
Offer Recurring Business Discounts
Be bold in your advertising strategy.
When customers tag your product in their Instagram photos or on their Facebook accounts you should immediately reward them with discounts.
Offer a month of free coffee to your existing customers and their friends when they refer friends to sign up for 6+ months of coffee delivery services.
Hire a freelance graphic designer and include trendy pins, stickers, and patches in your orders when you are shipping to motivated clients.
Don’t think this will work?
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters of San Diego, CA is proving that it does.
They are standing out in a highly saturated coffee market in some of San Diego’s trendiest, best educated, and most up and coming markets.
How are they doing it?
They offer awesome coffee, sell some great merchandise, and build brand loyalty by promoting local artists in their shops.
They’ve done almost everything mentioned here.
They’ve partnered with a donut shop, sought out microbreweries and have their own beer flavor.
They sell outstanding merchandise that is custom designed and engage with people at the human level.
Many of these steps can be replicated even if you don’t have a physical location.
Work With Drop Shippers
They will go out and sell your product at a markup, and you will fulfill the order at your regular wholesale or retail price.
You benefit by selling significantly more volume and the drop shipping company benefits by capturing the spread between the two prices.
Why should you bother working with these companies? Simple — they are going to do the job for you, and you won’t pay them anything unless they generate sales.
Developing a robust sales pipeline that is filled with paying customers is an enormous challenge that most small businesses never overcome.
An efficient way for you to accomplish this is to go out of your way to get as many people on your side promoting your products as possible.
Reach out to drop shipping companies on websites like Amazon and see whether they would be interested in carrying your product line.
Even if you want to work a purely retail operation, starting like this can be an exceptional way to generate some cash flow from the get go.
7. Build a Facebook Business Page
Facebook is such a big deal that it needs to be addressed as its own strategy.
Your eCommerce platform or coffee subscription service needs to have a professionally designed, written, and maintained Facebook Business page.
These pages allow you to keep your customers updated on your best promotions and newest products while constantly reminding them that it is time to put in another order.
Bear in mind that almost these approaches work on other social media platforms, like SnapChat and Instagram. How can you make the most of your Facebook Business page?
Build a Fan Base / Following
Your Facebook Business page is only as relevant as the compelling content it provides to an engaged audience. Drive your customers to your Facebook page organically, and you will see a boom in your Facebook-driven business.
Paying for friends who are mostly using fake accounts will not help your business, but there are a few things you can do to grow an active Facebook page easily.
First, contact businesses that are willing to promote your coffee eCommerce platform. Share one another’s posts, comment on each other’s content, and co-host web events.
Take photos of the other company using your products, tag both businesses in the picture, and circulate it around to your subscribership.
Using SEO tactics and keywords in image descriptions and cross posting photos from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat can drive subscribership even higher.
Second, you need your customers to understand that you take social media seriously.
Include links to your social media pages in your email signature. Include postcards requesting that your customers follow your social media accounts, provide feedback and reviews on Facebook, and tag themselves with your products in each shipped product box.
Offer discounts on future orders when they follow you, Tweet with your hashtag or tag your goods in a Facebook photo.
This type of engagement is valuable because it serves as a positive referral from a trusted person to anyone who is a friend of your customer.
Finally, you need to be “liking” content as your company. Review relevant organic content and contribute to conversations on Facebook.
This will ensure that your account’s information is showing up in your customers’ media feed as a contributor of relevant information. This drives friend requests and sales.
Post Compelling Content
Your customers will not follow you if you pepper them with a barrage of spam and promotions.
You need to be producing compelling content that creates an emotional response in your customer.
That’s easier said than done, but there are tons of companies in different industries that are doing a killer job at generating original media content that is turning into clicks and sales.
Saint Anthony Industries is blowing it out of the park with an active Instagram page.
Its photos are vibrant and beautifully feature their handcrafted tools for Baristas.
The pictures make viewers connect to a sense of inclusion, adventure, and exploration.
Those are great things to feel when you’re looking at a handcrafted artisan’s Instagram page, and that’s part of the reason why their stock is almost always sold out.
If you want to convert Facebook friends into sales, make sure you are posting quality content that shows your products in action.
A photo of a steaming cup of coffee in front of a mountain stream or ski resort moves product.
A dimly lit, grainy picture of some beans in a bag doesn’t.
Look at the pictures like you would if it popped up in your own feed.
If it isn’t clear, well lit, and aesthetically pleasing, don’t post the picture.
Facebook also allows business pages to host live events.
Livestream your specialty classes, pop-up shop openings, and other events on Facebook to show that you are an active company that is getting out and doing great things.
Record yourself on YouTube in a 5 to 10-minute video explaining why you are passionate about coffee and what you are doing that is different than the thousands of other companies out there.
Post the video on your Facebook (and other social media) feed and promote it to your followers.
Use Instagram Stories
Instagram stories is a new, ultra-powerful advertising utility that allows you to post photos and videos that self-destruct after 24 hours.
The content is published and vanishes from your history within 24 hours.
So why would an eCommerce platform or drop shipping business seriously consider using Instagram stories?
The most obvious reason is to promote flash sales, pop-up shops, and community events.
Consider using Instagram stories to show customers behind the scenes footage of your fulfillment centers, food prep areas, and other sensitive insiders only operations.
The success or failure of your stories is going to hinge on the effectiveness of your hashtags.
As is the case with YouTube, your hashtags need to be relevant, broad enough to appeal to a wide band of customers, and easy to remember.
The hashtags link content together so piggybacking on successful advertising campaigns can be tremendously useful.
8. Create YouTube Content
YouTube plays an exceptional support role in promoting Facebook and other social media content.
When done properly, YouTube can boost your search engine result status and homepage visits.
How can you create compelling YouTube videos that generate tons of views besides just promoting your videos on your own social media pages?
Use Good Descriptions
Tags, keywords, titles, views, and descriptions drive YouTube search results.
You can’t immediately control view count, but you can change everything else. Be deliberate in tagging videos and writing compelling stories.
If you don’t know how to produce high-grade descriptions and keywords, work with an expert on your first few videos.
Keep the keywords essential, relevant to the video you are producing, and like the phrases, your customers are searching for.
Produce Good Content
You will generate viewers when you provide consistently good content.
Use a video editor to remove distracting sounds, long pauses, and other dead spaces in your videos.
Faster paced videos hold attention and get clicks.
Do some research on what makes a good video and give it your best shot!
Your sound and lighting should be consistent throughout the video, and you should minimize background noises whenever possible.
Also consider creating tutorial on how to use your product or the how to make to perfect brew for customers using your coffee bean subscription service.
A surprising percentage of videos on YouTube are watched by viewers who are playing playlists.
These collages of videos link similar videos together, and they play consecutively.
When you create a video, include it in a playlist that has attractive, successful content.
People will be drawn to your playlist by those videos, and many will stick around to watch yours.
9. Paid Advertisements
Traditional methods are traditional because they’re widely used and work.
The survey we’ve been citing from found that Facebook advertising is commonly used and highly effective. Using Facebook advertising, you can set a fixed budget and target a particular demographic.
You can focus worldwide or locally, and with the help of a Facebook ads consultant, you can create highly engaging advertisements that drive clicks to your business and translate to real sales.
The most successful operations target friends of people who already like your Facebook page. For $2-$3 a day, your shop can communicate with potential new customers with current friend recommendations.
If your product line is appealing, the friend may ask your client what they think, and the referral business will grow even stronger.
Run a Groupon or Living Social Advertisement
Group discount websites fell out of favor with small business circles some time ago because they are expensive and can generate unsustainable influxes of customers.
The clients who are drawn to these deals tend to extremely price sensitive and rarely purchase products unless they are heavily discounted.
Deals typically require small businesses to offer 50% off a product and pay the website half of the remaining sale price.
You will be operating on 25% of ordinary revenue for these deals, if not less. Is it worth it?
Maybe — the advantage here is that with coffee subscription services it is hard to generate clients and easy to keep them.
Building up the habit of always receiving new coffee every month by mail encourages your customers to renew their accounts.
Using auto-renewal features, sending gifts near renewal time, and sending mail to them thanking them for their business can transform a transactional customer into a long-term sustaining client.
Group discount sites can be valuable if you can convert the transactional client to a long-term customer.
Group deals are phenomenal for e-commerce platforms and subscription box services because they can scale to meet the increased volume without compromising customer service.
It is unlikely that an influx of 500 customers would cause you to go into a panic the way a coffee shop may if those same customers showed up all at once demanding their 50% off drink.
Remember exceptional customer service and treat every interaction as an opportunity to convert someone to a long-term customer and these deal sites can work to your favor.
Post to All Your Accounts
Posting similar content to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, Instagram, and Snapchat can be exhausting, but it doesn’t need to be.
There are a ton of paid services that offer you the option to post to multiple social media accounts.
While you are free to use these services, free online tools like IFTTT.com, Dlvr.it, and Zapier automate postings across all your social media offerings and make bulk delivery of social media content a snap.
If you are going to be a serious contender in the eCommerce industry, you need to make use of these free tools.
Engage with Local Sports Teams
It can be costly to advertise with professional sports teams, but tons of local sports teams will proudly promote your product to their very loyal fan base for less than $100 a month.
This is doubly true for semi-pro and intermural sports leagues that appeal to a narrow set of highly devoted fans.
Advertising with a local rugby team or roller derby group can signal to their athletes and fans that you care about their activity and are part of their group.
Sponsoring a local ice rink or skate park has the same effect.
This translates to significant sales and active social media support.
Don’t be afraid to be the one to reach out and ask; you might be surprised at what $100 can get you!
You Don’t Need a Super Bowl Ad to Find New Customers
Death Wish Coffee Superbowl commercial. What is going to make your business a rousing success? It’s impossible to say.
You are going to need to market test these methods (and much more).
Creating a supportive customer base requires time.
You need to consistently deliver high-quality product coupled with outrageous levels of customer service.
Gimmicks and marketing may get some initial interest, but ultimately, you’re going to need to keep that customer coming back to your website.
People will tell their friends when they like something, and they will tell everyone when they hate something.
No amount of advertising will erase a steady stream of negative referrals, so do your best to engage with your unhappy clients, and you’ll do well!
A small investment of less than $100.00 per month can yield far more than that.
No matter what approach you adopt, you need to appreciate that advertising takes time.
Most methods discussed above rely on repeated interactions with a targeted base of people.
Take photos, tag people in the events you attended, and go out of your way to be friendly and welcoming.
Use promotion codes to determine who is buying your product and where they are coming from. Keep what works and dump what doesn’t.
How are you going to invest your money?