New Zealand is a producer of great food and drink. Many people starting in the food or beverage business sell their wares at farmers markets and in stores.
When selling food and beverages online you can be at a disadvantage to regular stores. People can’t touch or smell your product. But with some clever marketing ideas you can overcome these disadvantages. We’ll go through a few ideas for business models, marketing ideas and finding a niche market. All from the point of view of a food ecommerce business.
Becoming more and more popular are subscription services. A subscription service is where customers sign up to a recurring payment every month and they receive a package of product. Of course it depends on what product is being sold.
There are subscription services from socks, underwear, shaving products and more. The product just needs to be something that people use regularly and need more of. This works well for food ecommerce business. Food, by its nature gets consumed and people require more of it.
There are subscription services selling a weeks worth of fresh vegetables. Or meals with recipes that you can cook. Wine clubs are a good example. People enjoy trying new wines. A case of new wines they haven’t tried being delivered to them every month or so is something a lot of people are willing to sign up for. The same goes with beer. With the explosion of craft brewing there are more people willing to try new beers.
The great thing about this business model is the guaranteed recurring revenue that you can count on every month. Having a recurring income you can count on allows you to stop stressing about getting enough sales per month because they are pre-sold. This allows you to focus on growing your business.
WooCommerce can be easily set up to handle subscriptions with the WooCommerce Subscriptions Plugin.
Selling food online is difficult if you are selling to same products that people can buy in the supermarket. Indeed, most supermarkets now offer delivery or order and pickup services.
Any food ecommerce business will do better if you service a niche market. Organic, free-range, paleo and gluten-free. There are many health food niche areas that online food stores can specialise in. Another niche market can be foods from another place. I lived in London for a few year and there was a store selling New Zealand goods. Home sick Kiwis would spend many pounds on New Zealand junk food that was difficult to find in the U.K.
In a niche market there is less competition so it is easier to become a main player. People are prepared to pay more for high quality products. Pick one thing and do it well. For instance, I really like Peanut Butter and I’m willing to look for the best and spend $7-8 a jar on it.
If you do have a niche market or there is something special about your products then tell everyone about it. Explain the providence of your food or drink. Write a page on your website telling the back story of how you got started and how the product came into being. People have even created false, tongue in cheek, elaborate backstories for their food products. The key is to tap into people’s emotions.
Sometimes online food stores sell a handmade or seasonal product that is difficult to mass produce. It can be a good idea to limit the number of sales per day. Done the right way this could create scarcity and help drive sales. Grab one, Groupon and other daily deal sites use similar marketing to get people to buy. Like subscriptions, it could be a business model based on scarcity.
You can set the amount of products available by using the inventory functionality in WooCommerce. You can do that every morning and when they are gone, they are gone. WooCommerce can display a handy ‘low stock’ label on products about to run out too.
Another idea is doing pre-sales. If you are releasing a new product you can allow people to buy it before it is released. This could work well with a product that has a great reputation already. Such as the release of the latest vintage of a sought after wine. Seasonal products work well to. People like to be able to order things like Christmas hams and cakes early and have them delivered close to Christmas.
If you are selling products that can used in cooking then offer recipes on your website. Have recipes containing a product you sell and have then for download on that products page. If you sell wine or beer then offer recipes that go with that particular drink.
Recipes can also be used as lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter. (If you don’t have an email newsletter, start one). Make an ebook of recipes and give it to people that sign up for your newsletter. You can put recipes in your emails too. Everyone likes a good recipe!
Bundles / Cross-Sells / Up-Sells
Leading in from recipes, they can be a great way to sell complimentary products. You can sell recipe packs as product bundles for a slight discount on buying them separately. Different foods and drinks taste differently in different combinations. Suggest tasty combinations to customers.
Cross-sells are similar in that they suggest complimentary products to users when they are browsing your store. An example is a bottle of sauce to go with a steak. Don’t just use any old product though. Only cross-sell products that actually compliment the main purchase.
Up-sells are when you suggest an upgraded version of a product. For example you could suggest a 12 pack of cupcakes on the page that sells 6 packs. Or you could offer personalised icing for a birthday cake. Gift wrapping is an age-old up-sell.
Bundles, Up-sells and cross-sells are a great way to increase the average spend per purchase and make more money for your online store.
If you are selling products people need right away you can create fast delivery options. For example your store might sell gift baskets (Bundles…. see…) and a birthday present is needed ASAP. Offer express delivery for gift baskets and charge a premium for it. Like ordering flowers, the faster you need them, the more you pay.
You can offer a pick up service too. This is easy to set up in WooCommerce. Pick up could work great for a store selling meals or coffee. People can pick up breakfast on the way to work. Or on the way home.
Another shipping related thing you can do to stand out is packaging. If you sell a premium product then package it well. A nice bottle of wine turning wrapped in bubble wrap doesn’t exactly scream luxury item. Build a little more into your margins and create an experience for people when they open your package.
Having a ecommerce site that sell food needn’t be a disadvantage. In some cases marketing can be easier. Almost everyone loves food. So you have an advantage right there. Put some thought into the marketing, presentation, market and business model of your food based online business. Just because your product is food it doesn’t mean you can’t build a successful online business.
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