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4 Tips to Set Up Your Online Coffee Business | Bellwether Coffee

There’s never been a better time to set up your online store.

This is an uncertain time for small business owners, but there are many steps that you can take to prepare your business to weather the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic. We've gathered advice and expertise from many different folks at Bellwether to share with you. Below you'll find resources for:
  • Setting up your online store
  • Deciding which coffee products you’ll sell online
  • Shipping + logistics
  • Marketing your online coffee business
Good Manner, Chicago IL
But first, let's take a look at the benefits of starting an online coffee business. The biggest benefit of selling coffee online is that it costs very little money to start your online business. This is a great way to build your coffee brand first if you don't already have a traditional coffee shop location. If you already have an existing coffee company, an online coffee business is a great way to promote your business, attract more customers, and make more money.
Another benefit to starting an online coffee store is that you can “pay‑as‑you‑go” for items you need to invest in, which can be a big relief if you’re worried about the upfront costs of starting a traditional coffee shop.
Now, let's dig into which steps you'll need to take to start your own online coffee business.

1. Choosing Your Menu

Before you start your online coffee business, you’ll have to determine your target audience. Will you be selling coffee directly to customers or to other businesses like cafes or restaurants? Once you know your target audience, you can then decide what type of coffee will best suit their needs. From green coffee beans, freshly roasted coffee, wholesale coffee and craft coffee, be sure to look at what your competitors are selling online. You’ll want to offer fresh coffee products that set your business apart, while keeping up with existing coffee industry trends.

2. Getting Online

First things first: set up your online business if you have not done so already. Every day we see communities supporting local and small businesses, and this is an opportunity to bring your business to the next level through take‑out, curbside pick‑up, delivery, or selling bags of roasted coffee online.
If you've already got a website for your business, you're halfway there. Many businesses use sites like Wix orSquarespace as an easy website builder. Neither of those requires you to know anything about writing code! You simply choose a template and update it to match your coffee brand. Once your website is up and running, you'll want to think about how to accept sales. First, check with your website provider to understand if there are built‑in eCommerce tools, plugins, or compatible apps to choose from.
We've compiled a list of tools and resources below to help you to get your online coffee business up and running quickly. Here are some common solutions:
There's a good chance you might already use Square in your retail shop. If that's the case, it's fast and simple to use Square to set up an online shop. You'll also have several pricing options to choose from so you can pick the plan that works best for you. As you grow and scale, you can always choose a different pricing plan.Click here andhere for more information or to get started.
If you're an online shopper, you've likely already heard of Shopify‑another popular eCommerce platform. Shopify offers pricing for businesses of all sizes. They recently switched from a 14‑day free trial to a 90‑day free trial, so you can get started on figuring it all out right away without a financial commitment. It's also compatible with many primary website builders such asWix, Squarespace,Weebly, and WordPress. Learn more here.
Other things to keep in mind...
If you're already using Squarespace as your website, be sure to check out theirmenu of extensions to see if some of their offerings are a good fit for your online business. They also have loads of preset eCommerce templates here.
If you've got a WordPress site, you might want to research WooCommerce's extension store for à la carte app plugins if you're looking for more advanced additions like offering coffee subscriptions or gifting options for your online store.
Once your online store is ready to go, you can begin accepting orders from your potential customers! But before you get started, check out our information on shipping and logistics below to make sure you've got everything you need.
Good Manner, Chicago IL

3. Shipping + Logistics

Once you've got your web store ready to go live, you've got to think about packaging your items and shipping them out to your customers. We want to make sure you've got everything you need to quickly go from sale to ship, so here are some resources for you to check out before you get started.
Determine Your Shipping Platform
There are many options when it comes to selecting a shipping platform. Be sure to consider cost and volume when determining what's best for you, as well as evaluating your existing online shop and website to make sure everything is compatible. Here are a few options worth checking out:
Once you've decided on a shipping platform, you'll want to be sure you've got everything you need to send out your packages. You might already have some of these things, but here's a quick checklist:
Coffee retail bags. After you've roasted your beans, you'll need to package them. We like bags from Sav‑On Bags as a good general option. If you prefer compostable bags, we'd recommend givingPacific Bag a try. Here are a few others we like working with:
Bag labels. Bag labels are nice‑to‑have, but not required. Down the road, you might consider investing in custom bag labels to highlight your brand and showcase the coffee you're selling. Be sure to order labels for your bags that feature your logo and any key information about the coffee (tasting notes, roast date, roast level, etc.). Here are some of our favorite label options:
Mailers. To prepare for shipping, you'll want to be sure you have mailers on hand. Uline is well‑known for its shipping and logistics products, as well as the ability to ship items quickly. Check out Uline's selection of mailers here.

4. Marketing Your Online Coffee Business

Now that your online store is set up, it’s time to promote your coffee business. One of the best ways to spread the word about your business is by marketing your coffee online. Utilizing social media channels like TikTok can help appeal to younger coffee enthusiasts. If you want to attract potential customers that are looking for high quality coffee with a luxury experience, you may want to consider posting photos and videos on Instagram.
To deliver the best results for your online coffee business, consider a multi‑channel marketing strategy that combines social media channels, email marketing, content marketing, or offline advertising options such as pop‑up shops and tastings.

All set!

You're ready to go! Once your shipping operation is up and running, it's time to think about how to use marketing in your online community. We've got some additional best practices and ideas for you to check out here.
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