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A Comprehensive Guide To Launching Your Online Coffee Business

Coffee is the most consumed drink around the world—after water and tea. In fact, in the United States, coffee is more popular than water, with about 73% of people reportedly drinking it every day.

Whether you’re learning how to start an online coffee business as a full-time job, side hustle, or just as a hobby, there is a huge global market for you. 

Interested in starting this type of business? You need a well-thought-out strategy that can help you stand out from the crowd. 

Here’s how to start an online coffee business in five simple steps.

1. Market Research and General Planning

To start a successful online coffee shop, research the market first. You can send surveys and look at your own analytics data to understand your audience. Pay attention to the types of coffee products people are looking for. Look at the types of coffee-related content they read as well.

Analyze the coffee industry, too. This will help you determine current trends you can capitalize on. When you look at existing online coffee businesses, you can also see where there might be gaps you can fill.  You can determine competitor marketing strategies and come up with your own improved versions to include in your marketing plan later on.

Once you’re done with market research, start business planning. Based on your data, what business model do you think will work? Will you sell on a per unit basis, or will you offer coffee subscriptions instead?

Using your competitive analysis data, develop a unique selling proposition that sets you apart from your competitors. 

Take note of everything you decide on at this point. You’ll come back to it when you start writing your business plan later. 

2. Coffee Product Selection and Sourcing

Your business plan should also give information on coffee selection and sourcing. So, after deciding on your business model and unique selling proposition, think about what specific products you plan to sell to your ideal customers as well. This should be easy to decide at this point since you already have all the data you need from your market research. What coffee products is your target market looking for? What products don’t they find in other coffee shops? These should be the coffee products you should consider offering.

During product selection, we recommend prioritizing your passion and expertise as well. With this enthusiasm and knowledge, you can easily market your products in a way that resonates with coffee drinkers to drive your online business forward.

In choosing what specific coffee product to offer–whether specialty coffee beans, organic and fair trade coffee, roasted coffee beans, flavored coffee, among others—make sure you also consider sourcing. You shouldn’t have a problem sourcing the coffee products you choose to sell.

When choosing a coffee bean supplier, make sure it also has a reputation of offering high-quality products. Cafely, for example, is a trusted coffee provider known for its exceptional coffee products and blends. Its beans are hand-picked fresh from its partner farms in Vietnam. They are also roasted with state-of-the-art equipment to ensure bold and robust coffee flavors.

Once you’ve chosen your specific coffee products and supplier, start writing your business plan. Include everything you’ve discovered and decided on so far—from your market research findings to your unique selling proposition, business model, and chosen coffee products and supplier. 

Include in your business plan the upfront costs for starting your online coffee business, your pricing strategy, ongoing expenses, and financial projections.

Your business plan should also capture your short and long-term sales goals as well as competitors.

3. Building Your Website

Building a website should be part and parcel of how to start an online coffee business. Your website will showcase your coffee products. It should be engaging and professional-looking. 

You can utilize an e-commerce platform like Shopify to set up an online store with easy navigation. 

Setting up a store on Shopify is easy. Just follow these steps after you’ve made an account:

  1. From your Shopify account, click on Products.
  2. Choose Add Products.
  3. Upload an image of your product. Enter a title and additional details like the coffee product origin and flavor profile. Include your shipping details as well.
  4. Click save.

Alternatively, you can consider collaborating with a website designer to create your site. However, be prepared to shell out between $30 and more than $100 an hour.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure your website loads quickly. Your loading time can impact your online sales. A staggering 70% of consumers say page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online store. Ideally, your site should load in two seconds or less. 

Here’s how to improve your website speed:

  • Optimize images: You can use tools such as Optimizely and TinyPNG for this.
  • Enable browser caching. This way, the browser itself can store a wide variety of page information like stylesheets and images. As a result, users won’t have to reload the entire page every time they visit it. 
  • Reduce redirects: When a page redirects somewhere else, the HTTP request and response process takes longer, impacting page loading times negatively.

Ensure consistent branding across your website to attract coffee consumers and create a memorable experience for visitors as well.

4. Setting Up Operations

Now that your online coffee business is taking shape, it's time to focus on setting up your operations. 

Start by incorporating payment gateways for your coffee store. The key is to choose secure ones to help instill confidence in potential customers and encourage them to complete their purchases. Ensure the payment gateway you choose is compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and other relevant industry standards. Look for important security features such as encryption and methods for authentication and fraud prevention as well.

It’s also a good idea to have multiple payment gateways. You want to give potential customers multiple payment options. Not everyone likes to pay using their credit cards, after all. 

All that said, here are some payment gateway solutions you might want to consider:

  • PayPal
  • Stripe
  • Adyen
  • Skrill

Once your online coffee store is up and running, you’ll need to keep an eye on your product stock. That’s why if you want to know how to start an online coffee business that’s likely to be successful, you need to learn how to choose the right inventory management system from the get-go.

If you used Shopify to create your website, you won’t have to invest in third-party solutions for this. Shopify’s Inventory can give you the stock information you need. 

If you created your site using WordPress instead, consider tools such as Zoho Inventory, SalesBinder, and Veeqo. They streamline the process of tracking inventory while managing reordering and updating relevant accounting data. 

Reliable shipping services are also key to successful business operations. They can enhance the customer experience and earn you repeat business from satisfied coffee lovers.

According to Baymard Institute, shipping costs are among the top reasons for cart abandonment during checkout.

So, look for partners that offer reasonable shipping costs. 

Those who use Shopify can avail of Shopify Shipping to cut such costs. They can get up to an 88% discount from carriers such as USPS, DHL, and Canada Post.

With a standard subscription, they can go to the Shopify dashboard and choose whether to offer customers flat-rate, calculated, or free shipping.

In general, whichever your shipping partner is, to save on shipping costs (for yourself and your customers), institutionalize right-sized packaging for your coffee products. Use lightweight packing material to reduce package weight as well.

The next step in how to start an online coffee business and outsmart your competition is to offer excellent customer service. The goal is to build stronger relationships with potential customers and build a loyal customer base.

Include features like live chat support on your website to address any customer concerns or inquiries promptly. Additionally, consider setting up a VoIP contact center to provide efficient and accessible customer service over the phone. 

You can also include a FAQ section on your website where customers can quickly find the answers to commonly asked questions.

5. Developing a Marketing Plan, Implementing It, and Launching Your Business

It’s time to market your business to reach a wide audience of coffee lovers and then launch it. For this, you need a comprehensive marketing plan. Go back to your business plan. This is where you’ll specify these marketing strategies.

But what marketing strategies should these be? 

To generate the excitement you need during launch day, specify in your marketing plan the use of all the channels your individual customers employ. 

Mention email marketing and social media marketing as ways to share pre-launch captivating content, such as quality coffee tips and behind-the-scenes glimpses. The hiring of a drinks PR agency is worth mentioning as well. This type of specialized agency will have an extensive network of digital and traditional media contacts that can cover your online store launch. Always use a business email address to send the marketing emails for better open rates

Don’t forget to include in your plan SEO (search engine optimization). It’s a great tactic to boost your site’s visibility in search engine results. Offering promotions or discounts prior to launch are also practical coffee shop marketing ideas that can help you attract new customers and build a loyal fan base.

Once you’ve developed your marketing plan, it’s just a question of implementing it.

Does this mean you can stop your marketing campaigns after launching your online store? Of course not. To ensure a successful online coffee company, you need to continuously engage your target audience. That’s the only way your brand can remain top of mind with them. So, in your marketing plan, make sure to include specific post-launch marketing strategies as well—and implement them, of course. 

Apart from writing and publishing informative blog and social media content, why not host virtual events as part of your content marketing post-launch? Consider organizing coffee tastings, live Q&A sessions, or behind-the-scenes tours of your roasting process. 

Don’t forget to monitor all your marketing efforts. Track metrics like website traffic, email open rates, and social media engagement. This will help you determine what marketing strategies work the best for your business. The result? You can optimize your future marketing campaigns and continue growing your online cafe.

Start Selling Coffee Online

Want to learn how to start an online coffee business? Just follow this guide and you can expect the best results when entering the competitive coffee market. 

Conduct market research and perform some general planning. Select the right coffee products and sources. Don’t forget to build your website, of course, and set up your operations. Then develop a marketing plan, implement it, and launch your new business.

Coupled with your determination and passion, you’ll have a profitable business in no time.

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