If you have been thinking starting a coffee business, but are not sure if you are ready to open a full-fledged coffee shop or coffee stand, you actually do have other options to enter the retail coffee industry, including starting your own online coffee business.
By getting started with an online coffee business, you can develop your coffee business brand (which is important when starting your niche in your market).
You can also slowly develop your expertise in coffee and customer service skills. Starting your online coffee business offers you the ability to “test the waters” of becoming an actual coffee shop or coffee stand owner.
The primary benefit of starting an online coffee shop or web-based coffee store is that you can start with relatively little money.
Another benefit of starting an online coffee business is that you can simply “pay as you go” for things that you need to invest in when starting a successful online coffee business.
These include your hosting and building your website, developing your promotional efforts, and buying your inventory.
In other words, an online coffee business can grow as you grow!
The following article below is a brief introduction of everything you need to know to get started with your online coffee business.
We'll cover the steps and tools to start your online coffee business so that you can launch and succeed in your own online coffee business.
Some of the tools and recommendation we offer point to our affiliate resources, from which we receive a small commission with no additional cost to you.
Let's get started!
What You'll Need To Start Your Online Coffee Business:
There are few things you'll need when you start your online coffee business. Like any other businesses you will need to think about each of these as you move forward with launching your online business venture.
- To Choose Your Product (Such as coffee beans, teas, etc.)
- To Know Your Target Market
- To Register Your Domain & Host Website
- To Select Your Shopping Cart
- To Be Creative & Take Action
Step #1: Choose Your Product to Sell Online
To start an online coffee business, you will need a product to sell. This is obvious right? However,, what's not obvious is how to choose your product.
Let us assume that you will have a variety of products that you would like to sell online – these may include green coffee beans, freshly roasted beans, espresso or brewing machines, coffee grinders, humorous coffee t-shirts, caps, or anything in between.
However, at this point, if you haven’t decided on which coffee products you want to sell online, that’s okay!
I will describe the actual process to move forward with your online coffee business before you jump into anything and make any decisions.
So keep reading!
You may need to work out a way to get a hold of your inventory ahead of time or at a wholesale rate. This means finding your product source.
You can do this through wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, or you can make your own products, such as roasted coffee.
You may also be able to develop a drop shipping relationship with coffee wholesalers or product manufacturers. Drop shipping is where you get the customer to order from you (through your website) and then the manufacturer ships the product directly to the customer).
Whichever e-commerce route you decide, you will need a product that sells and resonates with your particular market. Therefore, identifying who your target market is, will be essential to your online business success.
- Roasted Beans – Why not sell your own coffee roast? Order your green coffee beans from websites like Sweet Maria's, roast the coffee, package it, and sell it under your own brand! For larger orders, you should look for a green coffee broker or importer.
- Curated Coffee Beans – Offer gift baskets of small batch, locally roasted coffee by your region's best coffee roasters. You can approach small roasting companies in your area and see if they would sell to you at wholesale cost. Of course, you might consider having your website up first so that they know you are serious about your venture.
- Coffee Equipment – Sell new and refurbished coffee equipment or things like rare coffee brewing devices, espresso machines, etc.
- Artsy stuff – Sell coffee art, t-shirts, coffee signs, mugs, cups, holders, Thermos containers, coffee pour-over holders, etc.
- Teas & Health Related Products – You can sell a variety of local teas. For example, you can curate your own teas that are good for health reasons, etc.
- Coffee & Chocolate – Who doesn't love chocolate and coffee. Like locally roasted coffee, you can find small chocolate wholesalers and sell them in gift boxes.
Know Your Target Market
Who are you going to sell to?
While many people may be interested in buying coffee, coffee supplies, or other items you intend to sell, the best thing to do is really be very, very, very specific with who your target market is. Then, cater your entire online enterprise towards them.
You have to determine who your customer is or will be. It's important to realize that not everyone will be your customer. So you don't want to waste your time appealing to everyone. Get specific. The more niche your market is, the more successful your online coffee business will be.
Additionally, this will help you create your website content that better appeals to your market base. Take a moment to visualize who your ideal customer would be and why they would buy your products. Are they like you? Would you buy your own products?
The chances are that if you like something – and you are willing to buy it – other people would too. As you develop your customer profile, ask those around you for feedback.
What's Your Competition Doing?
Take a moment to find out who is already doing what you're wishing to do. How are they doing it?
Knowing who your competition is will be important.
You want to understand who you competition is because you want to understand what customers are already paying for.
For example, you want to know what products are already being offered and what products people are searching for. You also want to find out what is motivating them to buy their products. Are they buying for themselves or for gifts to their friends and loved ones?
When it comes to your competition, will your customers be the same as theirs? Will a segment of their target market overlap with yours?
Take a moment, and reflect on what your competition is doing.
How can you position yourself differently? Offering something different and developing your own competitive advantage within a healthy market place will be important to understand before you decide on:
1) What product(s) to offer and; 2) How to reach and market to your target audience.
In other words, first, decide on your product and determine who your customer will be. Then determine how you will position yourself to attract those customers.
Often times this comes to delivering better information, customer service, memorable branding, and authenticity. If you need help, visit Shopify, Deathwish Coffee, and BeanBox.co for examples.
Step #2: Register Your Domain Name
(Steps 2 & 3 can be done at the same time)
There's no way around it: You are going to need your own website. To get started, I recommend that you register your website domain name at BlueHost.
If you already have a domain name, congratulations! You already know that it's an important first step to getting your website up.
Now if you don’t yet have one yet, you will need to buy one through a “Domain Registrar” such as BlueHost.
For more information on website domain names, visit BlueHost.
Step #3: Hosting Your Website
There are two general ways you can launch your online coffee store that we would like to discuss next. Both offer great benefits and are relatively easy to setup.
The first option is to build and host your own website using “WordPress”. You will need to get a website hosting package through services like BlueHost).
To collect money from you customers and process your transactions, you can link to a third-party shopping cart or use a free WordPress shopping cart plugin, such as WooCommerce.
Creating your own website might sound overwhelming but this is a lot easier than it sounds!
This methods is exactly what we do here with our website at Coffee Shop Startups. For more information on setting your coffee shop website with BlueHost, read our latest article, How to Start a Coffee Shop Website.
You can launch your online coffee business with a fully-hosted and secure shopping cart with web companies like Shopify, Selz, or Weebly. These websites are great if you want to jump right into selling online.
They also have “ready-to-go” shopping cart system with shipping and tax features that you can alter specifically for your business. This means you never have to worry about web hosting or website plugins to sell your products.
When a customer buys from your online coffee store, they will notify you instantly so you can ship out your coffee right away to your customers. Easy-Peazy.
Consider one option at a time…
Shopify Is Very Convenient
From a convenience factor, it is certainly easier to have everything put together for you in one website theme, hosting service, and secure shopping cart, all accessible under one dashboard.
This “convenience factor” is especially true if you are not sure if your online coffee business will be viable in the long run and you don't want to hassle with learning about the “back end administration” and HTML code of your website, which is often necessary.
In other words, if you just want to sell (or even test your products), you just might want to go with a company like Shopify – though it may cost a little more upfront.
What's also great about using Shopify or Selz is that you never have to hassle with customer's credit card or debit card information!
Shopify takes care of securing payment transactions for you, which can be a big concern for customers. Of course, they charge a fee per purchase, but in my opinion, this is totally worth the pain of dealing with securing customer payment information.
Here are Coffee Shop Startups, we never deal with our customer's credit card information. Zero. Nada.
Are there any drawbacks to Shopify?
You do have to pay every month for the convenience of hosting your website and your shopping cart. But there are no annual contracts. You simply pay month-to-month.
Potentially, one draw back may be saving your hard work. For example, once you opt-out of Shopify, you lose all your content and google search rank standing.
Nevertheless, Shopify offers pure convenience and hassle-free website development, hosting, and smooth, easy, and safe financial transactions.
Let's assume that you are in the process of sourcing your coffee to sell and you know who your general target market is.
Now, let us take a moment to consider your website and the cost associated with the various options you have in front of you.
Remember, there is no “right way” but, like anything else, there are trade-offs for deciding which direction to go in.
For example, you might have slightly more costs but less headaches and a simpler way to sell your products with Shopify. However, having a WordPress site will be much cheaper in the long run, but you will have to learn a little more on the front end.
Using BlueHost & WordPress.org
I really love working with BlueHost and having my own website through WordPress. The ability to control my own content is important for me. Additionally, I don't have the pressure to pay every month is also a relief.
There are some great reasons to use BlueHost along with WordPress to create your coffee shop website. (WordPress is the free software that allows you to build out the structure of your website).
- It's cheaper.
- It's great for being found on Google
- It gives you complete control over your website content.
Here's what you're going to need to get started:
- Your Domain Name ($22-$24 per year with privacy add-on)
- A Website Hosting Account (Approximately $65-75 per year)
- A Website Theme (Costs range from $0 to $60)
- Your E-commerce Transaction Platform, such as PayPal or Selz (There is monthly charge or a percentage taken from each sale)
As I mentioned above, once you get your hosting package with BlueHost you can easily add install the WordPress Software to your website from your BlueHost account dashboard. Check out our previously written a step-by-step article on how to set up your website using BlueHost and WordPress.
If you're still want to explore your options, consider Shopify. We'll talk about that next in greater detail.
Using The Shopify ‘All-in-One' Package
Sometimes having everything done for you is worth the cost of paying a little extra. Shopify makes everything very convenient in setting up your website.
- It's easy-to-setup.
- It's convenient.
- There's no hassle with learning computer code.
Here's what you're going to need to get started:
- A Shopdify Package: (From $29.00 a month)
- A Website Theme: (From $0 to $150)
- Various Add-on Plugins: (The cost depends on the plugins you may need or want)
By The Way… What Is a “Website theme”?
Answer: A website theme acts like the “skin” of your website. Technically, a theme is a small package of computer code that tells browsers how to display your website. It provides a specific “look and feel” to your website.
Why do we use different themes? Imagine a world where each website looked the same! Boring, right? Themes display your unique taste and character. A baking website will perhaps have a different theme than a corporate-based tech company website.
To explore WordPress Themes, we recommend this site: ThemeForest.
Step #4: Online Marketing & Getting the Word Out
Now that your website is up, your products are available, next comes the fun part!
Websites, books, and other online resources can go into much more detail than I can here, but it is important for me to mention that your online marketing will be important. And it will take up a majority of your post-launch time.
Your marketing campaign can begin at any time, even long before you spend your first dime on your website.
The important thing to remember is that your online store will take time to build traction – so start your website business with this understanding.
Anticipate that you will launch your store and it might take a while for you to get online visitor traffic. If you anticipate this well enough, you can start to develop your promotional efforts long before your open for business.
Branding will also play an important role in developing your online business.
Develop your website logo and utilize your website's blog to entice readers. Your logo will be essential for your website, your business cards, and your packaging.
Consider the following ways to promote your online coffee store:
- Engage in Social Media
- Develop Your Email List
- Meet new people in person and promote face-to-face (yes, this still works!)
- Create Business Cards
- Paid Internet Ads Via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
Step #5: Happy Selling!
Sometimes you just gotta do it! Keep in mind that you will be tweaking and adjusting as you go. Don’t let being “perfect” stop you.
Generate value for your customer wherever you can. Use your coffee expertise, marketing, or niche ideas along the way to generate additional value for your customers.
Additionally, keep in mind that at first, you should consider having minimal inventory. It doesn't make sense to buy a boat load of coffee to just sit there while you figure out your new online business.
Start small and then grow out.
Remember, there will be a learning curve but if you move forward in a steady fashion and work on something everyday, you'll be in a better position your online coffee store to make a profit. As an online business owner, your work really never stops.
You have to continuously be vigilant about your customer service, your online reputation, your marketing, your inventory. But it can be a very profitable venture if you plan it right.
Summing Things Up:
Start Small & Take Your First Step
We've covered a lot here, so I wanted to summarize our recommendations that we've discussed throughout the article.
If you want more information on how to setup your coffee shop website with BlueHost, read our latest article, How to Start a Coffee Shop Website.
Remember, that to make money selling coffee online, you are going to need to start. Be smart and methodical about it and you will have a better chance for success.
Start small, then grow out from there. You can start with getting your website going.
Here is our online coffee business resources we've mentioned:
- Domain name, Website Hosting & WordPress Installation: BlueHost
- Website and Shopping Cart: Shopify
- Website and Shopping Cart: Selz
- Website and Shopping Cart: Weebly
Got Any Questions?
Do you still have questions about starting an online coffee business? Send me an email (Yes, I'm a real person!), I will try to answer any specific questions and detail further why I recommend these options for your online coffee business.
Starting any business online can be both profitable and necessary depending on which part of the coffee business you are coming from. This article will discuss some ways in which you can start your own online coffee business successfully. Full disclosure, some of the links may be affiliate links that cost you nothing – but support this website through a small commission.