Coffee is such a popular beverage that two-thirds of Americans drink it on a regular basis. If you love your cup o’ joe so much that you want to make an eCommerce business out of it, there are plenty of reasons to do so.
It’s relatively simple to get a coffee business or coffee of the month club started. Coffee beans and grounds are shelf-stable and pack easily, meaning you won’t need complex eCommerce packaging to get it to customers safely. There’s also ongoing demand for coffee since it’s a daily consumable. Millions of coffee drinkers love specialty products too, like flavored beans or themed products.
Starting an online coffee subscription can be lucrative and personally rewarding with the right coffee marketing strategies. Let’s dive into the work of setting up your own coffee bean subscription or online store.
Selling Coffee Online Business
Coffee is a feature of daily life that people in the private and business worlds take for granted. You can also expect significant year-over-year (YoY) growth in this industry, just like if you sell wine online. Due to its high demand, starting an online coffee business is a smart idea (see what is demand planning).
It’s helpful to know some coffee statistics to demonstrate how much opportunity this niche holds:
- Roughly $75 billion is spent each year on coffee in the United States alone.
- The United States coffee industry represents 1.6% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
- The average coffee drinker spends about $76 on coffee each month, with some estimates as high as $92 per month.
- Women spend about $400 more per year on coffee than men do.
- The average coffee drinker consumes about three cups per day.
If you’re ready to invest in your coffee venture, it can become an incredible source of fun and financial return for you. Let’s look at the details of this business model.
Can You Sell Coffee Online?
Yes, you definitely can sell coffee online! The online coffee sales market generates over $81 million annually and is expected to grow by over 6% (YoY) in the United States.
A platform like BlueCart eCommerce makes it incredibly easy to launch your online coffee businesses within minutes. You can sell coffee by the bag or sell coffee subscription boxes all from one platform! This is a great product to sell online if you're making the offline-to-online transition (o2o).
Is Selling Coffee Online Profitable?
Selling coffee online can be quite profitable, especially if you sell specialty products with higher margins. The exact amount of profit depends on whether you’re selling in bulk, single bags, or as a wholesaler. However, it’s absolutely possible to make money selling coffee online.
How to Sell Coffee Online
Starting an eCommerce business to sell coffee online is an attractive business model. You’ll have a variety of suppliers to choose from, flavors to experiment with, and profit to gain.
Coffee is one of the best wholesale items to sell, so it may be worthwhile learning how to become a wholesaler and getting a wholesale dealer license. Profitability also depends on your final prices, so it’s important to understand the difference between wholesale price vs. retail price and markup vs margin.
Since coffee is already a large market, you’ll need to be strategic and discerning in how you draw in customers. Here’s what you need to know to start your online coffee business.
Decide What Kind of Coffee You Want to Sell
While there are hundreds of different types of coffee around the world, only two main types are produced commercially. Those are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans embody a sweet and lighter taste, whereas Robusta beans are dark and bitter. Both beans have their advantages for specific coffee flavor goals.
There are dozens of coffee beans and types you can sell, so it’s important to select a niche early on. In most cases, you’ll be picking coffee from single-origin or blended sources. Single-origin coffee beans come from one farm whereas blended beans are sourced from multiple farms. Researching the best coffee roasters can help you find the right source for your own business.
Determine Who You Want to Sell To
Just because demand for coffee is high doesn’t mean you should neglect customer targeting. As a coffee enthusiast, you can run a direct-to-consumer, restaurant, coffee shop, and/or retailer-focused business. Picking one market sector first allows you to focus and grow your profit margins. If you try to sell to everyone all at once, brand recognition will be difficult.
Consumers buy coffee in smaller quantities, to the tune of $8-$15 bags at a time. Restaurants and coffee shops will buy larger quantities, typically ranging from $50 to $200 at a time. Both sales models are profitable but require different approaches.
Consumers tend to look for unique flavors, attractive branding, and immediate availability. Businesses are interested in supplier reliability, bulk order discounts, and convenience in ordering.
If you want to sell to retail outlets, consider learning about what is wholesale. There are unique advantages to wholesaling, both from a supply chain and sales perspective. From one angle, you can become a dedicated wholesale distributor for the retail market. From another angle, you can buy beans from suppliers and make your own coffee products with them.
Wholesaling requires a lot of preparation, however. You’ll need to learn how to get a wholesale license, research how to become a wholesaler, and consider listing yourself in a wholesale directory. Learn everything you need to know in our wholesale management guide.
Develop Your Brand
Coffee is so ubiquitous that without unique branding, your business won’t be recognized. Accordingly, many eCommerce coffee brands have embraced one-of-a-kind concepts to get noticed in a noisy digital landscape.
You can brand your coffee however you want, but make sure it’s something you can get behind. There coffee brands that speak to video gamers, cat lovers, metalheads, technophiles, and everyone in between.
You should also consider turning your venture into a subscription box business by using subscription box suppliers. Coffee is the ideal product to generate recurring revenue with because people consume it so frequently.
Research Supply Chain Options
Since coffee is such a popular beverage, many consumers have taken the time to understand how it’s grown. By demonstrating transparency in how your products are sourced, people are more likely to buy from you.
It’s well worth considering fair trade suppliers when selling coffee. Modern consumers are educated and purchase goods from unethical sources less often--if they are aware of it. You can also expect to profit more with strong ethics. Normal coffee bags sell for about $8 to $12; ethically sourced beans are sold at $15 to $25 per bag.
As you’re considering suppliers, remember that you shouldn’t make any decisions lightly. A supplier can make or break your business, as your merchandise inventory, fill rate, and lead time depend on them. If they aren't reliable, even placing a pre order isn't going to help.
Small unexpected events or poor communication can change the entire trajectory of your business. Make sure to have all your questions answered before you sign on with a supplier.
Set Up Your eCommerce Platform
Every online business needs a DTC or B2B eCommerce platform through which to sell goods. There are many coffee eCommerce platforms to choose from, but your final choice should be simple and customer-friendly.
Today's consumers expect eCommerce sites to load quickly, be easily navigable, show products that are in stock, and offer multiple payment methods. If you’re choosing an eCommerce platform for the first time, take it slowly. It’s best to choose a storefront that you understand and also fulfills future customers’ expectations.
BlueCart is an all-in-one online marketplace that makes online coffee sales easy. You can customize the look and feel of your online store, automate payment processing, and leverage additional features. Request a demo today to learn more.
Build Your Audience
Getting those first few sales is exciting, but it won’t translate to a long-term business if you haven’t cultivated an audience. Building your business’s platform takes time, but it’s something you should make regular time investments with.
You can think of your audience in three categories: leads, customers, and superfans. Here are some details about each:
- Leads are people who have expressed interest in your business but haven’t taken an action yet. You can generate leads by offering a free download, item, or discount in exchange for someone’s contact information.
- Customers are people who are buying from you right now or have purchased from you in the past. They are the financial lifeblood of your business, as they represent the largest percentage of your revenue. Customers buy your goods with some regularity but don’t purchase everything in your catalog.
- Superfans are the percentage of your audience who buy everything you create. They’re the first to purchase new products and often buy multiple units. These are your greatest brand evangelists, and you should be thankful for them as such. Superfans are often responsible for your business growing via word-of-mouth.
Cultivating and supporting each segment of your audience is crucial. Leads create new sales opportunities, customers support your business as it exists now, and superfans take your business to the next level.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media is not the be-all and end-all of marketing, but it’s a great place to begin. Because of the sheer user volume associated with these platforms, you can garner significant attention in a short period of time.
A tool like social media relies on the following principles to get right: brevity, originality, and authenticity. People don’t need just another small business in their newsfeeds. They’d rather have something fun and exciting to engage with.
Now that you know the basics of starting an eCommerce coffee business, you can put the final touches on your brand and win customers. You can also use coffee as part of bigger business plans in selling food online, like selling baked goods online or selling cookies online. Coffee provides creative freedom, financial reward, and entrepreneurial flexibility all in one eCommerce business model.
Once your coffee takes off, you can add other beverages to your digital catalog. Consider selling liquor online, selling alcohol online, or reading how to sell beer online or sell whiskey online. Read our complete guide on how to sell products online for more information.