Concocting your own recipes at home is a fun and exciting way to spend time. But what if you could create a business around the same foods and drinks you and your loved ones enjoy? Thanks to modern eCommerce solutions, you can.
Running a successful food or drink business through the Internet requires knowledge about licensing, eCommerce tools, marketing, and sales. You also need to know how to ship food, how to ship cookies, how to ship large items, and how to ship frozen food. By researching all that’s required and prioritizing marvelous customer service, you can get ahead of many other brands out there. Continue reading our guide on how to sell products online.
It’s easy to get excited when thinking about creating your own online food business. In order to translate all of your passion into consistent profits, though, you need a foundation of business, marketing, and sales knowledge.
Here’s what you need to know when learning how to sell food items online:
Know Your Local Laws
To protect both consumers and business owners, there are laws every online food business must adhere to. State-specific cottage food laws differ, but they all include some variation of the following:
- You need a valid business license from your state.
- Your commercial-use kitchen must undergo an annual inspection.
- All cold and dry food storage methods must adhere to health regulations.
- Your building and/or kitchen must adhere to zoning laws.
- No animals or pets allowed in the kitchen at any time.
Select a Niche
Food businesses are relatively inexpensive to start and emotionally gratifying--big parts of what makes them so appealing. However, you still need to identify a niche that hasn’t been flooded with competition yet.
If you’re the 45th small business owner to sell brownies, it will be difficult to get noticed. If you sell keto vegan brownies or sugar-free brownies, however, you’ll have less competition and people will be lining up to buy your desserts.
Find a Supplier
A supplier is any business that sells raw materials inventory to other businesses and has a wholesale license. Some leading suppliers include Bevnet, Tradewheel, Dealerbaba, and Wholesale Central.
Establish a Storefront
Speaking of websites, every online food business needs an eCommerce storefront. This is essential not only for your customers to find you, but to streamline all of the work you’ll be doing as a business owner.
Price and Market Your Goods
Pricing is one of the most difficult aspects of any business to get right. Too low and you won’t be making a profit, but too high and you’ll be scaring customers away.
Marketing is closely associated with pricing, as pricing can only be effective if it has drawn in new leads. Here are some simple yet effective strategies for marketing food products online:
- Know where your ideal audience hangs out, and market there.
- Post recipes and pictures on Pinterest.
- Offer early customer benefits.
- Reach local customers and markets first.
- Connect with customers on mobile platforms.
- Leave enough margin for profit.
Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Online?
Deciding where you want to sell homemade food online will depend on your preferences, sales goals, and individual business needs. Here are some platforms for selling your own food:
- BlueCart eCommerce
Starting an eCommerce business that sells baked goods can be full of fun and profit when you do it right. You first need to be aware of cottage food laws:
- Annual inspection by the US health department
- A no-animals-allowed kitchen and cooking environment
- A valid business license from your state of operation
- Adherence to zoning regulations and required permits
- Appropriate food storage equipment for both cold and dry goods
Once your business is adherent to these regulations, you can get started with other important tasks:
- Get your food handling certification. This is needed to show the public you are food safe in all your dealings.
- Use the most specific packaging and labeling requirements for your product. Correct labeling practices include listing all ingredients in the item, proper label size, eCommerce packaging that’s appropriate for the product, and listing allergens.
- Remember to include sales tax. BlueCart’s B2B eCommerce solutions include calculating sales tax automatically so you don’t need to.
How to Start Selling Baked Goods Online
Here’s what you need to take care of before the sales come rolling in:
Establish a Basic Business Plan
While your business will grow over time, you still need a basic framework to guide your operations. At a minimum, your eCommerce business plan should include:
- Business mission statement
- Type of products you sell
- Target customer and buyer’s journey
- Starting equipment and miscellaneous inventory
- Basic sales and eCommerce marketing plan
- Potential or realized funding sources
- Initial financial projections
This information acts as a reference tool when you’re feeling unmotivated, fleshing out a particular part of your business, or hiring employees. A business plan makes it easier to track goals and spot problem areas that need to be fixed.
Firm Up Your Product Offering or Menu
Your shop needs at least one version of the menu for customers to start buying. The menu should include professional pictures, detailed descriptions, FAQs, and any other information buyers need to make a decision.
Put Together a Marketing and Sales Plan
You should have a clear idea of your ideal customer, what they need most, their purchasing habits, and their preferred price range. If there’s a high-traffic website relevant to your goods, ask them for a media kit to see what kinds of advertising opportunities are available. Leveraging an established brand can create an influx of new customers.
Run a Business Launch Promotion
Create an attractive offer that people will actually value. A couple examples are three free cookies for every purchase over $30 or 20% off all orders after signing up for your email list.
Best Place to Sell Baked Goods Online
You can use existing platforms if you only plan to sell in your free time, or create a full website for your new food company. Here are a few options to consider:
- Local Harvest
- Facebook Marketplace
Perhaps you want to specialize in one type of baked goods, namely cookies. There are similar principles to keep in mind when launching your eCommerce cookie business. Keep reading to learn more.
Selling your own cookies online is a great way to make money while doing what you love. You can start by offering a few homemade products that customers devour and share with their friends.
Most of the initial hurdles to overcome include showing the government that all of your dealings are above-board and you make food safely. Here is how to sell baked goods online:
- Get your business paperwork in order. The paperwork you need to complete includes an eCommerce business license, zoning forms, and a food handling certificate.
- Obtain insurance. Getting eCommerce business insurance protects you against a variety of mishaps. Such incidents can include natural disasters, embezzlement, and various kinds of injuries.
- Set up a bank account. It’s important to keep all of your business’s financial records in one place. Research the best banks for eCommerce business so you have a clear idea of who to trust with your money.
- Create your eCommerce business plan. It should include clear information about your target audience, merchandise inventory, marketing and sales plan, funding sources, and projected sales.
- Get kitchen equipment. This includes your oven, cooling racks, baking sheets, and mixers. As you expand, you’ll want to consider adding more equipment, like dedicated refrigerators and icing tools.
- Develop your product catalog. Use your most popular products to create cookie bundles and buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offers. BlueCart offers a robust and easy-to-use digital catalog tool and an integrated email promotions function.
- Make your cookies. No cookie will ever be perfect, but you must earn consumers’ trust in your sweets. Once they love your desserts, they’ll be back for more!
Making cookies that end up in the lives of happy customers is an incredible way to make money. You can start with a couple products that people appreciate and offer new goods as you receive customer feedback.
If cookies aren’t enough to sustain your eCommerce dreams, consider expanding into beverages. Coffee is a ubiquitously popular drink that hundreds of millions of people consume. Next up are our tips on how to sell coffee online.
Selling Coffee Online: How to Sell Coffee Online
Coffee is a feature of daily life that people in the private and business worlds take for granted. It also has significant year-over-year (YoY) growth. Due to its high demand, starting an online coffee business is a smart idea.
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.
Determine Who You Want to Sell To
As a coffee enthusiast, you can run a direct-to-consumer, restaurant, coffee shop, and/or retailer-focused business. 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.
Develop Your Brand
Coffee is so ubiquitous that without unique branding, your business won’t be recognized. You can brand your coffee however you want, but make sure it’s something you can get behind.
Research Supply Chain Options
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.
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.
Get Active on Social Media
Because of the sheer user volume associated with social media platforms, you can garner significant attention in a short period of time. Make sure to use brevity, originality, and authenticity in your posts, otherwise people won’t engage.
Once your coffee empire is up and running, you’ll have an incredible suite of products in the works. Your customers will love shopping on your site for their favorite sweets and treats.
If you want to take your eCommerce profits even further, alcoholic beverages offer a wonderful opportunity to do so. Many shoppers have turned to eCommerce business to get their brew fix. Learn how to start this kind of business below.
In order to sell alcohol online, all you need is the right paperwork, DTC food or B2B eCommerce platform, and marketing and sales skills. eCommerce-related laws will also differ based on the state you live in. Here are the essentials of how to sell alcohol online:
Get Your Website Created
Your website needs to look professional, load quickly, provide simple navigation, and be mobile-responsive. You can get a website set up with a hosting service, your preferred content management system (CMS), and some free time.
If you’re still considering options for a website, here are some of the best B2B eCommerce platforms:
- BlueCart eCommerce
- Headless eCommerce platforms like Shopify
- Dedicated resellers
- Auction houses (CellarBid, Bonhams, Hart Davis Hart, etc.)
Nurture An Authentic Brand
Set aside time to think about how you want to come across to customers. Are your products trendy, raw, and youthful? Or, are they refined, elegant, and stately? Any type is totally fine; you just need to match the visuals of your product to its personality.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Leveraging both your finances and resources well is a critical part of eCommerce marketing. Using what you have, educate yourself on the necessary components of any ad or content campaign. Then create a single campaign or a few pieces of content, and see what works.
Make Customers a Top Priority
Your customers should always be your top priority in regards to public-facing obligations. Customers are more likely to be loyal if you offer the following:
- A smooth shopping experience
- Great customer service and shipping policy
- Subscribe and save option (like BlueCart’s subscription boxes)
Where Can I Sell Alcohol Online?
While you can expand your operations over time, it’s wise to start selling through a channel that positions you for success. Here are some popular eCommerce marketplaces for selling alcohol online:
- BlueCart Marketplace
- BlueCart eCommerce
- The Drink Shop
Online alcohol sales is a fantastic niche to be in because it provides so much flexibility. You can reach the youthful, “indie” crowd with craft beers and lots of hops. You can also sell or resell wine, spirits, or liquor to collectors and enthusiasts. To learn how to expand your eCommerce product line into liquor, keep reading.
As long as you have all of the proper legal documentation, you can sell liquor online. Here is what it looks like to get all of that set up:
- Alcohol dealer’s registration (ADR). This paperwork proves to the government and customers that you’re a lawful seller of alcoholic beverages.
- A retailer license. This is the document that allows you to conduct business in the state that your company operates.
- One or more shipping licenses. A shipping license is the government’s way of approving your business to send alcohol to customers.
How to Sell Liquor Online
Getting your paperwork completed is an exciting milestone because it means you’re in the clear to build a business. Here’s what’s involved in how to sell liquor online:
Create a Marketing Plan
To stand out in the crowded sea of eCommerce food and drink, you’re going to need a stellar eCommerce marketing plan. You can tap into the psychological principles of persuading buyers with the following strategies:
- Know your branding extremely well. If you know what makes your business stand out, it will be far easier to attract the right customers.
- Understand what your ideal buyer wants. No matter who is shopping on your site, you should be positioning yourself in a human and helpful way.
- Use attraction marketing, not push marketing. Attraction marketing is any eCommerce marketing strategy that naturally or intuitively draws people closer to what you’re selling.
Go Where Your Customers Are
A powerful way of attracting new leads is borrowing someone else’s audience. Numerous successful businesses and influencers offer sponsored shoutouts for companies of a similar nature. The key here is to fully grasp your audience’s characteristics and what they’re most likely to appreciate.
Strive for Excellence
It’s unwise to expect customers to purchase your goods merely because you sell something popular. Your products need to have a personality of their own and offer an experience that can’t be found elsewhere.
As you begin selling liquor, you’ll discover the audience niche that best matches your products. Customers often intuitively understand what they want before they can verbalize it. Pay attention to your best-selling products and best-performing content to understand what to create more of.
If you want to expand your alcoholic beverage sales even further, wine is an excellent and profitable product to consider. Here’s how to make this part of your business.
There is a lot of structural and legal work involved in opening a business, and wine is no exception to this. However, getting everything ready to sell wine online isn’t as hard as you may think. Here is the process to follow for getting your eCommerce wine venture launched.
Decide on a Supplier
If you won’t be selling your own wine, you’ll need to source products from a supplier. Wholesale suppliers are another quality source of affordable wine for business owners. If you’ve always wondered, “Where do bars buy liquor?” It’s often from wholesalers. Knowing how to find wholesalers is a necessary skill for this stage of your business.
Think About Your Branding
Your case of wine should have one or more distinct characteristics. You can also use the following to clarify how you want to be seen by customers:
- What kind of imagery and wording best represent my wine?
- What type of experience are those who buy my wine looking for?
- What wine price is a good fit for my products?
- Is there anything about my wine or its packaging that conveys a message that’s inconsistent with my branding?
Put Together a Marketing Strategy
If possible, you should employ a combination of both paid and free marketing methods. Examples of paid marketing include social media advertising, eCommerce PPC, retargeting, and eCommerce email marketing. Examples of free marketing include eCommerce SEO, referrals, and eCommerce content marketing.
Focus on Sales
Once the foundation of your business is in place, it’s time to increase eCommerce sales! A strong sales plan relies on these principles:
- Understanding prospects’ desires and needs
- Matching the right product to relevant customers
- Remaining persistent and looking for opportunities to win
The first of these principles is the most important. If you take the time to understand what customers want most, your products will stand out to them.
Sell Vintage Wine Online
Vintage wine is a popular niche of the already booming wine industry. Because wine is generally considered better the older it is, this keeps the vintage wine market strong at all times. Here are our recommended strategies for selling vintage wine online:
- Get active on collectors’ forums. Some enjoy buying vintage wine to eventually consume it; others buy it to build their wine portfolio.
- Look for organizations willing to buy it. Conduct your own research to ensure that you’re getting maximum value for your wine.
- Stay persistent. There’s a buyer for just about everything in today’s world if you know where to look.
Setting up your online wine business will have you eager to start making sales. Indeed, wine is a robust percentage of the online alcohol sales industry, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
As your business overcomes other obstacles, you may discover that beer is more your thing. Learn the basics of selling beer online with the following info.
Having an online beer business is different from selling beer in person. Since customers shop for beer differently on the Internet, you’ll need to present your products in an appealing and convenient way. Here’s how to begin.
Develop Attention-Grabbing Branding
In a niche like beer that has over 7,000 breweries in the US alone, it’s going to take some ingenuity for your products to stand out. The visual presentation of your beer should be aligned with its flavor and personality.
Find a Supplier
If you aren’t selling your own beer online, that is 100% okay. When selecting a supplier, keep the following principles in mind:
- Do they list great wholesale items to sell?
- Is their customer service prompt and professional?
- Do they provide discounts, bulk shipping, allow pre order, and other incentives to keep working with them?
Focus on Direct to Consumer Options
eCommerce is successful in large part because it allows companies to send products directly to customers. Giving your customers choices like one-day shipping, cancelling a subscription at any time, and free returns will demonstrate how much you care.
How to Sell Beer Online Legally
As you can imagine, there are multiple prerequisites for selling beer online legally. Here are the legal requirements for selling beer online:
- A manufacturer’s license.
- An alcohol dealer’s registration (ADR).
- A retail license.
- A shipping license.
It’s best to research the laws in your own state to understand all of the commercial requirements for your business.
Where to Sell Beer Online
Now that you have your legal and business basics in place, it’s time to sell your goods online. There’s no right or wrong eCommerce marketplace for online beer sales, but it helps to know popular routes you can take.
Here is where to sell beer online:
- Your own eCommerce store
- 2ndKitchen 2Go
Beer is a great standalone product that often sells itself to the right audience. You have plenty of providers to choose from if reselling, and since beer is a widely appreciated drink, there’s always demand for it.
You can take your business to another level by selling whiskey in addition to beer. Continue reading to learn about this beverage and how to sell it online.
There is a lot of legal documentation and business infrastructure needed to sell whiskey online. You need to show the government that you’re a lawful provider of alcoholic beverages and reach the public with business and marketing savvy.
Here are the legal documents you’ll need for your online whiskey business:
- A federal tax ID (FTID) or employer identification number (EIN). The government assigns and tracks taxes for your business and employees through your EIN.
- An eCommerce business license. This license demonstrates that you are legally prepared to conduct online commerce.
- An alcohol dealer’s registration (ADR). A dealer’s registration is similar to the BASSET certification for restaurants, grocers, and retail stores.
- A manufacturer’s license. If you run your own distillery for commercial use, you need documentation proving this to the government.
- A retailer license. This license shows the government that you are equipped to lawfully sell alcohol to the public.
- A shipping license. Last but not least, your business needs a shipping license for every state you intend to ship to.
Build a Persuasive Brand
Millions of people love and consume whiskey every day, but that doesn’t mean your business will be recognized immediately. Here are some tips useful for brand-building:
- Have a firm grasp on the existing market. A great way to accomplish this is through a SWOT analysis.
- Speak to customers’ pain points. You need a competitive edge that will draw a key segment of buyers to your products.
- Always use professional visuals. If your beverages come across as unsafe or unprofessional in any way, buyers will think twice.
- Understand that branding is more non-verbal than verbal. When prospects are browsing, they’re more likely to seek an emotional connection to a product that they can logically justify.
Develop an eCommerce Marketing Strategy
In addition to sales, marketing is the lifeblood of any business. Here are some worthwhile marketing strategies to leverage:
- Create content regularly. The more you can answer your target audience’s questions, the more likely they are to purchase.
- Set a reasonable budget. The important question is not whether you have $500 or $50,000 for marketing, but how you’re using it. An eCommerce PPC campaign can be successful if you know how to structure your ads.
Where Can I Sell Whiskey Online?
With the basics of online whiskey sales covered, you’re probably wondering where you can list your drinks for sale. There are five primary methods for selling whiskey online:
- Selling direct to consumer.
- Selling to retailers.
- Selling via online auction.
- Selling through a whiskey broker.
- Selling through traditional auction houses.
Now that you’re familiar with how to start an eCommerce food business, you can get brewing, baking, or distilling. Remember that fantastic products, excellent marketing, and a seamless order experience are must-haves for contemporary success.