So you’ve built your food business from the ground up, you tour the farmers markets and food shows, and your products are stocked in some retail outlets. You are doing well, but you have a nagging sense that you’ve hit a plateau. You’ve got your food brand up and running, so where to next? How do you get to the next level? Well, if you haven’t got it sorted already, e-commerce is definately worth considering – the benefits are huge and there is literally no downside. (By the way, if you have e-commerce set up on your site already, please carry on reading for some great advice about driving traffic to your e-commerce site.)
In our last blog, we spoke about how important it is for independent and artisan food producers to demonstrate provenance to compete against cheaper, large retailers. But your website and social media assets can go beyond just demonstrating provenance, and work much harder for you to drive sales and growth.
There was a time, no so very long ago, when the cost of a transactional website was the preserve of large companies, and often required a dedicated individual or outsourced agency to manage it. But this no longer the case. With platforms like WordPress providing attractive, functional and extremely cost-effective websites, and supporting numerous free e-commerce plug ins (our favourite is Shopify), small producers now have the opportunity to sell online for a relatively modest investment.
Not only that, but with a small amount of training, updating a website with new products or marketing content is quick and easy for even the most ardent technophobe.
E-commerce is great because it gives vendors the ability to sell products 24/7, something that is not possible via any other sales platform. No matter how many farmers’ markets you attend, or how many retail outlets stock your products, markets end and shops close, meaning for a huge proportion of the day, your products are unavailable.
This is not the case with e-commerce. A transactional website coupled with the right social media strategy ensures people will see and be able to buy your products at all times of the day or night. Essentially, this means you can be sell produce while you sleep, eat, take a shower. You can sell products 24/7, without increasing your overheads (apart from the initial outlay), or your workload, save for dealing with online orders.
Fundamentally, having an e-commerce site gives your customers much more choice about how they buy your product. Loyal customers might not be able to make a certain farmers market every month to stock up on your goods. Having your products available to purchase across as many platforms as possible (markets, online, Amazon Martketplace, retail outlets, etc) can only be a good thing.
Driving traffic to your online shop
Of course, once your e-commerce site is up and running, you need to ensure people visit it and buy your products. There are several ways to achieve this.
Last time, we looked at how social media is great at helping demonstrate provenance. But it is fantastic to driving traffic too. In fact, we would argue that that is its primary function. Loosely, social media strategy divides into two strands – advertising and content marketing, which is just a fancy phrase for posting updates about your company and products.
Both adverts and sponsored posts can be highly targeted towards your customers so they only reach the people you want them too, making it a cost-effective way of raising awareness and driving people to your website. Combining these with special offers is a powerful way to encourage initial sales, creating ongoing brand loyalty and repeat business.
Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is very important to ensure your website is findable. But it can be difficult for smaller producers to compete in keyword searches. One way to tip the balance in your favour is to include geography in your keywords because often, people search for products and services available in their locality. For example, if you own a farm shop near York, you’d be very unlikely to appear on the first page of Google for the search term ‘farm shop’. You would, however, stand a much higher chance with the terms ‘farm shop Yorkshire’, ‘farm shop York’, or ‘farm shop North Yorkshire’. Combining your products with your location is one of the most effective ways of making your website findable via search engines.
People who have landed on your site and like your proposition may well want to receive updates about new products, special offers or any other promotions you are running. This is where an email marketing strategy can pay dividends. Email marketing is an inexpensive way of keeping in regular contact with customers and fans of your brand, giving them reasons to return to your site.
Having an opt-in form on the home page of your website means they can easily sign up for emails, meaning you shouldn’t have problems with your perfectly crafted emails landing in their spams folders.
Printed materials and a happy smile!
You probably weren’t expecting us to talk about print in a blog about e-commerce, but without some kind of printed material, you’re missing a trick. After all, if you spend a lot or time at farmers’ markets, you’re regularly speaking directly with customers. With every purchase give them a flyer including details of your website and let them know that if they like what they’ve bought, they can purchase directly from there. It may sound obvious, but your biggest fans will always be the people who love your products, so making it as easy as possible to buy them is key to brand loyalty and lots of repeat business.
If you want to find out more about developing an e-commerce site, or strategies to drive traffic to your website, get in touch.