Row of whole bean coffees

Sell More Coffee Online for 2023

Needmore has been involved in web design for specialty coffee for twenty years now, and we’ve learned a lot about how to sell it. Many of these suggestions are applicable to any sort of website, but we’re particularly focused on websites selling roasted coffee.

Show yourself

We’re often surprised by how many coffee roasters have few pictures of the people behind the product, and in particular, no pictures of the founders, even when telling their story.

It’s human nature to seek connection, and when I’m considering trying out a new coffee roaster I look for faces. This was particularly an issue in the throes of the pandemic, when we were all lacking in connection… but it’s still a thing.

Man and woman standing next to coffee roaster, checking coffee beans.

Tell a story

As a specialty coffee roaster, the concept of “commodity” is your enemy. Your coffee is no doubt very special to you, and to many of your customers, and it’s your job to communicate that to visitors to your website.

And the best way to do that is to tell a story.

You might not always have an exciting story to tell about how you hunted down this special coffee at origin, secured an exclusive contract, got it back to the States, and won all kinds of awards. That’s okay. Not every coffee has a crazy story like that, but that doesn’t mean there’s no story at all.

So what to talk about? Tell about the experience you felt when you first tried it. Talk about a cupping when the coffee really stood out. Talk about the first time a favorite customer raved about it.

The important thing is to try to tell a story, and give your customers something to connect to.

Take good pictures

Considering how much of a coffee’s perceived value comes from how it is packaged, not to mention how much good packaging costs, be sure to take the time to get good photographs. We’ve written about this before, but you want to take a step back and think about how you can present your products to the world in a consistent and attractive way.

Woman holding green coffee beans

Make it easy to subscribe (and to cancel)

Our household tends to have at least three different coffee subscriptions going at one time, and that’s not as unusual as you’d think. We’ve tried many out over the years, and built a number of them ourselves, and they can be tricky. But don’t assume they can’t be awesome.

All of the popular platforms you’re likely to use for selling coffee support subscriptions. In fact, it’s often the case that they support several subscription services. Once you’ve chosen one, it can be very difficult to move to another, so take your time making this choice.

Critically, don’t settle for their default behavior, as out of the box they’re often poorly designed. Try playing with subscription builders you’ve seen that work well—we’ve designed some really good ones! It’s worth the time and expense to nail that experience, because you can lose a surprising amount of possible subscribers  with a few bad design decisions.

Part of the experience that is sometimes overlooked are the emails sent to customers when different subscription events take place. Think about how those should look, and make sure they answer any questions folks might have at that time.

Finally, letting customers know every step of the way that it’s super easy to cancel the subscription will help them trust you more.

Two people getting ready to cup coffee

Don’t let marketing get in the way

It’s not hard to find examples of e-commerce website that annoy visitors with pop-ups and email subscription demands. This can be a temptation, because who doesn’t want more mailing list subscribers! We get that.

But this can work against you. If someone visits your website, but can’t even see what you sell without dealing with a pop-up window, you could certainly be losing customers. And are those really the best people to be encouraging to subscribe? Perhaps it’s better to wait until they’ve had a look around, or decided to give your coffee a try.

A good alternative is just letting folks decide if they want to also join your mailing list when they purchase something, so that they can hear more news from you in the future. This approach is far less obtrusive and more respectful. You can also put a subscription form in the footer, because people will look there.

Marketing is good, and growing your business is great… but don’t push it at the expense of the experience.

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.