After your customers have tried your coffees once, how do you keep them coming back for more?

July 15, 2013 by

re-order coffeeLet’s say you are a coffee roaster selling direct to the public online. Or an online retailer selling direct, and sourcing quality coffees from top roasters.

Perhaps you see yourself as being part of the “third wave”, sourcing your green beans carefully, building direct relationships with the farmers, and caring deeply about the processing and roasting processes.

In other words, you are delivering premium coffees to your customers online.

A customer buys one of your coffees from your website. He or she tries it. But does she come back for more?

That’s a critical question, because no online business model will work if customers buy just once and never return. It costs you marketing dollars and time to get them to buy from you for the first time, and you won’t get your investment back unless they become repeat buyers.

In other areas of the coffee industry the challenge of turning buyers into repeat customers has been tackled in different ways. Perhaps the best example is the rise of single-serve brewers. Once you have purchased the brewer you are pretty much held captive and have to buy the single-format coffees.

Or perhaps you are famous in your city or region, like Community Coffee is in New Orleans. Or you have a chain of branded coffee shops that seed the growth of your brand.

But what if you don’t have these advantages?

How are you going to turn first-time buyers into long-term fans and advocates?

Or, to take a specific example, after someone has tried your Ethiopian Sidamo coffee, why would they buy that coffee from you again, rather than buying an Ethiopian Sidamo from another company’s website?

Your reply might be, “Because our Sidamo coffee taste better!”

That may well be true, but…

The vast majority of coffee drinkers won’t be able to tell the difference between your coffee and a coffee with the same name from the shelves of their local supermarket.

This goes to the heart of the challenge facing most online coffee stores. Your customers simply can’t taste the difference between your coffees and coffees from your competitors.

Yes, there is a thin slice of the market representing people who can taste the difference. But it’s going to be tough if every quality coffee company tries to compete for that same thin slice.

Truth be told, most of the hundreds of millions of people who drink coffee each day don’t even own a coffee maker that is capable of brewing coffee that does it any kind of justice.

A couple of weeks ago I brewed the same coffee – a really good coffee – in a cheap drip brewer and in my Chemex. The coffee from the Chemex was wonderful. The same coffee brewed in the cheap drip brewer tasted no better than I get from my local greasy spoon restaurant.

Which brings us to the opportunity…

If you want to build a solid base of repeat customers for your business, you have to educate your buyers.

An uneducated buyer won’t even know your coffee is good. An educated buyer will, and once converted will become a fan, and start bugging his or her family, friends and neighbors to follow the same path.

“But we have some amazing ‘how-to’ videos on our website!” Maybe you do. But that probably isn’t enough.

If I were launching an online coffee store I would bake education into the business model and the marketing model. I would lead with education. I would create a customer base comprised of coffee drinkers who COULD taste the quality in the coffees I sold.

Because if they can’t taste the quality, they’ll have no reason to come back to my store.

Or yours.

NOTE: For help with marketing your coffees or coffee making equipment, check out my consulting and writing services…

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