The global specialty foods market generates over a hundred billion dollars in revenue each year, and is growing faster than ever. In response to the cultural impact of eCommerce giants like Amazon and Instacart, along with the COVID-19 lockdowns, many merchants in the specialty food and beverage niche are bringing their businesses online.
Now, artisanal chocolate, high-grade coffee, organic greens, gourmet popcorn, vegan ice cream, and other specialty food products are much more accessible to the average consumer—as they’re no longer limited to the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Today’s consumers can quickly and easily go online, learn about different foods, make purchases, and have those items delivered to their doorstep in as little as 24 hours. Most importantly, they’ve come to expect this new level of speed and convenience.
Competing in the rapidly growing eCommerce specialty foods market requires paying close attention to emerging trends and consumer expectations. In this article, we highlight eight digital strategies that specialty food brands should focus on, why they’re important, and how to go about implementing them.
Build a multi-channel customer experience
In today’s digital world, a business has to meet the customer where they are, rather than the other way around. Your customers should be able to navigate your eCommerce website from their desktop, laptop, or mobile device—without running into bugs, slow loading times, cluttered web pages, or other usability issues.
In addition to your eCommerce site and/or brick-and-mortar store, you can sell and market specialty foods through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. You can also list products on digital marketplaces like Amazon, Direct Eats, and Zingerman’s.
Displaying products in more places online will extend your business’ reach, leading to a wider, more diverse customer base. But remember, it’s important to maintain consistency across these channels. Whether a customer is interacting with your native site, mobile app, social media pages, or marketplace listings, the visual elements and brand messaging should remain unified throughout. Luckily, with a modern eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, you can efficiently implement and manage multiple online channels from a single dashboard.
Ecommerce personalization involves capturing user data, then leveraging that data to deliver tailored customer experiences. With the right tools, you can collect helpful information about your customers, such as their age, gender, occupation, and location—as well as any browsing and transactional history from your website and other channels. This data helps marketing teams better understand who’s using their site, so that they can break users up into segments, then refine the customer experience from there. Furthermore, this data can be processed by AI- and ML-driven software, designed to automatically deliver customized content to individual users.
Let’s say a user enters your site, clicks on a food product, views the product details for a minute or so, then bounces. The next time they enter the site, they are instantly presented with a “Continue Shopping” option that links them directly back to that product, so they don’t have to find it all over again. Additionally, the customer could receive emails, text messages, or ads on external sites that contain a discount code for that type of product. This is a perfect example of personalizing the customer experience across channels.
Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase products from eCommerce businesses that provide personalized experiences. For specialty food brands looking to stand out among the competition, embracing personalization is a no-brainer.
Add group ordering and gifting functionality
Specialty food and beverage items can make great gifts, whether it be for one friend, several family members, or a hundred clients. To support gift giving on your eCommerce site, you’ll need a customized checkout experience—where customers can send multiple items to multiple recipients under a single order, as well as add personalized messages and gift wrapping.
This may add a great deal of complexity internally, especially if you want items delivered across state lines or internationally, as shipping fees and regulations vary depending on the location. But with an automated order fulfillment process, supported by reliable third-party tools and vendors, your eCommerce site can facilitate purchases for any occasion—from weddings, to holidays, to corporate events—without adding friction to internal processes or the customer experience.
Enable B2B sales
If you currently sell, or are planning on selling specialty food products in bulk to grocery stores or other businesses, consider bringing the B2B experience online as well. While individual consumers use your traditional B2C website, B2B customers should have access to a separate portal—one with its own product offerings, prices, content, and payment options.
Traditionally, B2B sales are processed in person or over the phone, requiring significant time and energy on both ends. But with a modern B2B sales portal, buyers can seamlessly order products in bulk, make payments, adjust user permissions, and view their transactional history—all without the help of a sales or customer service representative.
In a highly competitive niche like the eCommerce specialty foods market, pricing will be a determining factor in the failure or success of your business. This means you need to pay close attention to industry trends and keep overhead costs low, so you can offer the most competitive prices possible.
At least 33% of consumers look up price comparisons online before making a purchase. To remain competitive here, focus on driving down the cost of shipping so that you can offer free delivery. You should also include a local delivery or pickup option if possible. Finally, consider implementing a formal dynamic pricing system, where prices change based on the sales channel, location of the customer, time of year, current market conditions, and so on.
Invest in content marketing
Content is the key to connecting with your brand’s audience. Through blogs, ebooks, email newsletters, videos, podcasts, webinars, and other types of content, you can educate your customers about the specialty foods you’re selling, as well as drive more organic traffic to your website.
To perform well in search engines and maintain an authoritative digital presence, your development team must structure the eCommerce site strategically, and your marketing team must regularly publish keyword-optimized content to the site, as well as on social media. With a successful SEO strategy, you will generate more leads, spend less money on paid advertising, and ultimately drive down your customer acquisition cost (CAC).
Appeal to conscientious shoppers
A conscientious shopper is one who makes purchasing decisions based on the seller’s views and actions toward certain social or political issues—usually falling within the category of inequality, poverty, addiction, climate change, or animal cruelty.
When it comes to the specialty foods market, many of today’s consumers, particularly members of the Millennial and Gen Z demographic, prefer to shop with businesses that use eco-friendly production methods, thereby decreasing their contribution to pollution and climate change. Since nearly six out of ten consumers consider themselves conscientious shoppers, it’s imperative to highlight your brand’s commitment to sustainable business practices through your website, blog, social media, and so on.
Adopt a modern eCommerce architecture
When you’re ready to add new sales and marketing channels, expand internationally, integrate personalization tools, customize the checkout process, build a B2B sales portal, or optimize your content marketing strategy, you may experience limitations due to your current technology stack. Legacy eCommerce systems often have a monolithic architecture that makes it difficult—if not impossible—to implement new tools and processes.
But with a modern eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, you can migrate to a more flexible system that integrates well with new technologies. And as many online retailers are doing, you can adopt a headless or microservices architecture, where services within an eCommerce application are decoupled, so that they can be managed and scaled independently.
Get started with advanced eCommerce solutions for your speciality foods brand
Your customers expect fast, simple, and meaningful online shopping experiences—and if these expectations go unfulfilled, there’s a wide range of other specialty foods brands to choose from. To compete in the rapidly growing specialty foods market, your business needs advanced digital solutions on both the front and back end. With a data-driven, multi-channel approach, supported by a powerful eCommerce platform and the right mixture of third-party apps, you can deliver personalized shopping experiences that increase customer engagement, reduce bounce rates, and drive revenue.
Here at Codal, we help specialty food and beverage brands unlock their full potential. For example, we recently launched a transformative eCommerce solution for a historic popcorn retailer in Chicago—allowing the brand to sell its products internationally, streamline internal workflows, and improve customer engagement across channels.
With strategic insights, superior web development capabilities, and partnerships with industry leaders like Shopify and BigCommerce, our team will work with your team to build, test, launch, and maintain solutions that elevate your business’ eCommerce experience. To learn more, get in touch with Codal today!