Hey there Sea Changers and welcome back to my series of posts outlining ways and means to create yourself an online business to fund that sea change. Today’s topic is one that I originally hadn’t actually included in my long, long research list until I was at a friend’s house on the weekend. You see his neighbour – who is a coffee fanatic and imports coffee from all over the world to roast and brew in his extremely expensive machine – had come over and was discussing his latest brew… Hints of chocolate, slight bitterness on the palate etc. etc. I asked him where he got it? “I get all my coffee online” he said… BOOM! And my latest post on how to make money selling coffee online was born.
Once I thought about it a bit more though, it seems to be quite obvious that this would be a good niche to investigate in terms of an online business. After all, hands up if you drink coffee… hands up if your friends drink coffee… I am guessing there are a few hands up. So without further delay and carry on, let’s check it all out…
How do we get started?
So I am thinking that based on the fact that around 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily worldwide that there is probably a good market for these little brown beans of deliciousness. That said, I would hate to convince anybody to start their own online coffee business and have it fall away due to the fact that none of these 2 billion odd coffee drinkers choose to buy anything to do with it online. So as usual, let’s see what people are searching for:
What are people looking for?
To start let’s just confirm our market numbers:
1. Number of monthly searches
As we are looking to see if there is an interest in coffee related products and services online, let’s start by checking for purchase related searches. You will need to find yourself a good keyword tool (I use Jaaxy) and enter in the keywords that best describe your market. In this case, we will start with the basics:
Ok, that’s pretty good – over 440,000 searches per month – and we can also use this information to start to get a few niche ideas there with large number of searches for coffee grinders – and coffee in France – maybe a good post idea there. This is great to know in regards to interest within this niche however let’s break it down a little further:
That’s better… The numbers aren’t as large here but we can see just how wide the range of options are for our online business. There are searches for coffee beans, grinders, makers and machines – all with decent search numbers and certainly, I believe, enough to be confident that we a could be onto a good thing here. But just to finish up, I always like to play around a bit with these and I was most interested in the following results:
Coffee Cups – WOW! A lot of people search for coffee cups. I mean they do make a great gift and there has been a big push recently for ‘keep cups’ as opposed to the single use paper variety. I would also hazard a guess that almost all of the 2.25 billion serves discussed above are delivered in some sort of cup.
2. Search Trends
Another important aspect of online sales and niche selection is to check that interest is maintained over time. To gain an insight into this let’s check out how the searches for a few of our coffee related products are trending online.
Ok, so we can see that interest has been maintained fairly well over the past few years with maybe even just the slightest of rises. One thing I do notice however is a definite spike in interest at the same time each year. I originally put it down to the rush of Christmas coffee cup gift purchases but the spike is actually in the first week of December each year. I did some research and cannot see why this is, maybe coffee gift purchasers get in early rather than wait until Christmas Eve like I do…
That aside, all in all, I really see a good opportunity here.
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What is our niche?
Ok, now the fun part begins – In the statistics and screen dumps above, we can already see some of the interest in different niches within the coffee market. The decision you have now is to determine whether you wish to create your online business covering coffee in general or concentrate on a specific area or sub niche. There are a good number of different areas you could explore here – and off the top of my head, some examples include:
- Coffee beans
- Coffee equipment
- Making coffee
- Types of coffee
- Roasting coffee
- Brewing coffee
- Barista services
- Cafe and barista equipment
- Coffee cups (obviously)
- Coffee gifts
- Coffee bean handling and storage
- Coffee pods and machines
- Portable coffee carts
And that is just a few off the top of my head – all of which can be marketed from the point of view of the writer, or simply as a means of supplying information to those looking to purchase. I tend to think that a few of the above areas could be incorporated into the one site however as you start to think about this, the question to ask yourself is whether the content you are covering is too large to cover effectively. The risk here is that if you start with a niche that is too broad, you may not be able to cover everything to the level required or to become authority on the subject – which you will need to be if you are going to convince people to purchase from you and not their local store. Don’t forget, you can always add a new section to your site as you grow as well.
As you work through narrowing your targeted niche, consider the following:
- Are you able to solve a problem – Most people undertake searches on the internet to solve a problem – see next section.
- Is it a subject that you have an interest, or knowledge in– I am guessing that you are in this post as you know about, or have an interest in coffee. If you don’t have either of these, maybe consider another market as, to be honest, you might struggle to produce solid content if you don’t know much about them – or worse, have no interest in them. Trust me, people will know immediately if your information is not up to scratch or even worse, can put their enjoyment of coffee at risk.
Let’s investigate this a little further by discussing the problem solving elements of niche selection.
What problem are we solving?
If this is a niche that you are interested in, you may already know what it is that you are trying to sell. If not, then maybe start to look at it from the perspective of solving problems. This, added to your area of interest is a great way to work out exactly what you think you might like to base your online business upon.
Think about your own search behaviours when you are online – I would hazard a guess that most searches you do are in order to solve a problem. Now think of this in a manner in which someone might have problems within the greater coffee niche such as:
- You know that you want to buy a new coffee machine for home use but don’t know which is the ‘best’.
- You have a problem and need a solution – I.e. “I own a cafe and want know how to store my coffee beans to keep them fresh”.
Your goal here is to determine just what problem/s you are trying to solve for your readers. This maybe one problem that spans your site or differ for each post that you write. For example, if you have chosen coffee beans for your niche, then problems might be:
- Matching products to use– They want to know what beans would be best in a base model coffee machine.
- Which to buy – There are a number of coffee pod machines on the market – but which is best?
In these cases, people would be searching for those topics based on having a problem and needing a solution. Your site would outline and review the best options for them.
Alternatively, if your site is about the use of barista quality coffee machines then you could look into the following:
- What machines are best?
- How many ‘cups’ a day can they make?
- What accessories are needed?
- Should you consider a particular brand?
- Which beans are best for each type?
- Cleaning and maintenance techniques.
Note: You do not need to identify every possible problem that your readers may have straight away. In many cases, the more you write, the more ‘problems’ will present themselves so initially you really just want to make sure that there are some that may need solving as we have found here.
How are you going to convince them to buy?
Now that we know our niche (or are at least working on it) and have an idea of the types of problems that we want to solve, there is one last thing to consider which is the online purchase behaviour of your targeted audience.
The first thing you would need to consider is exactly who will be looking at your site. The first group that comes to mind are the home coffee fanatics (like my friend’s neighbour) – those who always have the latest and greatest technology and want all the coffee beans. But what about families who just want to make themselves a decent coffee in the mornings before work? Oh, and don’t forget the city worker who only buys coffee on their way to work. Your sales/post pitches not only need to match the needs and problems that your site visitors are looking to solve, but also target them specifically as well. Some examples include:
- Those that are new to the world of coffee machines (i.e. have decided they spend too much on coffee out and want to make it at home) will want to know exactly what they are getting and why it is needed. Families however might want the same information, but may be looking at some options a little gentler on the back pocket.
- The coffee fanatic will need specs and details – they will dissect your reviews with a fine toothed comb.
- Professionals will want to the best bang for their buck. And we all know what a bad coffee can do to the reputation of the establishment that served it…
So at the end of the day, even though we do have purchaser behaviour on our side, to be successful in selling coffee related products online, consider the following:
- Solve problems without purchase – That’s right – write your posts in a way that actually makes it easier for people to do their research and buy elsewhere – by doing this, you are solving problems and helping readers out. If they trust you, they will be more likely to return next time and buy from you then – especially if you follow up with posts on similar or compatible products or accessories that might interest them!
- Provide the intangibles – One major disadvantage when it comes to selling anything online is that we can’t really know what the products look, feel, smell and taste like. And this is especially important when it comes to coffee – after all, we can’t always taste it first and words such as ‘bitter’ can mean different things to different people. Your posts will need to cover this information in a manner that puts minds at ease and explains some of the intangibles.
- Know your audience – A big mistake many make here is to target the product and not necessarily the buyer. This is especially important when dealing with a budget minded audience. It is very easy for example to get carried away explaining how great a coffee machine is because it is cheap all the while forgetting that those intending to use it don’t want to have to grind their coffee first. The same goes for high end options… Expensive doesn’t always mean cleaner or better tasting. Make sure you do your research on the buying behaviours of those you are targeting before writing your posts.
Tip: Still not sure? Have a look and see what others are doing. It might just help you with some ideas.
How do we sell coffee online?
And then we come to probably the most important aspect of this whole online selling caper in that we need to consider how we are going to sell the products that we have decided to promote. Depending on the product, there are a number of methods you can use to do this. Let’s explore them below:
Affiliate programs are setup directly by companies or marketplace platforms (Amazon, Ebay etc.) that allow you to join and then refer traffic to them via customised affiliate links. In short, this means that you will write about coffee and then refer your readers to a link where they will purchase directly from the vendors. The vendors then pay you a commission for the sale.
Affiliate programs are especially good for those selling coffee and their accessories online as you can move seamlessly through changes to technology and products without needing to sell out of previous models or bean stocks first. This way you can promote/review the latest items and then refer your readers to the vendor to manage the sale without you having to hold inventory or organise shipping.
Finding affiliate programs is generally not a difficult task either. To locate them, you would normally just type “Affiliate: coffee” into your preferred search engine:
So, as you can see, there are plenty of options in regards to affiliate programs for coffee related niches. As you search through them all, you can check it all out and find programs that:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have quality products – your brand can be severely damaged if you promote poor quality or unsafe products.
- Have solid payment and customer service arrangements.
- Pay decent commissions.
- Have good testimonials covering commission payouts and quality of product.
- Whether they have high ticket items you can promote on the side.
In most cases, you will need to apply for the program before you are allowed to promote their products – don’t take this step lightly or you will be rejected. Affiliate programs will generally want to know:
- Your website name.
- Traffic levels.
- Why you want to join – (“so I can make money by selling your coffee cups” is unfortunately not generally a good enough answer).
- How you plan to promote their products.
One thing to be aware of here I guess is to keep in mind the issues we discussed earlier in regards to coffee related products online. You need to make sure that the programs you choose can be trusted and that the consumer is comfortable that they have recourse if something goes wrong. For this reason you will need to make sure that your chosen programs are going to resonate with your readers and your niche. That said, some marketplace programs such as Amazon and EBay can give you access to these types of products and as they are more trusted, then they maybe worth a look for sure. Some Amazon examples are as below:
Dropshipping is something that may be of advantage to you in this niche if you are looking to play with pricing on your products (price is a big seller in this niche). This process is similar to affiliate marketing in that you are generally promoting the products of others without the need to actually hold any inventory. With affiliate marketing, you are paid a commission on whatever price the vendor sets but do not manage any customer service, sales processes or post sales requirements. The main difference with dropshipping is that you perform the following (there are a number of variations to this but this is the guist of it):
- Strike a relationship with a wholesaler.
- Promote the product for whatever price you see fit – often via a marketplace site such as Shopify, Amazon or Ebay.
- Manage the sales processes and customer service.
- Send the final order and payment to the wholesaler for packaging and shipping.
The money that you make is effectively the difference between whatever you managed to sell the product for and the wholesale price that you owe the vendor. The other advantages of dropshipping over affiliate marketing is that:
- You own the customer list – which is another means of building an effective email list.
- You control the cost of the product and hence the profit margins.
- You can control when you put things on ‘sale’, group them in packages or increase the price for high demand items.
The disadvantages however are the extra workload in handling payment and any ongoing customer service requirements.
To find dropshipping suppliers online, you can enter searches such as “dropshipping: coffee” into your favourite search engine:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location.
From here you can search through and find programs that:
- Offer dropshipping services – Not all product suppliers offer dropshipping as a service – this may just mean that you need to organise the shipping yourself after it is delivered to you.
- Have experience and are helpful – If they are not helpful and/or appear inexperienced then you can expect the same when you are trying to process sales.
- Have acceptable fees – most dropshipping wholesalers will charge a small fee for the dropshipping service – just make sure it is not so high that it eats into your profit margins.
- Provide fast shipping – One disadvantage with dropshipping when dealing with vendors is that the customer is yours, not theirs hence sometimes shipping priorities are not where they should be – make sure shipping times are acceptable.
- Have quality products – as with affiliate marketing, don’t sell rubbish.
- Have a good name – do your research and see what others are saying about them.
Sell your own
If affiliate marketing or dropshipping are not your cup of tea, maybe you could try sourcing and selling your own products. This process is especially popular with those selling smaller equipment (accessories and such) or could be a potentially great market if you wanted to become a purveyor of coffee beans etc. Here you actually purchase your product from a vendor or wholesaler, add your own label and then on-sell them via your website or platforms such as Amazon etc.
This process requires a much higher setup costs as you will need to purchase your products, create and affix your labels and manage orders and shipment. Some wholesalers/vendors however will affix the labels that you send them and then manage the packaging and shipment for you (see dropshipping above). This will cost you less to set up but obviously you will make less on the sale once they take their processing fee.
Again, to find out where to acquire your product, do a search for “supplier: coffee”:
Note: These results will usually be based on your geographical location so you may at times need to sort through a few pages.
From here you will need to follow the same processes as with affiliate and dropshipping programs in determining whether they are a good fit for your business plans including:
- Relate to your niche/problems that you are solving.
- Have solid delivery and customer service arrangements.
- Have good testimonials covering service and quality of product.
Alternatively, keep your eye out in your local area for markets or food carnivals. These are a great way to find and purchase your products at good prices – you never know, you might even find a solid supplier for future sales as well.
Tip: This method can be very effective in driving online traffic and sales via the implementation of more traditional sales methods such as kiosks and market stalls etc. As people get to know you, they can purchase from you there and then be directed to your website for future sales.
If none of the above really gets you excited then maybe it is time to think outside the square a little. Here are some other ideas that I have seen around the traps:
- Demonstrations on YouTube – become an expert in all things coffee such as tasting, making, growing, roasting and so on and link your sales to YouTube advertising etc.
- Rent them out – yep – maybe rent out your coffee machines, cups, settings etc for weddings and special occasions
- Teach people.
- Hold tastings at markets – this will drive sales to your preferred beans
The sky really is the limit – think about how you might be able to corner a much-needed niche in the coffee arena and you could definitely set up a great business.
What do we need to do?
Once we have all of the above sorted, or at the very least a plan in place, we need to choose and setup the media that we intend to use to sell our product. This can include:
Build a Website
If you are looking to build your online business as an affiliate marketer, drop shipper or supplier, then chances are you will most probably need a website. Websites allow you to solve problems via blog posts and videos that people can view in order to identify the solutions that they need. Usually, this process is fairly straight forward in that you build your website, write posts (on the differences between certain types of coffee machines for example), then provide links so that your readers can view/purchase the relevant materials from your links.
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Promote on Social Media
When it comes to coffee, there is a good chance that many coffee lovers are reading Social media whilst they drink it. It has the power to reach thousands and allows you to target specific segments if you choose the correct platform. In terms of coffee related products online, a good platform to start with is FaceBook where you can discuss items with your audience, display coffee items in use and show videos.
However, if you are looking to set yourself up as an expert within the niche, then Instagram and YouTube will be your absolute best friend – some even use these platforms without a website. These are great for visuals such as pictures and/or videos showing you discussing, making, roasting or drinking coffee etc. And, if you are able to build a following you may even get noticed and be paid gazillions to review coffee brands within your videos – this takes time, but it does happen…
Join like-minded groups
Anther great tool when it comes to selling products online are social groups. By getting involved with these groups you can really get a great understanding as to what its members are struggling with, what information they seek and what products they are looking to buy. Below is an example of coffee related FaceBook groups:
Note: Many of these groups will not allow you to spruike or promote your sites directly, however if you can interact and demonstrate your knowledge then people will ask you directly for the information. At the very least, as above, it is a great way to get ideas and insight into what people in this area really want to know about and what they are buying online.
And there it is – How to make money selling coffee online. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, need some advice or have any experiences to share.
Do you want further assistance with any of the above or need help to build your own coffee related website?
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Until next time
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