As the world changes, all kinds of food and drink businesses are making the move online. And that move can be scary, but you’re not alone. That’s why, today, we’re going to talk about three key areas that are vital to online specialty food businesses. And we’ll hear and learn from actual food and drink shops that are having success in these areas. I’m Samantha Renée.
I help businesses grow and scale at Bricks to Clicks Collective and I’m a Business Tutorials Producer at Shopify. Here’s what we’ll cover today. First, offering local delivery and pickup. Second, the logistics of shifting your focus.
And third, safe shipping. Let’s get started. The first area that we’ll look at is local delivery and pickup. Food and drink services have been through a lot. But I’ve seen businesses get scrappy, using new technologies and sometimes even changing their entire business model.
And with that, local pickup and delivery have become a common offering. Depending on what you’re selling, UberEats, Skip the Dishes or whatever service is local to you have become a true lifeline. These are great quick options to start selling but not your only choice.
You can set up local delivery or pickup options right in your Shopify store, giving you full autonomy over the experience. And of course, you’ll save on the service fees. And by adding apps like this, you can give customers the option to pick a time slot for their pickup or delivery.
Tariq is the owner of Revel Cider, a scrappy startup specializing in small batch ciders and wines. Before the pandemic, bars and restaurants were their main source of income. So when basically everything closed down over a single weekend, they really had to double down on direct-to-consumer sales.
And they made sure that they had easy and reliable pickup and delivery options. Their cidery now has a few different options for ordering. First, they have curbside pickup where you order online and pickup during designated hours. Then $10 flat rate shipping.
So with a minimum order they’ll ship to customers across the country. And finally, they also do hand delivery right to their customers doorstep in nearby cities. Now that service. And since pivoting the direct-to-consumer sales have grown almost 250 percent.
But with so many different ordering options, communication is key. And they’ve nailed this. They set up a really comprehensive FAQ page on their website for all you need to know about each delivery option. And they’ve added it to their social profiles, like in their Instagram bio and in the footer of their website.
When asked what tips they would give to other businesses who are offering local pickup and delivery, they gave three awesome answers. Number one: for pickup, make sure your hours are reasonable for you. They attempted to start off being open almost all of the time, but they realized that it was not sustainable for any type of work-life balance.
Number two; for anything fragile or heavy, get boxes twice as strong as you think you need. It’s shocking how rough couriers can be with your parcels. Number three: deliver yourself when you can. Maybe this one is obvious, but you can save a lot of money doing it this way.
And you can create a great customer experience offering delivery in-house has also allowed Revel Cider to create jobs in their community. Great tips. OK, now let’s talk about another really important area: shifting focus. When the world changes, businesses need to change too.
And sometimes this means shifting our focus from our original plan or product. This can come in many different forms, like adding new products to your store. Maybe wine openers or glassware if you’re a wine bar. Or food options that complement your wine selection, or maybe it means making some of the products that you’ve already had more prominent. That’s exactly what Ade from the Innocent Baker did. The Innocent Baker makes step- by-step baking kits with pre-measured ingredients.
And they’ve always included baking tools with their kits. They started to notice a higher number of people wanting specialized baking tools. And so they decided to separate the tools from the kits and sell them individually on their site. They’re also in the process of adding more unique baking tools and bundling items like the deluxe baking tool starter kit.
Adding new SKUs to your store can be super enticing for your customers. It’s exciting to see your favorite store expand their inventory with other items that you’ll probably love, like offers that include a wine pairing or a discount on a related item. Depending on where you live, there may be specific license requirements or sales restrictions when selling things like alcohol.
So be sure that you’re following the rules for your location. Now let’s talk about the third and final important area for any online specialty food business. Safe shipping. When you’re selling any type of food or beverage, making sure that it is safe for consumption when your customer gets it is top priority.
And it’s no surprise that this and become a bit more challenging when you’re shipping outside of the country. When you’re exporting food like fish or meat, there are regulations under commodity legislation, like the Fish Inspection Act, for example. So be sure to do your research and check out the rules for each Act.
Also consider the potential restrictions on your product in its destination country. Help your customers have a good shipping experience by setting expectations. Update your website to include detailed information on your shipping options. And for international customers, potential fees and duties.
Finally, products that need refrigeration aren’t ideal for long distance shipping, but it is possible. Here’s proof. Happy Valley Meat Co. from New York has found success shipping its meat products from coast to coast within 48 hours. And in certain zip codes, they do overnight shipping to make sure the food arrives fresh. Here’s Dan from Happy Valley Meat Company, to share some tips on how to ship safely.
So today we’re going to be shipping some meat. We have in front of us everything we need to get it there safely. All the meat that we ship out is frozen. You can ship out fresh and keep it cool, but customers tend to get a little wary.
One thing to note is if you are going to ship frozen meat, you might start to thaw. And that’s OK. It can be refrozen safely, but half the battle is setting the right expectations for your customers. So we include marketing inserts. Stuff like this. That tells a little about our story, a little bit about what customers can expect, and what’s safe.
And we ship all of our meat frozen. Because of our warehousing constraints, we don’t use dry ice. But dry ice is the gold standard for keeping everything cold. And so the rule generally is about 20% of the weight of your package should be gel packs. We’re using here, for about six pounds of meat, we’re using five pound of gel packs.
Now we use FedEx, and we use FedEx because particularly, we’re looking at their ground system. Now FedEx has a ground system and an express system. Ground uses trucks, where FedEx Express tends to use planes and gets there further, faster. We use Ground because it’s cheaper.
The thing to know about Express is if you were to use dry ice, you have to declare it, and there’s only a certain amount, because dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. And when you put it in a plane, it will expand and it can get dangerous. So definitely look up some of the regulations on shipping with dry ice if that is what you choose.
It’s another reason why we choose gel packs. It’s because you can put as many gel packs as you want in a box, and you don’t have to say anything. Now an important thing for all your customers will be how are you ensuring their safety, particularly in the face of the pandemic. You want to do this for your workers as well, anyway. And I’m sure many of you are doing this. But it doesn’t hurt to tell your customers what you’re doing. So face masks on!
Awesome insights! OK So we’ve covered a lot here. Before we finish, let’s review the three areas we’ve talked about and key takeaways. So we talked about how to offer local delivery and pickup.
We talked about how you can shift your focus and add different products to your catalog. And finally, the importance of safe shipping. So, what are the main takeaways here? Number one, communicate like Tariq from Revel Cider who use multiple platforms to communicate all of the shipping methods and updates from their company.
Number two; change it up. Ade from the Innocent Baker wasn’t afraid to adjust her business model and add new products to her catalog. Number three; do your research. Dan from Happy Valley Meat Company made sure that they were offering the best and safest shipping options to keep their goods safe and fresh.
And finally, number four. Try something, try anything. Lean into the uncertainty of right now and try new things. Keep what works, fail, and then try something else. Find comfort in the fact that your customers expect changes right now.
And that’s it. I really hope this was helpful. For more tips tutorials and courses check out some of our other content on Compass.