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How to build an ecommerce business that sells food online

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Aug. 4, 2015
Selling food online is one of the most difficult ecommerce businesses to succeed at. While creating an appetizing website is in itself a challenge, ensuring that your (typically perishable) products arrive looking and tasting as delicious as they appeared on the website can be a nightmare.

3. Find the right ecommerce solution for your business and abilities. This tip applies no matter what type of online business you run. Before opening shop, make sure you choose an ecommerce solution, and company, that understands your business and has easy-to-use templates and features, as well as excellent customer/technical support.

Additionally, "choose an ecommerce partner that allows your business to grow with their platform," advises Janeane Tolomeo, marketing & content manager, Di Bruno Brothers, a purveyor of gourmet food and specialty cheeses, which uses Bigcommerce. And make sure it has good reporting. "Bigcommerce provides an overall assessment of how customers are using the site and what areas [our] team should focus on."

4. Make your website a true reflection of who you are. You want your website, or Web design, to immediately convey what your company is about. "In our case, we have a sophisticated, quirky and local' look, which is easily identifiable and sets us apart from other companies," says Torie Burkey, cofounder, Torie & Howard, an ecommerce business that sells organic hard candies.

The bottom line: "find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd," she says. And if you need to, hire a Web designer who can help you to create that unique look. (Many ecommerce solution providers provide users with a list of recommended design partners who can help customize their templates.)

5. Make finding products easy. "We built our new website [using Bigcommerce] so you can explore and discover our products, just like you would in our stores," says Tolomeo, which makes it easy for customers to shop. Other ways you can make it easy for customers to shop on your site is by grouping items by category and making it easy to find those categories, as well as including a search box at the top of each page.

6. Use great photos. "Photos are the only way that customers can see your products, so make them great," says Bandklayder. "Spend the extra funds to hire a great photographer and make your products look their best." Whatever you do, though, do NOT use stock photos or photos found on a competitor's website.

"Food photography is key," agrees Carr Fitzpatrick. "An appetizing ecommerce site is vital to success. Our business more than doubled when we brought our photography in-house and [re-shot] our products with a consistent look and feel," she says. "Stock imagery does not sell because today's foodie consumer is too savvy." Rather, consumers want to see exactly what it is they are buying.

7. Make your product descriptions unique. "Every product needs a unique, memorable description," says Sara Lancaster, the chief communicator at The Condiment Marketing Company. "Not only is this useful for search engine optimization, but clever copy writing will convert sales. Include stats (e.g., weight, ingredients, type of packaging) but also describe [the] flavor," she advises. "Since your reader can't smell or taste what you're selling, which is presumably very tasty, take them there with your words."


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