During COVID19, we witnessed a dramatic shift in traditional food businesses (i.e.  farmers, butchers, or seafood wholesalers), where online sales became a critical component to survival.

Some businesses were able to pick up and launch e-commerce operations as relative rookies - seeing an immediate uptick in sales. However, this is not always the norm for suppliers and vendors exploring online sales for the first time.

E-commerce success depends on many things - supplier's willingness to learn or put in the time, effort, brand savviness, or having a budget to market and sell to customers effectively in an online-first world.

Luckily, if you're an eager business that's willing to adapt and delight your buyers, there are several low-cost, proven tactics to grow your online sales. In fact, it's not uncommon to suppliers increase their basket sizes by 10% and get 20% more repeat buyers (vs. the average) by employing the strategies below.

After conducting experiments and observing aggregate data across thousands of orders, here are 5 proven tips to help increase your online sales:  

1) Fewer products with better content

Quality always trumps quantity! The top performing suppliers have an average of 40 products for sale. In fact, conversions often drop after a certain threshold of products (customers often crave simplicity).

Suppliers that take the time to upload multiple high quality photos or add detailed descriptions to each product tend to see higher order frequency, average order value, and referrals from search traffic (SEO).

Here's a template / guideline you can use:

Sourced from {geography or supplier}, {product name} is a succulent, full-flavored fish which has large, soft-textured flakes. {product name} has higher fat content compared to other fish.

This fish goes great with pasta, lasgna, or soup. Check out some recipes here!
- Recipe 2
- Recipe 2

Add at least two photos per product, if possible.

2) Free delivery for orders above a minimum spend

Suppliers offering local delivery have the highest conversion rates versus businesses that only have pickup options. When it comes to online shopping, convenience is key!

If you're worried about delivery profitability, include a custom cost of delivery per area through Freshline's service zones. Pro tip: there are usually tons of last-mile refrigerated trucking companies that would be more than happy to do your deliveries for a fixed price per delivery.

Suppliers that offer certainty (set delivery schedule, delivery window, etc) fare better than stores with uncertain or unknown delivery dates (i.e. stores with no ability to choose delivery dates, or ambiguous "to be arranged" messages).

Finally, customers want and expect free delivery above a reasonable minimum spend. Whether this threshold is $75 or $150 - suppliers should try their best to allow for a free delivery option, even if it means increasing the unit prices or margins on their products to maintain profitability.

3) Stay top of mind via mail and social

Suppliers that are actively posting at least once per week on social media and/or sending out weekly order reminders via Mailchimp see a 20% increase in orders vs. suppliers not actively promoting their stores.

Stay top of mind and schedule a social media post or mailing campaign at least once per week. You'll reap the benefits!

4) Offer a promotional incentive

Customers love to feel rewarded - and will even spend beyond their initial budget to attain a specific discount. With Freshline, suppliers can create discount codes that:

  • Are single or multiple-use per customer
  • Have a threshold for discount
  • Have a budget cap per customer and/or per online store

These discount codes can be shared on Facebook, Instagram, Mailing Lists to incentivize online orders.

Through Freshline, suppliers can customize discounts and set maximum usage rules to maximize effectiveness.

5) Add a personal touch on your packaging

Most customers prefer to purchase high quality ingredients from their local supplier instead of going to a big-box grocery store. Suppliers that create an emotional connection see upwards of a 30% increase in customer retention vs. the average supplier.

This emotional connection can be something as little as:

  • Sending a short, personalized email to every customer that orders
  • Adding a small postcard with a personal message and discount code for the future

Invest a little, get a lot. To us, it's a no brainer.

In conclusion

As COVID restrictions start to wind down, customers are increasingly looking for local, direct sources for their ingredients. Suppliers have things that grocery stores will never have - higher quality, care, a selection of unique/elusive items, and an intimate knowledge of their food. Businesses that offer this, alongside a convenient, direct-from-supplier experience will ultimately pave a new, permanent channel of commerce.

Luckily, Freshline is built from the ground up for food businesses - meaning it has all of the features you need to build, launch, and scale your online perishables business.

If you want to get started with Freshline and future proof your food business, you can start a free 14 day trial or give us a shout at sales@freshline.io!

Thanks for reading!

Joseph Lee
Co-founder @ Freshline