The biggest concern when transitioning to an online store is the fear of losing great customer relationships. We hear this all the time, but I assure you, this is not the case. Food is personal, and having meaningful relationships with your customers is an integral part of being a food producer.
It is a common misconception that face-to-face interaction is the only method of building a relationship. In today’s world, this is not the most convenient way to sell, nor is it always possible to develop your relationships this way. At the end of the day, what you want from your selling relationship is to give your customers what they want to buy and to keep them coming back for more.
Convenience for Your Customers (and You!)
Most of your customers want convenience and ease, above all else. An online store allows them to order from you whenever they want, from anywhere! How convenient is that? Additionally, the system gives you extra time to connect with customers (if required) as you are not spending time physically selling your products.
Reduction of Order Errors or Missed Orders
Manual-entry systems are prone to order errors. If you are taking orders from multiple sources, inputting them into a spreadsheet, and updating inventory manually, something is bound to go wrong. The most damaging for a customer relationship is a rocky ordering process. Incorrectly packed, late, or missed orders can be detrimental. Having a system that keeps you organized ensures a professional and seamless transaction.
Provides Accurate, Updated Product Lists and Prices
Without an online store, it is hard to continually update your customers on your current product and price lists. This limits what your customers buy and restricts their ability to purchase different products. An online storefront gives your customers all the updated, correct information they need upfront.
It is easy to miss the benefits an online store can have on customer relations. An online store can significantly increase accessibility to a larger customer base. However, it is not enough to just have an online store. Customer service is still required to keep your customers happy and keep them coming back for more. Here are some ideas to help build and maintain these relationships:
1. Ask for Feedback
Customer feedback is the best indicator of success. As a business owner, you must adjust your products to meet the needs of your target audience. The best way to get better is to ask for feedback. Your customers can give you ideas for new products, help to adjust your distribution routes, and improve your customer service. Additionally, it is essential to let your customers know that their voice is valued.
2. Include Personalized Messages with Delivery
Personal touches, such as handwritten notes, exclusive deals, and pictures of your team, farm, and animals/crops, add value to your customer’s experience. Adding a touch of your personality and brand to orders can go a long way. It makes a customer feel appreciated and better feel a connection to your business.
3. Keep in Touch
You never want to neglect a customer after they have made their first purchase. Often, we spend a lot of time trying to get a customer, but not enough time developing the relationship after they have purchased. It can go a long way to spend some time keeping in touch with your customer base. Send personalized emails, or even better, get them on the phone. The occasional interaction outside of a buying experience is a valuable method to get to know your customers and how to get them to buy more.
4. Remember Customer Order History
This is another personalized touch that goes a long way. Customers want to feel special and unique. When connecting with your customers, be sure to reference their order history. It will give you a place to start and gives you an “in” to recommend similar products. Also, it feels good when people remember you, and your customers will appreciate it.
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Nina Galle is Local Line's Content Marketer, creating blog posts, templates, free tools, and other helpful resources for local food suppliers.