Do I really need a website for my coffee shop? A good number of shops that I know just use a simple social media page on Facebook and Twitter.
– Josh M. from New York, NY
* * * * *
We have looked through hundreds of coffee shops online, and lots do have neatly done websites, but there are many with no website at all, using just a Facebook and/or Twitter page. We definitely understand why. Pages on social media are free to use and don’t require much technical skill to set up. In fact, you can create and start using one in a matter of minutes. However, we personally would make a website right from the start and believe that those coffee shops that don’t have one miss out on a number of very important points:
1. People Research Online Before They Buy
According to a 2013 study by GE Capital Retail Bank, 81% of consumers research online before heading out to the store. This means that your potential customers are very likely to look up information about your shop on the Internet before they decide to visit, and as an old saying goes, we only get one chance to make a first impression. A modern looking website with an easily accessible menu, address and opening hours, stunning photos of coffee and food you serve, your shop’s interior (and maybe some funny photos of your happy staff and customers) will inspire potential customers to visit your coffee shop.
We only get one chance to make a first impression.
Take a look at how Saint Frank in San Francisco, California does a great job at that. Saint Frank’s website is beautiful, expressive, and also very effective at the same time. New visitors can immediately see what Saint Frank is all about — openness and connection between barista and guest, as well as a coffee experience rich and full of connection to the world around us.
Open hours, address, and contact details are also right there.
Screenshot of Saint Frank’s Website Homepage
If you have an effective website that tells your unique story and makes a great first impression, you’re likely to attract new visitors through it.
2. A Website Makes It Easier To Tell Your Story
We know you’ve started your shop because you have passion for coffee, and like most other coffee business owners, you probably have an incredible story to tell. We bet your customers would love to know about how and why you have started in this beautiful industry, and what the philosophy behind your coffee is. A website allows you to present your story the way YOU want by choosing a theme and design that fits your story the most — short or long, with lots of humor, or serious and conservative, colorful and funky, or minimalist and classy. Everything is up to you.
A website allows you to present your story the way YOU want.
To see a great example of how coffee companies tell their stories using their websites, take a look at Gaviña Gourmet Coffee. Their site is a gorgeous, yet functional storytelling tool that does a great job showcasing the company’s 140 year history. Screenshot of Gaviña Gourmet Coffee’s About Us Page
At the same time, it is almost impossible to express yourself and fully present your story in the tiny “about” sections of your Facebook and Twitter pages.
3. Having A Website Greatly Increases Your Visibility
Online visibility means Internet traffic, which means potential new customers and sales. Less online visibility means less potential new customers and sales. I’ll give you a simple example. Let’s say I just moved to Palo Alto, California. I am used to a good cup of coffee in the morning but don’t know any shops around yet. I’ll likely start with googling “best coffee shop in Palo Alto.” This is just what an average person would do, right? (I’m using a Google search as an example, since Google holds a 67.6 percent of the US Internet search market share. However, other search engines work based on the same core principles.) For my search of the “best coffee shop in Palo Alto,” I am getting three coffee shops right at the top of the search results with their names, websites, addresses, contact details, and Google reviews.
Top search results on the first page are what we should care about the most. Why? Well, how many times do you go to the second page of search results when you search for something online? In fact, how many times do you scroll down to the bottom of the first page? Probably not that often. Users tend to trust top search results the most, because they think they must be on top for a reason.
As you can see, Google does not list Facebook or Twitter pages in the top results (at least for Palo Alto, but you can try same for your area). The clear preference is given to coffee shops with websites (not social media pages) and a considerable number of good/excellent reviews on Google (which is a separate topic that we will discuss later on our blog). Indeed, Google does not have any incentive to put coffee shops with just Facebook/Twitter pages at the top of the search results (unless there is absolutely no alternative), since Facebook and Twitter are social networks that Google competes with in the social media space.
We are not saying that appearing at the top of the search results is easy. Google and other search engines use very complex search algorithms that are changed every day. However, it’s your job to make it easy for new customers to find your coffee shop both offline and online. In the online world, it means to rank higher in search engines. Ranking higher is usually done by employing proper SEO (search engine optimization) strategies that, in our experience, is much easier to do with a well designed website than with a Facebook or Twitter page.
Greater online visibility and a higher search rank mean potential new customers and sales.
Greater online visibility and a higher search rank for “best coffee shop in [your city/area]” may dramatically help you with getting new customers through “organic” Internet search traffic.
4. You Have No Control Over Social Media Platforms
Even though it seems rather unlikely at the moment, Facebook and Twitter may simply shut down or go out of business. Fifteen million bloggers lost all of their 63 million pages of content when the social media sharing company Posterous closed in 2013 after much of the team was acquired by Twitter. Also, Internet trends change dramatically over very short periods of time now. Remember MySpace, the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 to 2008? Does anyone use it now? With the rise of Instagram, Vine, and WhatsApp, as well as hundreds of other social networking sites and apps, we’re not sure what people will use in a few years time.
On top of that, social media platforms set their own rules and restrictions, which they change often and in major ways on a very short notice. They give you no choice but to either accept new rules or to not use their platform altogether. Even if you accept all the changes along they way, those rules are usually set out in lengthy terms and conditions and are not that straightforward. If you inadvertently violate them, your page may get suspended or even banned. You are also much more flexible in how you want to present your business to your fans on a website than on a social media platform.
In contrast to the limited set of options of a Facebook page layout (that can suddenly change without your knowledge), options for creatively creating your website are limitless. It’s much safer to make your website the MAIN platform for promoting your business and regard it as your major long-term platform, not your Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking page. With all that said, it does not mean that you should abandon your social media pages altogether. At the moment, they remain a great way to promote your business. Though they should supplement your website (your main platform), and not the other way around.
5. Facebook & Twitter Keep Users Focused On Their Site. A Website Keeps Customers Focused On Your Coffee Shop
You may not realize that when you build a large following of fans on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media platform, you are actually attracting followers to the platform first, and your coffee shop second. For example, your Facebook followers are on your page because they are fans of that social media-sharing site in the first place. In that way, you compete with Facebook and Twitter’s own branding, as well as stories, news, shares, likes, updates, and everything else happening on users’ feeds. When you have customers coming to your website, their sole focus is on your coffee shop — your story, your menu, your photos, your news.
6. A Website Keeps Your Competitors Out Of The View
Facebook, like most social media platforms today, is a publicly traded company, and its primary focus is — making money. And the way Facebook makes money (and lots of money) is through targeted ads. If people search for coffee shops on Facebook or look up their favorite shop there, they are likely to see ads tailored to their interests, which means they may see ads from other coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants running promotions or sales right on your page. This means that all the work that you put into getting fans to your page has just greatly helped your competitors. Indeed, you’ve done all the work for them — attracted coffee shop lovers in a specific city or area to a Facebook page, where your competitors can easily place highly targeted ads.
To the contrary, on your website, you keep your customers focused on your brand and not on the ads of other establishments in the area.
7. You Can Sell Products Through Your Site
Finally, more and more shops and roasteries across the country are beginning to sell products online using their websites. Popular products to sell are different kinds of gifts (coffee samplers, gift cards, and gift baskets), merchandise (custom coffee mugs, t-shirts, and hoodies), equipment (French press, coffee dripper kits, Chemex coffee makers, and others), and of course, fresh coffee, offered simply by individual bags or through special roast clubs that you can create. Just think about how much shop space you can save by moving some of your retail to the cloud. The opportunities to sell through your website are limitless, and most of your customers will appreciate the convenience of shopping online. Click, click, done. Just make sure to ship on time and offer discounts.
At the moment, it’s not possible to sell anything directly through Facebook and Twitter, so having a website is a way to go if you want to sell online. By the way, even if you don’t want to sell right away, it would be good to start gaining search rankings for your website now to be able to have more traffic and sell more easily in the future.
* * * * *
Here at CoffeeShopr, we spend a lot of time talking to coffee shop owners and looking at their websites. While there are some really fantastic ones, some are lacking really basic things. Having that in mind, we’ve prepared a checklist of some of the most important and effective elements each coffee shop’s website should have. You can download it here.