People struggle most with two things when it comes to running e-commerce stores. One is converting the traffic you’re getting into buyers and repeat customers (we’ve already covered some strategies for this). The other big struggle is finding traffic in the first place (and increasing it over time).
Let’s talk about finding sources of website traffic (even if you have plenty of traffic coming in, it never hurts to have more)!
Move in-person events traffic online
One technique is to take existing offline traffic and move it online. Why would you do this? So that you can build a steady stream of online income that makes events optional rather than necessary.
If you’re at a farmers market, try handing out a coupon code for your website. I’d recommend not using a percentage-off coupon (which devalues your honey), but instead offering a one-off bonus coupon of some kind (a sampler-size of another honey varietal with their first order, for example, which might bring in another sale later on).
Why would people shop online instead of at a local farmers market? People love the convenience of buying online (especially if you offer free local pickup of orders). This way, you’ll attract local buyers who are already interested in the local food scene (ideal honey buyers).
Having your honey in retail stores is a great way to get wider exposure and direct (and repeat) website sales after the initial sale. Feature your website prominently on your labels, and consider mentioning a newsletter with occasional specials (which could be varietal honeys added to orders on certain months).
There are definitely people searching for local honey. Perhaps they’ve heard from friends that local honey helps with allergies. Or they’ve become more interested in their local food scene.
Of approximately 165,000 monthly searches for “honey” in the U.S., about 27,000 are searches for “raw honey”, and around 6,600 for “local honey”. This interest is only growing as awareness of honey’s health benefits increases (particularly raw, local honey).
The Google Local section is perfect for reaching these folks easily: listings are highlighted right at the top of search rankings (or off to the right in a large box).
Try doing a search in your town for honey. For example, I typed in “honey eugene” and just one company (Glory Bee) is listed in the Google Local section. Try typing “honey san francisco” and Google Local changes to accommodate over a dozen honey-related businesses.
So long as you have a (physical) address you’re willing to use, it’s a great idea to set up a free listing in Google Local. Get started with Google Local here. Make sure to include some photos along with your listing!
I wouldn’t advise any other form of Google advertising (such as Google AdWords or Google Shopping listings, both paid services). I don’t think these would provide much traffic or return on investment. Ranking well in Google’s regular results might be helpful (especially if you don’t create a Google Local listing), but that’s a big subject for another day!
If you do a Google search for honey in San Francisco, the first few pages you’ll see ranked below the Google Local area are Yelp links, including a suggested search for “local honey” on Yelp. I think Yelp would be a very good place to have a free listing. Get started with Yelp here.
Another interesting thing to notice when you’re on Yelp (at least in a major city like San Francisco) is that there are a significant number of reviewers searching out local honey for their allergies. Highlighting the health benefits of your honey seems like a great thing to do in your messaging!
It’s beyond the scope of this article to dive into Facebook in detail (the subject for another article!), but the platform is certainly a good one for reaching new people. Building up a robust social media presence can be very good for spreading the word and driving fresh traffic to your website.
Facebook also offers an amazingly sophisticated advertising platform (no matter how you feel about it)! If you have a budget of around $50 to try it out, it’s definitely something to consider. But to make it worthwhile, ad campaigns need to be created with care (and, just as importantly, actively monitored and tweaked depending on their performance).
Since Facebook Ads are a fairly expensive way to drive traffic (in ideal campaigns the cost is about $4 per lead), it’s critical to have everything on your website as optimized as possible beforehand (so that your traffic converts well into paying customers).
I have mixed feelings about Amazon. It’s definitely another way to reach new customers (and potentially drive them to your own website in the future), but it’s surprisingly costly.
Initially, you have a choice of paying $39.99 monthly for a Professional Selling Plan (recommended if you’re selling more than 40 items), or $0.99 for each item sold (with no monthly fees). Amazon then takes a 15% “referral fee” for every sale.
They also pay you only a fixed amount for shipping, so your actual shipping costs may be higher (their rates are $4.49 + $0.50/lb. for standard shipping, and $6.49 + $0.99/lb. for expedited shipping).
If you opt for “Fulfilled by Amazon” to attract Prime buyers, you still have the initial cost of mailing items to Amazon, along with their added fulfillment costs (around $3-4 per item) plus storage fees ($0.64/cubic foot most of the year, increasing to $2.35/cubic foot from October through December).
I would try other things before trying Amazon, although there are definitely people buying honey there (and even using Subscribe-and-Save for monthly honey deliveries; note that if you’re interested in Subscribe-and-Save, you do have to be participating in the Fulfilled by Amazon program). If you are interested, you can get started selling on Amazon here.
I’ve seen varying success with Etsy, but it works very well for some. Again, it’s beyond the scope of this article to dive into their platform. But if it’s something that resonates with you, you might take a look at current successes on the platform to see what they’re selling and how they’re packaging it. The Honeyrun Farm is one such success story, offering gift sets, samplers, and more (when I wrote this, these folks had almost 25,000 sales and 9,000 overwhelmingly positive reviews)! Get started with Etsy here.
Twitter & Instagram
I’ve purposely not mentioned Twitter and Instagram (up until now, that is)! There are definitely ways to use both of those platforms to drive traffic. But if you’re going to pick one social network to focus your efforts on, Facebook is the one (unless you have a strong affinity for one of the other platforms).
In a future article, I’ll discuss Twitter and Instagram in detail, because they do offer unique opportunities in terms of engagement and reach.
Choosing your strategies
There are certainly other strategies to increase your website traffic (even blogging and guesting on podcasts can help), but the ones I’ve mentioned above are ones that will likely help the most when your goal is to sell more honey online.
The methods you choose to bring in more traffic will depend on your unique situation, but I advise taking care of “low-hanging fruit” first, such as Google Local and Yelp. For solutions that involve some outlay, make sure to do small tests to begin with (say, $50 in Facebook Ads), and measure the results to see if it’s worth continuing.
Also be prepared to invest some time, not only in creating content (social media content, blog posts, and the like), but in waiting for that content to pay off (in terms of more shares, new followers, higher search rankings, and more sales). Start with strategies you feel intuitively will work best for you, and focus on one strategy at a time (so that you can put enough time into it to become established, before focusing your efforts on another area).
It’s so important to measure everything as you’re doing it too. You need to be able to see which sources are sending you the most traffic, and which sources are yielding the most paying (and returning) customers. If you don’t already have it installed, make sure to add Google Analytics to your website, so that you can learn how people are finding your website, and which advertising methods are converting most effectively. Get started with Google Analytics here.
One last thing… on the web, it’s all about iteration. People often hope they can just put up a nice new website and be done with it. But having a successful e-commerce site involves an ongoing process of watching over it, seeing what’s working and what’s not, and making adjustments and improvements accordingly. In this way, you’ll build a web presence that gains traction over time, reliably bringing in new website traffic and driving more honey sales 🍯🐝