Conclusion (E-Commerce and Digital Business)

Selling food and beverages in Canada continues to evolve. Consumers and the marketplace are changing and e-commerce is a channel food and beverage companies should consider to sell their products. It is possible to reach Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) markets with an e-commerce strategy.

With an integrated digital marketing strategy, food and beverage companies can develop relationships with consumers online and sell products. E-commerce can complement sales in other channels or be used as the only method of selling products. When a multi-channel strategy is implemented it is important to compare the value from channel to channel to ensure it is equitable.

Selling products online requires resources and investments in your online presence. There are specialized skills required to develop, implement and operate your e-commerce strategy. There are many opportunities within websites and e-commerce platforms to generate information that can be used to assess results. To benefit from the information, the right resources are necessary.

Companies selling in the B2B channels have three strategies to consider:

  • Selling consumer packaged goods online to wholesalers, distributors and retailers
  • Selling food service products online to wholesalers, distributors and restaurants
  • Selling ingredients online to processors

Companies selling in the B2C channels have three strategies to consider:

  • Selling direct to consumers on your own website
  • Selling direct to consumers on a marketplace
  • Selling to consumers through social media

There is also the Business-to-Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C) channel where you sell your products to a retailer and they in turn sell them on their website.

Although there are differences between B2B and B2C buyers, one requirement in any of the channels is an effective description of your products. These descriptions should include information that resonates with your buyer, keywords to ensure products are found in searches and quality photos.

Selling direct to consumers does allow the processor to retain a higher percentage of the retail price, however there are a number of investments required that will impact these margins. A secure online shopping platform, that is integrated with your website, will need to become a component of your digital marketing strategy. Your digital marketing strategy can include your online community, paid social media and other opportunities to connect online. There are many consumers online and it is a crowded medium where you need an effective strategy to generate awareness and traffic.

There are challenges to selling food and beverage products online. Many of the items are available in stores and consumers have resisted the extra cost of shipping. Online marketplaces such as Amazon do have many thousands of items available and competition can be intense. Consumers do have the ability to compare prices and product reviews can have a negative impact on your sales, even if they are not factual. Order fulfillment and shipping can be very difficult with some food items. The incremental costs can be too high to ensure consumers see value in the final delivered price.

Similar to any sales channel, e-commerce offers opportunities and challenges. Your target market must be willing and able to buy online and they must have access to the Internet. E-commerce does require resources and focus to ensure your brand is positioned properly and that all of your online presence supports your brand strategy.