Coffee plays a fundamental role in the lives of people all over the world. To succeed, cafes must realize that customers value coffee as something deeper than a drink. Coffee offers a moment of everyday luxury, something to slow down and savor, and an opportunity to relax in a comfortable environment.
The reasons that a particular coffee drinker values one brand or shop location over another are complex and depend on much more than the quality and cost of the coffee. Why do your customers choose your coffee shop and products? How can you get more customers in the door? We’ll unpack these questions in the following blog post.
Consumers are becoming more conscious about the origin of the products they consume. However, there are few greater examples of increasing consumer demand for ethical business practices than in the coffee industry. Customers value coffee that has been grown responsibly, and they’re willing to pay more for it.
In fact, according to the Specialty Coffee Association, people are willing to pay $1.36 more for a pound of coffee that’s produced in an eco-friendly way. They are especially partial to coffee that’s labeled “Organic.” More specifically, consumers’ willingness to pay for fair trade, organic, and Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) is positive and significant.
Consumers are more likely to choose coffee with traceable roots. They’re seeking out coffee brands that ensure the people who grow and process the beans are treated fairly and compensated appropriately.
Some coffee brands go even further by taking meaningful measures to improve the communities that harvest their coffee. They build schools, clinics, and other community buildings, or enable access to fresh water.
Consumers are not only willing to pay more for coffee that has been ethically grown, but they are more likely to choose brands and coffee shops that offer this kind of coffee.
As coffee comes more of an artisanal product, the effort that a brand puts into sourcing coffee beans becomes increasingly important to consumers. They are interested in every aspect of the beans and how they are processed into the coffee they consume. Here are just a few of the characteristics that people who source coffee and their consumers may be looking for:
Consumers have always enjoyed a story. It’s not surprising that people tend to respond well to the stories that a cafe or coffee retailer can tell about how they source beans and interact with growers.
These kinds of stories, whether in marketing or on packaging, are a direct communication with consumers. They encourage people to choose the cafe because the consumer can see the brand’s commitment to the same values they have in sourcing coffee.
Throughout the world, coffee is experiencing the same friction between small, local, regional brands and large enterprises that most industries are going through. However, unlike the neighborhood hardware store and general store, the neighborhood coffee shop is persevering, despite giant enterprises in the space. The average coffee drinker values their local coffee shop.
Take Ziggi’s Coffee, for example. While the drive-thru coffee brand is growing quickly, it still retains a local cafe approach to service. The brand’s baristas know their regulars by name and drink preference. And according to Ziggi's Director of Marketing, Kathryn Bleeker, during the global pandemic, a drive-thru coffee setup served as one of the primary social interaction opportunities for many of the brand’s local clientele because it was still safely distanced, but also friendly and comforting.
Hear more from Kathryn on how Ziggi’s is making waves in the coffee industry in episode 24 of the Restaurant and Retail Revel(ations) podcast.
In addition to offering a drive-thru solution in a pandemic, sourcing coffee carefully and offering consistently quality coffee, cafes can utilize visuals and other social cues to create an environment within the local coffee shop that looks like the community around it.
This kind of brand atmosphere creates a space where consumers feel at home and comfortable. The value that localized brands offer makes customers choose them repeatedly. Customers value coffee from their local coffee shop, even if the coffee may not be as affordable.
Increasingly, coffee drinkers have a lot of options when it comes to how they drink their brew. From what kind of bean you want, to the type of milk, sweetener, flavors, and how it's prepared, there's no end to customization when it comes to modern coffee. There’s a good chance that at least some customers choose your coffee shop because you offer coffee the way they like it.
At home consumption of coffee has also evolved dramatically. In what researchers call the “Third Wave” of the evolution in coffee consumption, coffee has become an artisanal product as complex as wine. This certainly speaks to the consistently quality coffee currently being produced, but it also speaks to the customization of the coffee drinking experience.
Customers value coffee that lets them choose exactly what they want. Rather than having only a few options in the flavor and quality of the beans available at cafes, customers now have thousands of choices.
Each of the points mentioned above highlight current consumer values. However, that doesn't mean you need to try to appeal to every area at once. Your customers are very likely to value one or two of these qualities much more than the others. Here are a few ideas to help you learn why your customers value coffee. Focus on those specific reasons to increase the value you offer your current customers and potential new ones.
The most direct way to find out what a given coffee drinker values is to simply ask them. Surveys, especially with the reward of a coupon or discounted product, are a wonderful way to find out why customers choose to come to your cafe over another.
When selling coffee in a physical retail setting, prompt for surveys at checkout. Apply the same logic to guests ordering your product online. Simply offer a pop-up survey as your shoppers complete their online transactions to find out what matters to them.
This kind of communication has the additional advantage of increasing a sense of loyalty between you and your customers. Customers value coffee, in part, because they want to feel connected to the brand. They'll be glad to know that you care what they value.
Once you know why customers choose your coffee shop, you can look for ways to incorporate those values into your brand. There's no reason to try to make a lot of changes at once. Instead, pay attention to the most common coffee drinker values and begin your improvements there. Here are a few practical ideas for offering your customers more of what they care about:
Do your customers like that you have multiple syrup flavors available or a wide range of rotating beans? Focus on marketing and packaging the selections you have to reinforce the optional already at your guests’ fingertips.
Offer interesting syrup combinations or encourage customers to make their own. Provide detailed, attractive descriptions of the various coffees so that customers appreciate just how many options they have. Encourage baristas to offer free samples at your local coffee shops so that customers feel a strong sense of empowerment in learning what coffee they like best.
If customers choose your coffee shop because they know that their beans are being prepared to the highest standards, emphasize throughout your marketing the qualifications that your baristas have and exactly how desirable your beans are.
If your brand takes special care with bean quality and origin, let your customers know! Incorporate this message into your advertising and outreach efforts. You’ll want them to know that you are sourcing coffee of the highest caliber.
Make sure that your customers and potential customers are aware of how invested you are in sourcing coffee ethically and in finding the best beans.
Today's coffee drinker values not only consistently quality coffee but also the sustainability and ethics of the bean sourcing.
Make sure you’re communicating all of your bean attributes to customers, including the full flavor, aroma, where beans are sourced and how they’re grown.
Knowing exactly why customers value coffee is the best way to tailor your marketing and implement operational improvements. The decisions you can make using coffee drinker values will make your current customers even more satisfied and attract new customers who are likely to drink your coffee well into the future.
Why customers choose your coffee shop or retail brand is complicated. Look into the nuances of what people care about when it comes to coffee to be sure that you don't miss something vital that your customers value about your brand.