COVID-19 Getting ready to sell online - food producers and businesses

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.

Doctor Digital Says

As we move from scream face emoji to getting our business-as-unusual game on, there are some great new options emerging to help sectoral clusters to be found by consumers. One of the most active areas for this in Tasmania is - unsurprisingly - our food and wine sector with a few new portals, platforms and aggregation sites in the process of being launched.

For the most part, these allow the consumer to find all their favourite producers (and ones they didn't even know about) and for the producers, they are able to connect directly with their audience. This is a classic win-win, and hopefully a situation that will endure long after COVID-19 has disappeared from our news feeds.

While these portals are an absolute boon for Tasmanian food businesses, if you are a food producer, wholesaler or retailer, they will perform most efficiently and effectively if you have optimised your digital offering so customers can have a friction free experience of finding you, ordering from you and receiving your glorious produce into their homes or car boots.

So lets think about the consumer or user experience: you first need to work through your own channels to make sure you are ready for business. Where are you going to direct your consumers via a collective site? The best answer to that is directly to a website that is set up to conduct e-commerce and has a clear shop interface that presents what you have in stock, a cart set up for purchases, a straightforward payment gateway and steps out the logistics of you getting the product to the purchaser.


  • Make sure your website has the capability to update your stock levels in real time so people don’t get to the cart and find you are out of stock.
  • Use an instant purchasing option such as Paypal, Square or Stripe. Most people who regularly shop online will have these ready to go with their details and won’t be at risk of abandoning their cart because they can’t be bothered to get up and find their credit cards.
  • Template websites like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace can set up simple transactions using these tools, but if you have a more complex inventory you may want to use Shopify or similar, which also integrates credit and debit cards and fulfilment/delivery options.
  • If you are doing a click and collect, let customers know where they need to pick up their purchase from with clear instructions as to how the exchange will happen and how it will be contactless.
  • Make it simple to find out if customers have to come to you or if they can have their product delivered - many people need to stay isolated and even a click and collect option may be too high risk.
  • If you aren’t currently delivering, consider who you can partner with to offer a delivery service, and give some suggestions so customers who really want your product but can’t pick up don’t miss out. Taxis are offering delivery services now, as are many tourism operators who have capacity, so ask around and see if you can also partner with some of your fellow producers to make things centralised.

If you are taking people from the producer portal directly to a Facebook page, you need to ensure that they can find what it is you are selling. If you have produce for sale, and the information is in a post, pin that post to the top of your page, don’t bury it way down in your feeds. If you sell out, then pin up a post with details on when the next lot of produce will be available, and find a way to capture people’s email addresses so you can let them know what is available when.

If you are directing people to call in their orders by phone, make sure you have a streamlined process for taking the call, taking their cash and getting the goods to them. One of the reasons that e-commerce is so preferred is that it is traceable, simple and operates around the clock when the desire to support local has struck. Making a phone call is not an effective way to manage your sales so while it might have been OK when you had a face to face option available, now would be a great time to look at getting some digital alternatives in place.

Use these transactions and the focus on business to consumer to build your email lists, using MailChimp or one of their competitors. Having an active email list will make it easy for you to communicate with your customers and preemptively push deals and offers to them, and let them know what your specials are in advance. It will also give you a tool to communicate with them more broadly about your brand and business. Email is still the most effective way to reach customers, and a strong list is one of your best assets right now.

Social media is coming in to its own more than ever. Do you have a Facebook page or an Instagram account for your business? This is where many people do their initial brand investigations, and keeping a rolling feed of what you have on offer in your channels will whet people’s appetite. Once they have transacted with you, don’t forget to encourage them to tag you in posts with what they have cooked, and let them become third party promoters for your business - it’s a great way to get free endorsement and promotion, and continually expose your business to new audiences while they are letting people know they are #buyinglocal.

Setting up an e-commerce solution can be simple and inexpensive, especially with some of the support being offered by local councils to get you started. For more information on e-commerce check out the Digital Ready program livestream recording here and the e-commerce Factsheet here. If you already have a few digital tools in your toolkit, then you can give yourself a digital audit to make sure you are ready to sell. The Digital Ready Coaching program is offering an extended service of 2 hours of free online live one on one coaching sessions with its team of coaches to help you get all the tools you need in place. You can book a session online and have your questions answered - no matter how simple.

The experience people have of their transaction with you will really influence their decision to shop again, and how much they will be advocates and evangelists for your brand and wares. We are in a period where the community is very much committed to supporting Tasmanian producers and business, and it is so important that you make it easy for them to engage with you and most importantly buy your products.

Of course you will make some mistakes along the way, everyone does when learning new skills. People are very forgiving as long as you communicate with them so they know what is going on. They (and we) want the precious producers of Tasmania to come out of COVID-19 stronger than ever before with legions of raving fans that are eating well and cooking up a storm using seasonal Tasmanian produce.

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