Selling coffee online takes a lot more than nice photos of beans and packages. Doing it right goes deeper. And getting creative during these challenging times is a must.
A Chat with Kandace Brigleb from Needmore Designs
In episode 46, Jonathan Wold and I chat with Kandace about:
- How subscriptions played a role in their journey to WooCommerce.
- The importance of a mix of coffee, personality and brand.
- Visually selling coffee beyond the bean and packaging
- How their podcast, the Unpacking Coffee Show, has played a role in their success.
- What they have been seeing and doing during these challenging times for coffee shops.
- The number of coffee shops that start online vs. moving online from brick and mortar.
- What other platforms are used aside from WooCommerce and under what circumstances.
- How they are helping teams at coffee shops during this rough time.
- The direction they have taken with helping clients who are struggling right now.
Thanks to our sponsors
This was an interesting chat. We learned a lot about Kandace’s journey, the niche that Needmore Designs has built with coffee roasters and sellers, and their approach on the challenges facing coffee shops during these current times.
Their beginnings with WooCommerce came through the search of finding the right subscription model for their online clients. From there, they built out a successful niche that has gone beyond just showing beans and coffee packaging.
Kandace dives more into taking the mix of coffee, personality and brand to succeed online when it comes to coffee roasters and shops.
We chatted about their podcast, the Unpacking Coffee Show. It has a very interesting history on how it has evolved as well as offering potential clients the chance to get to know both Kandace and her partner and husband, Raymond even better. It has helped clients over that hurdle of the fear of hiring a developer or designer.
From there we moved into the current circumstances facing all of us, but specifically, the coffee shops and roasters. Kandace shares more about the influx of those who have to move online quicker, or make adjustments to their current business model.
She also shares a great idea they have been suggesting to online coffee roasters as far as helping their employees. There are a lot of insights and passion that show through in how they are helping as much as they can and how the owners of the businesses are most concerned about their clients.
It’s an episode you will want to tune into whether you are a shop owner or you do sites for clients.
- Coming Soon: WooCommerce Marketing Hub via WooCommerce
- WooCommerce Community Volunteers – via WooCommerce
- Creating a Virtual Tip Jar in WooCommerce via Need More Designs
Where to find Kandace on the web:
Jonathan: Hey everyone, welcome to episode 46 of Do the Woo. I'm Jonathan Wold and I'm joined today by the one and only Bob. How are you Bob?
Bob: Hey Jonathan. Doing good. I'm curious. Are you seeing a little uptick in the Woo world, under the circumstances?
Jonathan: There's a lot happening. It's across the board. Woo does all sorts of stores, so there's definitely merchants who've been very negatively affected by this, sadly, as well as some who've been very positively affected. Definitely a lot of growing interest in general though and people doing more things online and we're trying to do the best that we can at Woo to help with that.
Bob: Yeah. Well, I'm anxious to get into this but before we do, I'm going to give a quick shout out to our sponsors. WooCommerce.com, our community sponsor. Check them out. They always have cool stuff going on. In fact, there's something coming up here soon that Jonathan will touch on later. And our new sponsor, WP Security Audit Log. You'll be hearing more about them later in the show, but they provide a comprehensive activity log of the changes that shop managers and customers do. Pretty interesting stuff. You should definitely check them out. And then FooEvents.com, a powerful event and ticket functionality to add to your WooCommerce site. That's FooEvents.com.. So, Jonathan, let's do it. Why don't you introduce the guests. Then we'll get the conversation going.
Kandace Brigleb of Need More Designs
Jonathan: I'm excited. We've got a fantastic guest today. We have Kandace Brigleb of Need More Designs. Kandace, welcome to the show. And how do you do the Woo?
Kandace: Hey, thanks. How do I do the Woo? We design and build WooCommerce websites mostly for coffee and lifestyle brands. We also work with some nonprofits and an eclectic mix of people.
The Journey to WooCommerce: Seeking Subscriptions
Jonathan: I loved when I read the tagline on your site, "we are your go-to studio for all your web packaging, branding and campaigns. And then it was for coffee, and, of course, the lifestyle brands. That's delightfully specific. You've also been in the world of Woo for quite a while. You've spoken at several events in the past. How did you get into this whole WooCommerce thing?
Kandace: Well, you know, with coffee, one of the most important things a coffee website can have, besides personality, is a subscription service. So years ago we were working with a coffee client and looking around for a system where we could create a really fantastic subscription because that's where recurring revenue comes from. And also, you know, with coffee, I would say that once you're in specialty coffee and the coffee space, everybody has phenomenal special coffees.
So once you're there, people often start to choose coffee roasters by aligning with a brand. When you're working on a website for someone like that, you need the flexibility to infuse that website with personality. So changing wording and transactional email, something really simple like that, means a lot. And at the time that we were looking for options, WooCommerce was the one that we thought would help us do that best. We were pretty agnostic at the time, and in terms of what backend we were going to use, we found WooCommerce and we've not looked back since that point.
Coffee, Personality and BrandThe Journey to WooCommerce: Seeking Subscriptions
Bob: As far as coffee, it's interesting because you said the fact that everybody has a great coffee and it has to be more the personality and the brand behind it. So maybe take that a little bit further. What does that entail when you say personality and brand? What are some of the clever ways you've helped certain coffee retailers to stand out?
Kandace: We look at it like creating another café for them. We think about the website as another café. So if you walk into a café that's run by a roaster who roasts their own coffee, as soon as you walk in, you start to get a sense of who they are and whether you feel like you belong there and whether you want to keep returning. So we start to think about what is that experience and how can we translate that online. Some of it is visual design, some of it is language. Thinking about all of the places you know, you can change language. And one of the things we really like with WooCommerce is that you can change it all the way down to emails people are getting.
You can change the checkout experience or integrate products with your blog posts with your locations posting. We're trying to create an entire environment where the roaster’s personality and brand is highlighted. Then of course, being able to talk about coffee. I love the fact that we can make a product page look like a magazine spread about that coffee. And we're looking at the ability to do a quick checkout. I know what coffee I love, I just want it and I want to get out. And then the ability to tell a deeper story about where coffee comes from.
We do a lot with ACF (advanced custom fields) to make tags from one, like from coffee to producer to blog posts. We're always looking for ways to do that and to make it really easy for roasters to write about a coffee and then write about a producer and have that information stay.
Jonathan: Have you been doing much with Gutenberg as they move toward blocks?
Kandace: Yeah, that's why I was saying, I'm not sure how much we've been in the newer projects using Gutenberg. I haven't looked to see how much that's changed, whether we're still using ACF for those or moving to Gutenberg. But little by little we've been upgrading our projects and when we're starting new projects, we're using Gutenber.
Jonathan: I love that you referenced the transactional emails. I've had a bit more experience with that lately. And yes, some systems give you this pretty sterile, like this is what it's gonna look like. With Woo you can go in and really do some crazy things. When you're talking about brand and personality, those little details with transactional interactions can make a pretty big difference in reinforcing the brand identity. That's really cool.
Visually Selling Coffee Beyond the Beans
Bob: What challenges do you have, I mean, how many beans can people look at? I'm being very sarcastic here, but as far as the images, how they represent the coffee. You do have to have the packaging. But how do you visually sell coffee online?
Kandace: It depends on what a consumer is looking for. There are coffee roasters out there that are at the forefront of transparency and pricing. So when you've got someone that just has fantastic coffee, but they're also working towards changing the way coffee is sold, you're gonna focus more on that message on a site like that.
Or maybe you have coffee roasters who have a particular vibe and that's what people are excited about. So you're going to push that on the website. Coffee is one of those things where you can go in a lot of different directions. But what you're really trying to say is this brand aligns with this person, or this value. Sometimes I think of it as similar to clothing. It's something that you drink, but that bag is going to be in your house, it's going to sit on your counter and there's a pride about having certain certain bags. For different consumers, it's a different thing that you're looking for, so it kind of depends on the brand.
Sometimes we're focusing on photos of origin. Sometimes we're focusing on the coffee packaging. It really depends. I definitely try to move away from a page that's just bag after bag after bag lined up. I don't personally find that super interesting. But at the same time you do need to show people what they're going to get when they purchase coffee. There shouldn't be a surprise about what the packaging looks like. Sometimes we'll create a page where there's a big featured image that shows the packaging and then we can use some different interesting ways to show the various coffees. Other times we are showing the packaging. It really depends.
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Coffee, Podcast or Design, Which Came First?
Jonathan: So I'm curious, you have this focus on coffee and lifestyle brands. You also create content within this. You have the Unpacking Coffee Show. What came first? Did your interest in coffee lead you into serving in this space or vice versa? I'm curious about that.
Kandace: My background is in anthropology and I'm really interested in culture and stories and patterns and things like that. I probably could have gone into an a number of different areas. Then, my partner, who was also my husband, came out of coffee. In Minneapolis he had a coffee shop and then when he moved to Portland, he was the first employee at Stumptown coffee roasters, which is a Portland-based coffee roaster that's gotten pretty big. And so when he was there, he was a barista and he did a lot of the initial branding. Then when he wanted to go out on his own as a designer, Stumptown was incredibly generous and was our first client and supported us and stuck with us for quite a long time. That was a really amazing experience.
Then at some point, years later, we started working with people we knew from those early days of some of who had gone on to create their own roasteries. In a lot of ways it was the community around us. We started working mostly with artists, bands and Stumptown. That's who we knew.
We were just realizing that April 1st is our 16-year anniversary. So it's been a while.
Kandace: So as the years have gone by, we've really gotten to know the coffee industry better and better. We work with importers and roasters and people who make the espresso machines. Coffee is a really interesting space where there are a lot of different people doing many different things.
Working in coffee doesn't necessarily mean we're always selling roasted pounds of coffee beans, although that's wonderful when we are. There's just so much going on in there that it's really interesting. You were talking about the Unpacking Coffee podcast. We wanted to move from creating websites alone to packaging and learning about that. So we started ordering coffee just from all over and were documenting what do we think about this coffee roast or what are our assumptions about the brand and who they are. Then we would order and look at that experience online, open up the coffee. We were having these meetings where we would do this every week. At some point we're like, this is really interesting and we're learning so much, why don't we share this information? So we started the podcast. It's a video podcast. At first we were basically doing an unboxing show. But as the years have gone on, we've started interviewing roasters and bringing them in. That's gotten really interesting. So every episode is different now.
Jonathan: I don't drink coffee at all yet. I find that really interesting. Like I could see myself enjoying just watching that. That's really cool.
Bob: Yeah. And I've been drinking coffee since I was about probably 15 years old, maybe younger. I won't tell you how long that's been, but it's been a long time, you know?
Kandace: Yeah, I have a memory of sipping on my grandma's coffee when I was young, going over to her house and she would pour milk and sugar and she would dip toast with cheese on it into her coffee and it was terrible, so bad. But I loved it. And I still like thinking about that because it makes me think about her. That's one of the things I love about coffee is that people have memories, a lot of memories and a lot of them have to do with their family. So a lot of time you have your first coffee at home with your parents or your grandparents and there's something really nice about that.
Podcasts as a Selling Point of a Designer’s Brand
Jonathan: Have any of the episodes of Unpacking Coffee turned into a client where you did that coverage and they're like, hey, those are good thoughts. We want to work with you.
Jonathan: Nice. To me it's so easy to get caught up as a business owner and just not think about that holistic experience for a moment. These are our assumptions, this is what we're thinking based on this and then this is the reality. Sometimes I'm sure that can be a great win, other times, wow, there's a lot of opportunity here to really improve that experience and for you to point that out. I love that. Such a great idea.
Kandace: Ray and I have a slightly quirky personalities and I think it's good for people to know that when they're going to work with us is to know our sense of humor. I think if you watch the show you immediately get a sense of who we are and what we're going to be like to work with. I assume there's some people out there that watch the show and they're like, they're absolutely not for me. But I've also had people get ahold of us that have basically said, okay, I watched you two, and I could work with you. I actually think that would be fun.
It does make me realize that it can be intimidating picking someone to make a website for you, especially if you're not coming in with a lot of knowledge about how websites work. It all feels very technical and absolutely terrifying for a lot of people.
If you can make a connection and realize these people are going to take me through this experience and I like their personalities and they seem like good people, I think that can start that process easier. People can get very nervous about working with developers and designers. They want to be an active part of it, but they want to feel comfortable and it can be quite a bit of a time and financial investment.
Jonathan : Yeah, if you don't understand, it can be very daunting and there are plenty of horror stories out there of things that have gone wrong. It's going to be overwhelming for someone: who am I going to work with for something that's so important to my business? People recognize that.
Under the Current Circumstances: from Brick-and-Mortar to Online vs. Starting Online
Bob: That says something for the power of podcasting. One of the things I want to talk about is the current circumstance. Are your clients primarily already brick-and-mortar and wanting to go online or do you have clients that are at the level where they're just wanting to start online? Or is it a mix between the two?
Kandace: Right now, most people that we're working with are already online, so we're helping them move to a bigger mix of online. Let's say they were 80% wholesale before, 20% online, that's probably shifting to 80% online, 20% wholesale. That's a completely made up number by the way. But there are shifts happening. Some of the people that we were in the middle of working on projects feel like it has more weight. They are looking at this website and saying, let's get this done and out. It's an interesting time right now.
I've definitely spent the last couple of weeks helping people who are trying to think about how to keep their teams. Trying to think about how technology can help that because a lot of coffee roasteries, especially if they have cafés, may be closing. So you have all of these baristas that have this incredible coffee knowledge and it's not as though people aren't buying coffee, they're buying the coffee online. So they're not walking into cafés anymore.
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Moving to Online
Bob: I'd like to revisit that. Previous to the current circumstances, were most moving online from brick-and-mortar and or did you have to do a lot of convincing to do with coffee shops? Or were they ready to make that move?
Kandace: I think they're pretty much ready to make the move. Most of the people we work with are finding us when they're ready to go online. I'm trying to think, yeah, there isn't really anybody that we're convincing to have websites. We are a fairly small studio and we have a good reputation in the coffee community. So most of our projects are folks that are ready for websites. They come to us, they get a proposal. We're often giving proposals along with a handful of other people, but we aren't cold calling or trying to convince people they need to go online.
Bob: Yeah, they get it, in other words.
WooCommerce vs. Other eCommerce Platforms
Jonathan: So one of the things, I'm curious about, there's a lot of ways you can go online. How much of what you guys do is focused on Woo versus other platforms and then how much of that is a factor in the decision making of folks? Cause, like, there's a lot of ways you could do it.
Kandace: When we give proposals, we, unless somebody has a strong idea of the technology they want to use, like let's say they're already using a certain website back end and they either are ready to move from it and it is not on the table. But typically we are looking at the requirements and putting together some ideas of what we think would work best. We're not necessarily trying to fit everything into the WooCommerce box. That said, most of the time, when we go through what we're looking at, it tends to be what we recommend. And some of that has to do with the fact that we're often working with roasters who are moving from their first or second website onto a new website because they're in growth mode. And so there are often some pretty complex integrations that we need to do. A lot of times when we're looking at those, WooCommerce tends to be the right answer. I would say a good 75% of the sites that we're working on are in WordPress. I dunno if you actually want me to talk about other platforms.
And I would say the other percentage ends up being like Shopify or something even simpler like Squarespace because somebody just needs a really simple and quick, you know, that like a Squarespace. We work with a small café and shop and they wanted to start a larger basket, which was like one product, a handful of people each month are gonna order. And besides that their website is like super, super simple. So that kind of thing.
Bob: Cool. Yeah. So a lot of kind of brochure sites in a way, but with a little added e-commerce.
Kandace: Yeah. And that's pretty rare for us. I mean those are folks we've known for a long time usually where we're working on a little bit bigger projects.
Employers Helping Teams During This Rough Time
Jonathan: Cool. So before you were starting to talk about some of the impact to the folks that you've been working with over the past few weeks. Some of them have been escalating to move online quicker. And I was curious. You were beginning to talk about the impact to how they work with their teams and that has there been opportunity for you to help with that transition to what it looks like to work virtually.
Kandace: One of the things that we've been really looking at is the idea of tipping. So when you walk into a cafe, you tip right away, the tip jars like right there. As cafés are closing down for the near future, we've been really pressing on people that this could be a longer term issue. I think a lot of times we want to think this is going to be two weeks or four weeks. But now starting to think about your cafe being closed for months; it’s a possibility. We don't know what that’s going to look like for your team members and how can we get some of the things like tipping to be part of that process.
Those tips are getting to baristas who aren't in the same position they were working. We've been helping folks put up virtual tip jars. You see a lot of these going up right now, but a lot of them are things like GoFundMe, which is wonderful. But any way that you can get money to baristas, absolutely do it. I'm not saying to put things up long term, these are very short term. I'm going to give money once and I felt good about it. So we're really encouraging people to start thinking about how you can have that be a part of every transaction as so many people are moving their purchasing online by adding that kind of functionality to websites.
It's really easy with WooCommerce. We put up a tutorial because so many of our coffee clients were writing and asking about how to put up virtual tip jars and we're thinking we didn't really have the time or resource to volunteer to do all of that. But one of the things we could do is put it up and send it to them and show them this is how you can do it. We did a step-by-step screenshot and some of our clients have started to enact that. I think that's been really helpful.
Jonathan: That's awesome. We'll include a link in the show notes afterwards for anyone who's curious about that.
How to Deal With Clients During These Times
Bob: It sounds like you're in a situation where this has got to add stress of to your end of things. I don't want to say panic mode, but people are asking, what am I going to do? How am I going to build this online? Now you are playing this web developer/counselor. Of course you can do only do so much at once. I'm guessing you have a little bit of anxiety coming towards you with some of these people who are at a point where they are asking, please help us figure this out.
Kandace: Yeah, the people we work with care a lot about their employees. That's really what they're thinking about most. They'll be able to roast and ship coffee, they'll be able to sell coffee. But what they're really thinking about is these teams that they think of as family and how can they make sure that these people are taken care of and still have jobs to come back to. We've been trying to think big picture about how folks can use technology to retain some of these people. I think people are definitely open to any ideas that we can give them, but I don't see any of our clients thinking that we would have all the answers. Now I definitely don't think we're being put in the position of saving everything, but if we can give good advice, this is a good time to do it. I would say if we can give good advice and we can write something and get it out to as many people as possible, then we're trying to do things like that.
Jonathan: That's a great way to think about it. There's a lot of things that's easy to take for granted in terms of just common knowledge about how technology works or what's available. So much of how things get done in WordPress are just like, you know something, I know something and you go to a meetup or someone asks a question and you go oh yeah, this is what you have to use. This is how you do that.
Kandace: We're pretty busy right now and I'm extremely grateful for that. I don't take that for granted in any way. What we want to be busy with is helping people build these sites and be successful online. If we can help with the smaller pieces of information that would really help someone with something quickly, and we can get that out there, or get people to the right resource, then we're really trying to spend some time each day doing that while keeping up on our obligations and projects and kids home from school and all of the other things.
Bob: Well, this has been excellent. I love being able to blend in the current circumstances. And you're a perfect example because of the client base you have, especially around the coffee space. And also just hearing about your own WooCommerce background. And I know that's where we first met, at WooConf.
I think what we'll do is just have a quick bit of news. Candice already shared that they have that guide for creating virtual tip jars. I'm going to make sure to get that in the show notes and also in the transcript. Jonathan, you have a couple things you want to share. I would normally share these, but why not hear it from the source? Jonathan, what's going on at Woo?
WooCommerce Marketing Hub and Building Teams of Global Volunteers
Jonathan: There's a lot of things. I think you've already covered the 4.0 launch and its something we've been really excited about and are getting a lot of good feedback on. One of the things we are starting to do more is give an earlier look at the types of things we're working on. We just posted a preview of the Marketing Hub that we're working on to add as a section within the dashboard that centralizes all the different marketing bits and pieces and what we're trying to do. We think it's a good idea. There's a lot of potential there to bring more value to and give people more visibility into what's happening. We'd just like to get it out there and get some feedback on it. We'll include a link in the notes. So excited about that.
The other thing that I wanted to add on the community side of things is where I spend my time and energy. I'm going to be putting out a call for volunteers to help with some of our global communities. Right now we have meetups all around the world that are not meeting, really important communities in these different geographies. So we're trying to find ways to help them connect and we’ve already seen a lot of amazing things like figuring out how to connect local communities virtually. We're seeing a lot of growth in our global communities. I'm excited about that. It's important to me, though, to make sure that these local communities are able to serve each other and stay connected in the midst of this. So putting a lot of effort into that. It takes a big team and it takes people. There's so many amazing volunteers in the community already and I'm trying to do some work now to provide more support for them and bring them together.
Bob: Excellent. A lot happening. Always stuff happening. So we'll get those links in the show notes.
Well that's it. Before we head out, first, let me thank our sponsors real quick again. FooEvents.com., a ticketing plugin that is perfect for your WooCommerce site. WP Security Audit Log. As you heard earlier in the show, it's a great way to add some extra security and avoid your store from being hacked. So check that out.
And of course, WooCommerce.com where all sorts of things are happening, including organizing events and meetups and all the stuff that Jonathan shared. Great stuff and always a Woo full of information over on WooCommerce.com.
Kandace, I loved having you on. It's been a long time since we chatted. Where can people connect with you on the web?
Kandace: Let's see. Probably through Need More Designs, so we're on Twitter and Instagram and you can check out our portfolio on NeedMoreDesigns.com.
Bob: Okay, cool. Well, I appreciate you taking the time. It was a pleasure having you on the show and we'll have to have you back again.
Kandace: Good to catch up.
Jonathan: Yeah, thanks Kandace. Bye for now.