How to Sell Coffee Online Without Inventory: Your Ultimate Dropshipping Guide

June 10, 2024



    In today's ever-changing digital landscape, limited capital funds shouldn't stop business owners from launching one. Starting a dropshipping business online lets you sell any product you want - even coffee. Setting up an online dropshipping coffee business lets you compartmentalize your operations.

    Yet, you don't lose control over your product. It's like having your own virtual operations team handling the core of the coffee business–without the high costs. Selling coffee online without the inventory eliminates massive overhead costs.

    You don't have to worry about physical space, inventory costs, or related business running costs. On the other hand, you get to focus on the best parts of the business - marketing and profit-making. With many coffee business owners embracing the dropshipping model, there’s always a way to stand out.

    Here is how to sell coffee online without inventory while standing out in this competitive market.

    The upsides of selling coffee online without inventory

    The coffee industry presents extensive opportunities for any coffee brand to sell online. Current coffee trends suggest that coffee consumption is growing daily across markets far beyond the US. For coffee business owners, this is a potential to tap into a large market in North America, Europe, and Asia–with over $36 billion spent on coffee consumption in 2023 alone. 

    There's definitely a potential to make money selling coffee online. Fortunately, business owners today don't need a hefty investment to start or expand their business into selling coffee online. In fact, this business model comes with a vast range of benefits.

    These include:

    • A great way to enhance your brand’s visibility
    • Opening your business to an alternative marketing and distribution channel
    • Access to a wider audience and market
    • Zero overhead costs associated with physical stores–no warehouse, inventory, or operational costs
    • Simplified operations to focus on other elements of the business

    Selling coffee online without inventory–or dropshipping, eliminates the complexities of business running. But, this doesn't necessarily mean you lose control over the direction of your product. A wide range of dropshipping services exist online.

    Thus, you can enjoy access to a cross-section of the product elements depending on the supplier you choose. Opt for dropshipping coffee roasters to curate and have unique a coffee blend delivered to your customers.

    Alternatively, you can choose dropshipping suppliers for aesthetically unique package designs, among others. Further, dropshipping coffee means that your supplier takes care of warehousing, transport, and delivery.

    With the product taken care of, you have ample time to truly focus on growing the business. From articulate marketing to business performance and customer activity analysis. This business model avails you the time for these parts of the business.

    This flexibility you enjoy gives you sufficient time to design and implement a strategy to stay ahead of the competition.

    How to sell coffee online in 9 steps

    1. Identify your target audience

    Before you start selling coffee online, it's important to identify your target market. When selecting your target customer, look wider than just coffee lovers. Think of elements that also surround the coffee business niche. 

    Consider these product features when identifying your target market:

    • Is your target audience eco-conscious?
    • Do they prefer single-origin roasted coffee beans or specialty blends?
    • Do you prefer selling roasted coffee beans or green beans?
    • Do they look for convenience like pre-ground coffee beans?
    • Or do they enjoy the ritual of grinding their coffee beans?
    • Maybe they have a soft spot for innovative coffee, like mushroom coffee
    • Or, more trendy coffee products, like canned cold-brew coffee

    Pinpointing a niche that aligns with your brand will help you attract the right crowd. A Better understanding of your customers doesn't just help you craft the right coffee product. It also helps you devise the right brand awareness and marketing strategy. 

    2. Choosing the right platform for selling coffee

    Choosing the right platform to sell your coffee online is just as important. Several platforms exist, including creating your own website or using an ecommerce platform. 

    Building your own site

    Building your site from scratch gives you the full autonomy to take the direction you want. You enjoy freedom over the creative process and features you want to add to your site. You can then integrate the site with third-party apps or services to create a fully functional website. 

    These include dropshipping and payment applications. Creating a website can be challenging for those doing it the first time. On the other hand, hiring a professional can be costly and eat into your budget.

    Choosing an ecommerce platform

    On the other hand, some of the best ecommerce platforms on the market are built for online coffee business owners just like yourself. Options like Shopify, Woocommerce, and Fourthwall, offer the convenience of building your site and setting up a store.

    These platforms offer a balance of customization, ease of use, comprehensive support, and automation. Yet, you still have the freedom of branding and standing out among competitors.

    Different online selling platforms offer varying features. Research your ideal platform and pick one based on your feature needs. 

    Site building vs ecommerce platforms

    Compared to building your own site, ecommerce platforms offer an additional layer of convenience. Instead of spending time designing and maintaining your site, subscribing to an ecommerce platform is more efficient if you're a beginner or you don't have developer resources.

    With a personally built site, you incur an initially high developer’s cost plus the maintenance and upgrading (if you need to) costs. Whereas with an online platform, you simply pay for your monthly subscription while the technicalities are handled behind the scenes.

    3. Selecting the best coffee products to sell

    Choosing the right coffee to sell is also crucial for your business success. You always want to choose coffee products that have trending sales.

    For instance, coffee market reports suggest specialty coffee to be a trending and most sought-after coffee product. Reports also forecast the consumption of specialty coffee to gradually increase in the future. 

    You can also conduct mini-market research to understand the trends of the coffee product you have in mind. For instance, if you want to sell single-origin coffee beans, covering a particular region, study its trends. Analyze market reports, customer behavior, and online sales statistics for the product in the region.

    Doing so can help you make more informed decisions on the direction you wish to take.

    You can even find the perfect coffee product with a simple Google search. You can easily explore trends and interests of your target audience.

    Alternatively, leverage online communities around coffee where you can discover people’s interests based on your market of choice. For a starting business in the coffee industry, opting to focus on 1-2 products might be the best option.

    Microniches gives you a competitive edge as you enter an already saturated market. It helps younger online coffee businesses limit competition and unlike, large markets, they aren’t already served, particularly by experienced or large coffee companies.

    4. Picking your dropshipping supplier

    Coffee dropshipping suppliers also come with different pros and cons.

    Therefore, after deciding on your product of choice, the next step is sampling and choosing the right coffee provider. For instance, you can find dropshipping suppliers that supply single-origin green coffee beans or canned coffee. 

    Alternatively, you can work with coffee roasters who supply their coffee for dropshipping. Some roasters even curate special blends based on your preferences. Additionally, you can find suppliers, like Supliful, who offer a wide range of coffees, including green coffee beans and roasted coffee. 

    Some successful online coffee brands have taken a microniche approach. The brand tells a story, making it easy to set it apart from other coffee brands.

    Further, before partnering with the supplier, you can test their coffee and overall service delivery to ensure quality products for your customers and brand reputation.

    When evaluating your selling platforms and dropshipping suppliers, you have to consider and narrow down your online coffee business model. Mapping out your online business model, down to the tiniest details, will help you pick the right platform and dropshipping supplier.

    Dropshipping supplier features

    Consider business features, such as:

    1. Type of coffee business: Do you want to sell specialty single-origin coffee, roast a unique blend, or bottled cold brew? Explore suppliers you have access to based on the platform you choose.
    2. How far do you want to give the supplier product responsibility: Is it a private label, white label, or reselling? This allows you to consider suppliers for your coffee along with the label customization and packaging.
    3. Market size and coverage: Are you shipping within the US or internationally? If so, pick a platform that facilitates international shipping or a supplier that fulfills international orders.
    4. Does the dropshipping supplier offer additional features: This can be anything from an online store set up to other coffee-selling enhancing features

    Supliful as a case study: Shopify's dropshipping partner

    If you want an even better-streamlined solution without losing too much freedom over your product, you can find the right platform. Private label coffee dropshipping services, like Supliful, offer online coffee business owners peace of mind in order prep and fulfillment. 

    Instead of integrating with multiple apps or services, Supliful offers a one-stop solution.

    Supliful takes care of the product, packing, and shipping. Business owners can choose coffee products from Supliful’s extensive catalog, customize the product look (i.e. branding, colors, size), add their price, and list it. 

    For business owners who need even more help setting up, Supliful can help you design your Shopify store and accelerate your brand.

    The best part? Supliful integrates with large and trusted platforms, like Shopify–so you can install it on your Shopify store. Alternatively, you can create a Supliful storefront and sell your products.

    5. Creating an attractive website and developing a strong brand identity

    Whether you build your site or choose a platform, a visually appealing website is essential. Remember, your website is your virtual storefront - the very first point of your brand’s presence online. Thus, you want to design a site where customers will want to keep exploring and not exit on the home page. 

    When building your online coffee store, ensure you incorporate these essential details:

    • User-friendly and easy-to-navigate interface
    • High-quality images and videos
    • Unique and memorable name
    • A logo for easy identification and to build legitimacy

    Most online customers also navigate the internet and visit coffee shops using smartphones. Unlike desktops or laptops, smartphones offer convenience anywhere you are. Whether enjoying a quick lunch or lounging in your living room.

    Therefore, online coffee business owners should prioritize optimizing speed and usability to meet this criteria. 

    Further, you want to design your online coffee shop like a true marketer! Leverage tools and features built into your online platforms or from third-party apps to optimize your coffee shop.

    These features help to streamline and create a natural store navigating experience. This can be all the difference in helping your coffee business thrive. They can assist in boosting conversions - turning your store visitors into customers. 

    Some features to consider:

    • Proper placement of CTAs such as "Order now" or "Claim offer today";
    • Integrating product page actionable features, like "limited stock" or "Only 3 bags remaining";
    • Using personalized settings like abandoned cart and upselling messages.

    When designing your online store, aim to leave an impression. You want your store to enjoy high conversion rates and welcome repeat customers. Consider creating a blog and setting up social media accounts to keep your customers engaged and informed. 

    Crafting clear and consistent branding

    Branding is where a coffee seller can truly stand out. Branding isn't just about your online coffee shop visuals–it's about the colors, logos, and overall design. You should also give life and personality to your business.

    A good example is Hollywood actor, Robert Downey Jr and Eos’ Craig Dubitsky’s newly launched Happy Coffee brand. 

    While not a dropshipping coffee business, the Happy Coffee brand sells through physical and online channels - including through its website and online platforms. Nonetheless, coffee business owners can learn brand-new lessons from Happy Coffee

    Championing addiction and positivity, the Happy Coffee brand lives up to this vision. The brand reflects this message through the choice of products, i.e. coffee, product colors, product names, and even their business model. 

    Plus, Happy Coffee partners with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) by giving the grassroots organization a percentage stake in the company. This partnership aligns with the very essence of the brand–extending positivity and mental wellness to the public.

    6. Setting up payment processing and shipping

    When starting a dropshipping online coffee business, it's important to consider how you will handle shipping. Dropshipping coffee business owners can tackle this area in different ways, based on the operating model they choose.

    Shipping by supplier

    A supplier that completes the entire fulfillment process takes care of the shipping. Dropshipping suppliers, such as Supliful, handle products, packing, and shipping. They even take care of international shipping. This means that their product cost includes the entire service. 

    Here’s an idea of how the dropshipping service works:

    • Supliful lets you pick a coffee product that they source, pack, and ship for you.
    • Say the product is a bag of whole bean coffee with a production cost of $15. Supliful lets you set your prices so you can make a profit on your online store.
    • You list it at $28. When a customer places an order for the bag, Supliful packs and ships it to the customer. 
    • Once the order is fulfilled, Supliful charges you their $15 cost, leaving you with the $13 profit. The production cost deducted by Supliful includes the product, packing costs, and shipping.

    Shipping by business owner

    Other dropshipping business owners choose to handle shipping on their own. This option is okay if you want to do some of the coffee store's heavy lifting yourself. For online coffee business owners, this option comes in two ways.

    If you use an online platform or build your site for your coffee shop, you can integrate with various shipping apps. Most businesses prefer to go for popular shippers as they offer the best rates and minimal hassle. 

    Choosing your own shipping method also allows you to pick what you need without paying for excess.

    For example, if you only ship domestically, you don't need to integrate with an international shipping service. Whichever option you choose, make sure to clearly state the shipping costs on your website for transparency. 

    Integrating payment processing into your coffee website store

    While some dropshipping suppliers handle shipping for you, payment processing is an entirely different and sensitive area. For most dropshipping suppliers, orders are confirmed when the customer confirms payment on your site.

    The supplier then charges your account for the product and shipping and processes the order. At no point does the dropshipping supplier handle the finances of your coffee shop, Payment processing for dropshipping businesses comes in several ways.

    For instance, if you set up your store by building your site, you have to shop for and integrate payment processing services. Ideally, you want to diversify the payment options so every customer finds what works for them.

    You don't want to lose your online customers simply because they can't pay for the product through your limited payment options. Some of the popular payment methods include debit and credit cards, PayPal, and digital payment options.

    However, setting up payment processing on your site requires extra security. So, make sure you invest in security measures, like an SSL certificate. You want to ensure your customer’s data and financial information remains safe at all times. 

    If you use an ecommerce platform, you can also choose which payment method to integrate into your store. Fortunately for business owners, ecommerce platforms take care of the security component based on your subscription plan.

    7. Promoting your online coffee store

    Like a physical store, you have to promote your online coffee store to attract customers. Developing your coffee brand is also important for establishing customer trust and loyalty. Luckily, you can find a host of online tools to take advantage of for your store promotion.

    Create social media accounts

    Consider using social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, X, and Facebook to reach potential customers. Social media platforms let you run digital ad campaigns where your content appears on potential customer feeds.

    You can also reach out to influencers for collaborations (influencer marketing) to reach a larger audience and increase brand awareness. However, remember to stick to targeted marketing. Know your target audience, and your business niche, and create and share relevant content.

    Even influencers you choose to work with must align with your brand. Furthermore, brands today use their consumers to curate marketing content. For instance, you can take advantage of your social media channels to encourage user-generated content (UGC).

    UGC is impactful for brands of any size since it has a wider reach even beyond social media users that haven't engaged you yet. UGCs can also harness high quality, authentic, creative, and relatable content, making it easier to capture audiences.

    You can further incentivize your audiences to create user-generated content through promotions, bonuses, free giveaways, or loyalty programs. 

    Build site authority through a blog

    When you set up your online store, consider adding a blog. Your coffee website blog will allow you to integrate relevant brand content that pulls traffic to your store and brings potential and repeat customers. Sharing relevant content on your blog doesn't just pull traffic with potential conversions.

    It’s also a way to keep existing customers engaged so they can return. While promoting your store, your blog should also serve as a point for solving your customer’s product-related questions or problems. 

    Leverage customer interactions

    One way of building trust and boosting brand awareness for your coffee company is through social proof. Real-life customer reviews on social media, store website, or video can help boost your credibility and product reputation. always include these whenever you get the chance.

    You can include social proof on social media, website, and during events you participate in - whether on banners or presentations.

    Other compelling coffee shop promotion techniques

    Other effective strategies for online store promotion include:

    • Optimizing your site for search engines for customers to find your online coffee shop organically;
    • Participating in online forums or events related to coffee to increase your visibility;
    • Guest posting on authoritative sites and blogs;
    • Setting up an affiliate program where online marketers can help spread awareness and push customers to your store for a commission;
    • Integrating email marketing to reach out to customers and keep them informed about new products or promotions;
    • Crafting a monthly newsletter;
    • Exploring other digital content tools, like setting up a YouTube channel or podcast.

    8. Increasing sales through digital marketing strategies

    Your marketing efforts shouldn’t be capped to just store promotion after you set up. Marketing should be an ongoing process for your online coffee shop. For an online store, developing an effective marketing strategy is the best way to boost sales online. 

    Choosing the dropshipping business model gives you time to explore and make full use of digital marketing. While the back end of your online coffee business is handled by the supplier, marketing for your store should be your forte. 

    Email marketing, SEO, and beyond

    Consider using email campaigns, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), and other strategies to reach potential customers and inform them about your products. Additionally, retargeting is an effective way to remind customers of their interest in your products and encourage them to make a purchase.

    Excellent customer service and after-sales follow-ups

    Good customer service delivery is another selling point and brilliant marketing strategy. Whether answering queries or tracking an order, reliability, and dependability can boost a brand. Additionally, after-sales customer service is another excellent way to set yourself apart from your competitors.

    It leaves a memorable customer experience, completing them to return. Integrate a segmentation feature into your store to track your customers based on their consumer behavior. You can then automate your marketing efforts based on the customer behavior.

    This can be anything from sending out personalized birthday emails or "need a refill or restocking" messages when their supply is about to deplete (based on their coffee purchase dates). You can also integrate passive marketing strategies within the actual product delivery.

    Some ideas can include:

    • Festive and birthday offers and promotions
    • Designing a lucrative loyalty and rewards program
    • Setting up discounted subscription coffee boxes

    9. Understanding the legal requirements for selling coffee online

    Don't forget about the legalities of selling coffee online. Before you start selling coffee online, it's important to understand the legal requirements for doing so. Depending on the country or state you are in, there may be certain rules and regulations that must be followed to legally sell coffee online.

    Make sure to research these laws and comply with all of them to ensure that your online coffee business runs smoothly. Different business arrangements have varying requirements. For instance, selling coffee within the same state as your coffee roaster (dropshipping coffee supplier) may have minimal requirements. 

    On the other hand, shipping coffee internationally comes with a list of other legal requirements. For instance, some countries require an official certificate from the food regulatory authority and revenue services. Before you start shipping, do your homework and take note of all the legal requirements.


    Is selling coffee online profitable?

    Absolutely! You can easily make money selling coffee online. Even better, you don't have to worry about high overhead costs while still creating a unique branded product. 

    What are the initial costs of opening an online coffee store?

    The initial costs to start an online coffee store are generally lower than a physical store since you don't need inventory. These costs include website setup, branding, marketing, and any required licenses and permits, setting the foundation for your coffee brand. Costs also vary based on the direction you take, whether you build your website or subscribe to an ecommerce platform.

    How can I sell coffee online without inventory?

    There are two ways to sell coffee online without inventory. You can do so by partnering with a coffee fulfillment service or using a dropshipping model, you can sell coffee online without managing inventory. Your fulfillment partner handles the stock and ships orders directly to your customers, making the process simpler and cost-effective.

    What are the legal requirements for starting an online coffee business?

    Before you start an online coffee store, you must obtain a business license. Additionally, depending on your location, you might need additional permits. It's important to check with local authorities to ensure you meet all legal requirements to sell coffee online. If you plan on selling internationally, find out about the legal requirements of your destination country or region.

    Where can you sell coffee online without inventory?

    You can take advantage of various online platforms to sell your coffee without inventory. You can build your website and store, and partner with a dropshipping coffee supplier to fulfill your order. Alternatively, you can subscribe to an ecommerce platform, such as Shopify. Ecommerce platforms let you integrate your store with its built-in and third-party apps for order fulfillment. Some dropshipping suppliers, like Supliful, can also integrate with social media sites, letting you tap into additional selling channels.

    What are the regulations for selling coffee online in the US?

    Complying with regulations from authorities like the FDA is crucial when you sell coffee online. This involves proper labeling, using certified production facilities, and adhering to import/export laws for coffee beans sourced internationally, ensuring your business operates legally and maintains a strong reputation.

    Customize & Sell Private Label Products