University of Maryland Extension

Online Sales-Here to Stay

Author: 
Ginger S. Myers
E-commerce shopping cart


Mastering Marketing - May 2020

In March 2020, one in three people in the United Sates ordered food on-line with the expectation it would be delivered to their door. The hybridization of both direct and online sales channels has only accelerated as retailers, producers, and food entrepreneurs double down their efforts to capture more sales. Whether you have already pivoted to an e-commerce platform or are still considering building an on-line catalog, here are some important considerations for maximizing your e-commerce efforts.

If you already have an e-commerce platform you may need to make some revisions:

  1. Consider an open and/or shut time ordering time to manage order volumes.
  2. Pictures must be very clear to differentiate varieties and the item descriptions should be fairly detailed.
  3. Inventory management requires timely updates. Selling on-line means rapidly changing inventories.
  4. Have you activated the “abandon cart” feature on your platform? This feature can remind customers to finish an order with you.
  5. Does your platform offer a “Reply” feature for scheduling or product questions?
  6. Are you tracking and charging sales tax where applicable?

Since managing an e-commerce platform comes with a considerable investment in time and resources, here are a few items to consider before committing to one:

  1. Are you looking for a short-term sales boost to move some inventory, or are you looking to develop a long-term platform for selling direct to consumers?
  2. What is your expectation level for how long it will take to develop this channel?
  3. What are the unforeseen logistical consideration? Do you have adequate bandwidth to support posting lots of pictures in your online catalog? Do you or your staff have time to devote to handling e-commerce sales?
  4. Mobile compatibility is essential as more consumers search and order products on their tablets or smart phones. Select a platform that ensures mobile compatibility and offers you a preview of your site.
  5. Select a platform that is compatible with your existing website. A third-party hosted platform removes most of the technical support concerns and can have you up and running faster than a self-hosted system.
  6. Safe and secure credit card or other payment systems is a must using services such as PayPal or Apple Pay . Customers need to know their payment information is safe and secure when ordering through your website.
  7. Which platform is the easiest to use for your type of business? Consider features such as customer account set-ups, payment options, customer service options, and of course the cost and fees involved.

Some food businesses may still benefit by simply taking orders and payments over the phone. But for most, e-commerce will become a vital and growing component in their business. The most profound shift in consumer behavior is happening in grocery ecommerce—and this shift is likely to have one of the longest-lasting consequences after we return to the “new normal” for shopping.

 COVID-19 Economy

More Covid 19 Resources for Direct Marketers and Community Food Systems Leaders

This new listserv group from the Wallace Center shares information about the Food Systems Leadership Network COVID-19 Response Group and supports food systems leaders during this pandemic by creating a space for leaders to share solutions, innovations, and collaborations that are emerging in communities across the U.S. in response to COVID-19. Launched in March, this network is growing into a dynamic venue for exploring and acting on our best ideas for driving resilience and equity in our communities and has become a platform for organizing around needed resources, innovative solutions, collaborations, or other direct actions.

Other resources:

Like the Farmers Market Coalition googlegroup, there are numerous other valuable listservs’ with specific technical content areas. We must be mindful of not duplicating these active communication channels and networks. To engage in a specific topic related to direct-to-consumer markets, food hubs, food policy councils, or farmers’ groups please message these other topical listservs’:


Incentive Network

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